Cartier Philanthropy - Fighting malnutrition with better corn

Fighting malnutrition with better corn

Completed

In Guatemala, corn tortillas are the ever-present staple of every meal. Sadly, they are very poor in nutrients. Semilla Nueva produces and sells biofortified corn seeds conventionally bred to contain higher levels of quality proteins and zinc. Following an initial 3-year grant, Semilla Nueva extended the consumption of biofortified crops, selling nearly 5,200 bags of seeds and reaching over 15,300 farming families between 2019 and 2021. These families produced over 25,000 metric tonnes of more nutritious maize, enough to feed nearly 300,000 people for a full year.

Duration
2019-2021
Focus area
Access to Basic Services
country
Guatemala
partner
Semilla Nueva

In Guatemala, corn tortillas are the ever-present staple of every meal despite being very poor in nutrients. This, combined with lack of dietary diversity, is responsible for chronic malnutrition in around half of Guatemalan children under five.

Semilla Nueva selects, produces and sells biofortified corn seeds – non-GMO, but conventionally bred to contain higher levels of quality protein and nearly 40% more zinc – with the aim of changing 800,000 people’s diets to incorporate biofortified maize by 2023.

The organisation adopts the standard agribusiness distribution model in Central America, selling seed to distributors who then sell to agrodealers who in turn sell to farmers. This model is the most effective and scalable for reaching small maize farmers in the country.

Following an initial 3-year grant, Semilla Nueva extended the consumption of biofortified crops, selling nearly 5,200 bags of seed and reaching over 15,300 farming families between 2019 and 2021. These families produced over 25,000 metric tonnes of more nutritious maize, enough to feed nearly 300,000 people for a full year.

In May 2020, Semilla Nueva launched a COVID-19 relief programme that supplied seed free of charge to 1,835 subsistence farmers without sufficient funds to purchase their own. These farmers increased their yields and incomes, proving that simply providing improved seeds without extensive training or other inputs is a viable approach. An additional 3,400 families received seed in October 2020, but plantings were lost due to Hurricanes Eta and Iota.

We’re renewing our support for Semilla Nueva with a third grant that will enable it to lay the groundwork to show that government policy incentivising private seed companies to sell biofortified seeds can be one of the most cost-effective solutions for improving the nutrition of the 900 million people who currently depend on maize, and the 2 billion who will depend on it in the future.