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Eliminating Hidden Hunger, Improving Livelihoods and Building Climate Resilience in Northern Nigeria

Put a life-saving tool in farmers' hands & empower them to change the world; biofortified seeds for nutrition and economic resilience.

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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional Beneficiary Feedback in this field

Note--The Open Ideo team agreed to attach the HarvestPlus User Experience Map manually within 36 hours after the deadline given international travel of the HarvestPlus Nigeria Country Director and the challenge of his eliciting the necessary beneficiary feedback.

Explain your project idea in two sentences.

We will address malnutrition in N. Nigeria by promoting consumption of nutritious biofortified foods. We will build the seed market and capacitate farmers, the government and seed companies.

What is your organization name? Explain your organization in one sentence.

HarvestPlus plan to scale up delivery of biofortified foods and reach 1 billion people by 2030.

Is this project idea new for you or your organization? If no, how much have you already executed on?

The new elements are: 1) the model focuses on short-term food insecurity AND builds long-term resilience and economic development; 2) the project will promote vitamin A maize and iron sorghum in the region. HarvestPlus has produced 3,000 MT of biofortified foods to accelerate consumer acceptance.

What is the problem you aim to solve with this idea? How would you define this problem as urgent and a priority in your target community?

The project addresses acute malnutrition in N. Nigeria and the long-term challenge to improve health and livelihoods. 1) A child in NW Nigeria—where stunting rates are 55 percent—is 4x more likely to experience malnutrition. 2) 3 million people in the region are in need of humanitarian assistance.

What is the timeline for your project idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

Implementation is in 3 areas: 1) increase availability and accessibility of biofortified seeds and products, including training farmers, government and seed companies; 2) develop the market for vitamin A maize and iron sorghum, including open market information; 3) mainstream biofortificaiton into nutrition interventions and coordianate with government, NGOs and the private sector to incorporate biofortification into policy and programs.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of responsibility).

Paul Ilona, HarvestPlus' country director who is Nigerian, will be responsible for implementation. He will be supported by the HarvestPlus regional office in Uganda and the global office in DC. Paul and his team have worked close working relationships with the Government, private sector, and NGOs.

What do you need the most support with in this project idea?

  • Exposure

What is your primary goal over the next 6 weeks of Refinement?

  • Learn to measure and grow project results

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) results for this project?

HarvestPlus has a robust monitoring and evaluation framework with a global set of indicators across all of the countries where it works. For any work funded by Open Ideo, HarvestPlus will use a baseline, mid-line and end-of-project survey to evaluate results. HarvestPlus also will determine whether additional measurement methods are required in N. Nigeria given the political and economic context.

How has your project proposal changed due to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase?

Note to Expert Reviewers: Open Ideo provided HarvestPlus with a 36-hour extension on the User Feedback map because Paul Ilona, who is responsible for implementation, was traveling internationally and not able to elicit necessary feedback. By May 16, we will be able to better provide you with insight about how the proposal changed in this phase.

Music Video

The HarvestPlus Rwanda Country Program collaborated with some of Rwanda’s top musicians to write and record a song and music video about the value of including biofortified high iron beans as part of a nutritious diet. HarvestPlus organized a series of countrywide experiential marketing events that featured live performances of the song and nutrition messages delivered by popular musicians, and opportunities for consumers to purchase biofortified high iron beans seed and grain. In addition to extensive radio play in Rwanda, the English subtitled version of the video on YouTube has been viewed more than 30,000 times and a Swahili subtitled version has been viewed more than 11,000 times.


The HarvestPlus Nigeria Country program collaborated with Nollywood actors and celebrities to create a movie titled “The Yellow Cassava,” which was nominated for the award of “Best Film” at the 2015 Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards. Three other movies in local languages: Dada Oni Paki (Yoruba), Ebiyebi (Ibo), and Sakani (Hausa) were produced to educate rural households in specific regions of Nigeria about biofortification. The films entertain while informing Nigerians on how vitamin A cassava can improve their health and encourages switching from white cassava to “yellow” vitamin A cassava.

Explain your idea

HarvestPlus improves the nutritional content of staple foods through conventional plant breeding (a process known as biofortification) to provide a sustainable, farmer-controlled tool to fight malnutrition. HarvestPlus has successfully introduced and scaled the production of biofortified seeds and foods in Southern Nigeria. By 2016, HarvestPlus had reached 1.35 million Nigerian households, primarily in 15 Nigerian states in the Southeast and Southwest. In Northern Nigeria, the crisis of malnutrition is particularly acute as a result of a number of factors including the constant threat of Boko Haram, migration, and recent weather variability. In Northern Nigeria, farmers grow and consume maize and sorghum, therefore HarvestPlus developed vitamin A maize and iron sorghum seeds, along with eight biofortified food products/recipes to accelerate consumer acceptance. HarvestPlus’ proposal is to take our innovative and proven products (biofortified seeds/food) and deploy them to Northern Nigeria using an innovative marketing model that addresses both short term food insecurity and builds long term resilience and economic development. It is not enough to provide food aid; we must give farmers the tools to build their own resilience to shocks related to conflict or climate by creating jobs for themselves and their communities. The short-term marketing model will address short term food and nutrition insecurity: • Provide biofortified seed and food to NGO's and national government programs. • Provide free promotional packs of seeds to extremely vulnerable farmers. • Ensure supplies of biofortified foods provided to food processors in Northern Nigeria. The long-term marketing model will address long term food and economic insecurity: • Farmers trained in agronomy and seed production to improve yields, which results in greater economic development. • Vulnerable (but not extremely vulnerable) farmers will be marketed biofortified seeds at a subsidized rate. This will help to ensure uptake by farmers (due to the reduced price) and ensure long term development (by not distorting the market by only providing free seed). • Ensure food businesses in Northern Nigeria will be sufficient supply of biofortified materials to produce nutritionally-enhanced traditional foods. • Seed producers linked to public sector programs to provide them with a market for biofortified seeds. • Utilize to ensure that excess supply of biofortified seeds and foods are channeled to food insecure areas of Northern Nigeria. • Use locally appropriate educational and promotional messages to improve consumer knowledge of nutrition and build consumer acceptance and demand for biofortified seeds and foods.

