One of the key debates within the stakeholders in this workshop was the scope and focus of a new platform. Like RAC, the previous VITAA platform grew from the activities that had started up around breeding staple crops of choice to increase micronutrient levels that could increase blood serum micronutrient levels when cooked, processed and eaten. Orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) has been the flagship of this food based ‘ biofortification’ approach.
The RAC ‘ project’ has evolved from OFSP projects (SPHI, SASHA) – inititaed by CIP (The International Potato Centre). RAC is being implemented in partnership with Helen Keller International. One of its core objectives is to create awareness and raise resources to increase sustainable investment across the whole value chain on embedding OFSP as a key nutritious staple crop in Africa.
The Vitamin A for Africa Platform focused on OFSP and as such, even though the name was generic, it inherently distinguished itself from capsule supplementation and fortified processed food programmes to combat Vitamin A deficiency. Harvest Plus is also working on bio-fortified (with Vitamin A) maize and cassava as well as other micronutrients in other crops.
So while in practical reality RAC evolved from the specificity and evidence base of OFSP as a specific successful example of bio- fortification, regional and national level stakeholders at this workshop strongly expressed the opinion that the platform needed to be advocating on a broader base. This could be from including other Vitamin A fortified crops such as Maize and Cassava, to a generic bio-fortified crops (covering other micronutrients) as a food based approach (with OFSP as the lead example) where the danger is the focus becoming too broad to actually achieve impact within the current resources and time frames.