Fighting malnutrition with better corn

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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. Biofortified crops are an effective and culturally appropriate solution to malnutrition in Guatemala since they can be incorporated in people’s daily meals without any need for change in the traditional diet. Following an initial 3-year grant, we’re renewing our support for Semilla Nueva to extend the consumption of biofortified crops to reach 255,000 individuals with more nutritious corn.

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

Context

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

Action

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 over 1 million people’s diets to incorporate biofortified maize by 2023.

Biofortified corn represents an effective and culturally appropriate solution to malnutrition in Guatemala since it doesn't require any change in behaviour: people know how to grow and prepare it and it tastes as good as their normal corn. Semilla Nueva’s seeds also produce higher yields and have shown promising drought tolerance.

Following an initial 3-year grant, we’re continuing to support Semilla Nueva's programme to:

  • Identify existing biofortified seeds with high commercial potential
  • Produce biofortified seeds with subcontracted farmers and seed companies
  • Promote the seeds through demonstration parcels and tailored social marketing campaigns
  • Sell the seeds through distributors and agro dealers.

Expected results

  • 6,000 bags of commercially-competitive biofortified corn seeds are produced and sold (direct and indirect sales)
  • 255,000 Guatemalans eat more nutritious corn

Long-term strategy

In 2019, Semilla Nueva took the preliminary steps to launching new high-yielding seeds. By diversifying the biofortified seeds available to farmers, Semilla Nueva plans to break into new sectors of the market and expand its nutritional impact.
Semilla Nueva adopts Central American industry’s standard distribution model, 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 Guatemala.
Semilla Nueva currently sells biofortified corn seeds in all but one of Guatemala’s major corn-producing regions - the Ixcán Valley in Northern Quiché. Expansion to the Western Highlands is planned for the coming years.