Cartier Philanthropy - More nutritious tortillas to fight malnutrition

More nutritious tortillas to fight malnutrition

New

Building on a model that doesn’t require any behavioural or cultural changes in the population, Semilla Nueva selects, produces and sells biofortified corn seeds with the aim of changing 800,000 people’s diets by 2023, getting them to switch to more nutritious maize. We have been supporting Semilla Nueva to overcome the biggest bottlenecks in developing and expanding the use of biofortified crops in Guatemala since 2016. This new grant will enable them to scale the adoption of biofortified maize through public policy.

Duration
2021-2023
Focus area
Access to Basic Services
country
Guatemala
partner
Semilla Nueva

Context

Decades have been spent trying to get rural Guatemalan families to replace corn tortillas, their ever-present staple, with more nutritious foods. However, corn remains the cheapest food to buy, the easiest crop to grow and the foundation of thousands of years of culture. As a result, around half of children under five in the country suffer from chronic malnutrition.

Action

Building on a model that doesn’t require any behavioural or cultural changes in the population, 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.

Today, Semilla Nueva is improving nutrition for nearly 6,000 families, and direct sales of biofortified maize seeds now account for 2% of the maize seed sold in Guatemala. The objective of the organization through to 2023 is 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.

Semilla Nueva plans to scale the adoption of biofortified maize by targeting farmers, seed companies and government, while developing competitive new and improved biofortified varieties of seeds.

Expected results

Semilla Nueva plans to reach 31,200 farmers with biofortified corn seeds by the end of 2023, resulting in over 800,000 people eating more nutritious corn.

Long-term strategy

Making biofortified seeds economically advantageous to enough farmers to reduce national nutritional deficiencies requires higher-yielding biofortified seeds and some level of public policy. Semilla Nueva will work in the next years with the Guatemalan government to provide seed companies with a small incentive to sell biofortified seeds at reduced prices to farmers. This would be a disruptive and cost-effective way to gain traction and improve rural income and nutrition.