BioCassava Plus is an integrated team of scientists from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America whose objective is to reduce malnutrition among the 250 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who rely on cassava as their staple food by delivering a more nutritious and marketable cassava.
BC Plus is an innovative research project that aims to reduce micronutrient malnutrition by increasing the nutritional value of cassava, a staple crop consumed by more 700 million people worldwide. The BioCassava Plus project is focused on Africa, primarily Nigeria and Kenya, where cassava is a major staple food and other nutritious food is scarce, unavailable or too expensive. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funds the vital work of the BC Plus project.
More than 250 million sub-Saharan Africans rely on cassava as their major source of calories. However, a cassava-based diet does not provide complete nutrition and those who depend on cassava for food often suffer from chronic malnutrition, or insufficient intake of essential nutrients and vitamins including pro-vitamin A, and iron. According to the World Health Organization, this malnutrition often leads to blindness and other illnesses, disability and death for an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 children each year.
BioCassava Plus is aimed at helping Africans avoid these devastating health consequences caused by delivering more nutritious, higher yielding, and more marketable cultivars of cassava. The cassava being developed will contain beneficial amounts of beta-carotene, which the human body uses to make Vitamin A, iron and protein. Beta-carotene is contained in various foods today, but those foods are often not readily available to many people in the developing world.
BioCassava Plus is being developed by world-class public researchers at nine institutions. Local Nigeria and Kenya public research institutions lead the efforts aimed at improving food security and nutrition in their countries. In Nigeria, researchers at the National Root Crop Research Institute are leading the way to ensure the varieties meet the needs of farmers. In Kenya, researchers at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute are leading the way.
In Phase I of the project this team of BioCassava Plus researchers met or exceeded all targets to date. During the past five years the research team has used the tools of modern biotechnology to develop cassava plants that have 30 times as much beta-carotene and four times as much iron as traditional cassava. These increased levels reflect what is needed to furnish the minimum daily requirements for a child.
Research is being conducted according to rigorous international guidelines that have been employed for more than two decades, and guidelines set by national governments, to ensure environmental and food safety.