Cassava is central to the diets of more than 250 million people in Africa. Though rich in calories, it offers limited nutritional value. As a result, many people who rely on cassava as their main source of calories are deficient in a range of nutrients, including vitamin A, iron, and protein. Enriching cassava with these three vital nutrients can improve the health of millions of children and adults.
The foundation is supporting the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and partners to develop cassava varieties with higher levels of beta carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A, as well as iron, and protein. This grant builds on previous foundation support, and funds research to develop varieties appropriate for small farmers in Nigeria and Kenya, where cassava is widely consumed and nutrient deficiencies are prevalent. Among pre-school aged children who rely on cassava in Nigeria, 83 percent are vitamin A deficient and 43 percent are iron deficient; in Kenya, 41 percent are vitamin A deficient and 78 percent are iron deficient.
Experts at nine public institutions are contributing to the BioCassava Plus project. Major partners include: