International Potato Center

Spearheading Anemia Zero with biofortified potatoes in Peru

Stories from the 2023 GAP Report partners.

The Anemia Zero campaign in Peru aims to combat anemia, a prevalent health issue, by promoting healthy and diversified diets amongst vulnerable populations.

The International Potato Center (CIP), a global research-for-development organization, is developing biofortified potato varieties enriched with iron using conventional breeding techniques. CIP conducted a pilot study to facilitate the dissemination of advanced clones of these varieties to farmers in Northern Peru while collaborating with government extension agencies, health clinics, social protection programs, and local communities to promote awareness and acceptance. CIP’s contributions are crucial to achieving the Anemia Zero campaign’s objective of eradicating anemia in Peru.

Anemia, a prevalent health issue in Peru, particularly among women and children, has prompted the implementation of a groundbreaking initiative called Anemia Zero. At the forefront of this campaign is the International Potato Center (CIP), playing a pivotal role in producing and distributing advanced clones of biofortified potatoes. These specialized potatoes, enriched with iron, offer a sustainable and accessible solution to combating anemia in the country.

Anemia in Peru

Anemia is a significant public health concern in Peru, where it affects more than 40% of the population; particularly vulnerable are children and pregnant women. Iron deficiency, one of the primary causes of anemia, has severe consequences, such as impaired cognitive development, weakened immune systems, and reduced work productivity. Recognizing the urgency to address this crisis comprehensively, the Anemia Zero campaign was launched, focusing on improving nutritional status, especially in low-income communities of the Andes that have limited access to diverse diets.

Biofortified Potatoes

Biofortification is a proven nutritional strategy to ensure foods are as nutritious as possible. As a critical partner in the Anemia Zero campaign, CIP has played a crucial role in spearheading the development of these potatoes. Using conventional breeding techniques, CIP has been able to increase the iron content in the tubers of these biofortified potatoes. This innovation allows individuals for whom potatoes are a staple, as in Andean diets, to obtain a significant portion of their daily iron requirements by simply including these potatoes in their diet, offering an effective and affordable solution to combating anemia. Biofortified advanced clones can provide up to 50% of the iron requirements for women living in areas of high potato consumption.

CIP has been instrumental in successfully implementing the Anemia Zero initiative. As a global research-for-development organization focused on potato science and other root and tuber crops for the benefit of smallholder farmers and their communities, CIP is contributing its expertise in breeding and genetics to develop high-quality biofortified potato varieties with increased iron content.

Working closely with local farmers in select communities, CIP has provided training and technical assistance to ensure the successful cultivation of these biofortified potatoes. Through its extensive network of partners, CIP has facilitated the dissemination of advanced clones of iron-rich potatoes, reaching farmers in various regions of the North of Peru.

Furthermore, CIP has collaborated with government extension agencies, health clinics, social protection programs, research institutions, local organizations, and communities to promote adoption and acceptance of biofortified potatoes as a sustainable solution to anemia. The organization has conducted awareness campaigns and nutritional educational programs to highlight the nutritional benefits of these potatoes and empower communities to make informed dietary choices.

This initiative has been piloted with 140 farmers in Northern Peru. Registered in 2023, the advanced clones will be released in 2024. CIP’s collaboration with various stakeholders is helping drive the acceptance of these nutritious potatoes. Although adoption and acceptance are still in their infancy, the iron-rich potato is crucial to achieving the country’s anemia eradication goal.

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