Who Benefits?

The primary beneficiaries are the small-holder farmers and their communities who will benefit from: 1) Improved nutrition and health outcomes; 2) Increased yields and climate resilience given the climate-smart seed characteristics and the training provided by the proposed program; and 3) Enhanced livelihood potential for selling excess crops. HarvestPlus believes that there is a strong potential for a peace dividend from improving food security in Northern Nigeria. With greater economic empowerment, and stronger markets, long term community development and resilience will improve and hopefully reduce the prevalence of conflict. Northern Nigeria, specifically Kano, is also a market hub for the neighboring countries of Chad, Burkina Faso and Niger. Expanding the market for biofortified crops to Northern Nigeria, and creating and sustaining jobs for farmers engaged in the market, will spread biofortified seeds and foods to these neighboring countries that are food insecure.

How is your idea unique?

HarvestPlus’ integrated approach is unique; engaging partners on all points along the value chain. In the process, small-hold farmers improve yields, eat more nutritious foods, and, over the long-term, have the opportunity to improve their livelihood. The private sector also benefits from an improved, sustainable market and government partners receive capacity building. HarvestPlus will address short-term food insecurity, and build long term resilience and development of these vulnerable communities. Farming is a business, and with a new product, training, and market development by HarvestPlus, small scale farmers in Northern Nigeria can create jobs, improve their nutrition and economic outcomes, and build the strength of their local markets and community businesses. HarvestPlus' extensive market connections throughout Nigeria and demand creation activities will help to not only create these job, but will sustain them over time, long after programs have ceased.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

Tell us more about you

HarvestPlus is a program of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), and is coordinated by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). In Nigeria, HarvestPlus will continue to be hosted by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). HarvestPlus, led by Nigerian Country Director Dr. Paul Ilona, will be primarily responsible for making this idea a reality and will engage its extensive partnerships with the public and private sector in Nigeria, and specifically Northern Nigeria. HarvestPlus will: • Work with NGOs to provide seed through development-based programs • Coordinate closely with the Government of Nigeria to ensure that biofortification fulfills the goals of the National Policy on Agriculture, Health, and Nutrition • Engage with private sector actors working in Northern Nigeria to bolster agriculture and food related markets.

Expertise in sector

  • 5-7 years

Organization Filing Status

  • No, but we are a formal initiative through an accelerator, hub, or other entity.


Join the conversation:

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Hi Benjamin and Team!

We’re excited to share with you feedback and questions from the BridgeBuilder team and an external set of experts. We encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve and refine your idea. You are welcome to respond in the comments section and/or to incorporate feedback into the text of your idea. Your idea and all associated comments will all be reviewed during the final review process.

When thinking about desirability, feasibility and viability here’s what experts shared:
• One expert shared: “This is a proposal from a well established and well funded organization that does address the critical issue of malnutrition in Nigeria. How will you increase the likelihood of feasibility given war and famine? What is really new? What experience does the organization have specifically in this region and what are obstacles?”
• Another expert shared: “Desirable, certainly, viable, makes a strong case in the proposal, feasible, depends on experience rooted in Nigeria. My question would be can you explain why you are the best organization to do this work? What’s your plan to build community capacity?”

• Some additional questions that came up: Within the challenges of conflict and food crisis how do these factors impact the rollout of your plan?

Human-centered design starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor-made to suit their real needs. How does this idea consider user needs?
• Yes, it would be helpful to understand additional learnings from beneficiary feedback I know they received an extension, but look forward to seeing once completed. What are the specifics needs you’ve discovered from the people you are building for and how have you integrated this into your design?
• How is your idea specific to the context and needs of Northern Nigeria?

Outstanding comments and questions:
• “The need is enormous and deserves high priority! This is a well-established organization, which means less risk, more likelihood that it will work. I would like to better understand, how they plan to experiment or try new things based on their learnings from their work and experience, it is a little hard to assess.”

Thank you so much for sharing the important work you are doing!

In case you missed it, check out this Storytelling Toolkit for inspiration for crafting strong and compelling stories: Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an idea and make it come to life for those reading it. Don’t forget - June 16 at 11:59PM PST is your last day to make changes to your idea on the OpenIDEO platform.

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