The surge in the production of zinc-enriched wheat by Pakistani farmers marks a commendable milestone in addressing nutritional deficiencies and combating hidden hunger. With around 13 million farming families benefiting from high-yielding biofortified wheat seeds, this initiative plays a crucial role in overcoming food insecurity, a persistent challenge in the country.
Biofortification, declared a cost-effective and sustainable strategy, specifically targets the prevalent micronutrient deficiency in Pakistan. A significant percentage of women and children suffer from zinc deficiency, contributing to hidden hunger. The introduction of zinc-enriched wheat addresses this nutritional gap, ensuring that a substantial portion of the population receives vital nutrients.
Approximately 2.1 million farmers participated in the initiative last year, contributing to the consumption of zinc-enriched wheat by around 13 million people. These numbers underscore the success and potential scalability of the program. With more than 90,000 metric tonnes of certified zinc-enriched wheat seed available for the current planting season, the commitment of farmers remains high.
Biofortification has emerged as a feasible solution to address micronutrient deficiencies, commonly referred to as “hidden hunger.” More than 22 percent of women of reproductive age in Pakistan are zinc deficient, with Punjab province recording the highest proportion. Additionally, around 18.6 percent of Pakistani children under the age of five have inadequate zinc intake, leading to stunting, impaired brain development, and compromised immune function.
Wheat, as the main staple crop in Pakistan with an average per capita annual consumption of 87 kilograms, plays a pivotal role in the diet of millions. The progress made in biofortification not only improves the nutritional content of this staple but also contributes to addressing malnutrition in both rural and urban areas.
Maintaining this scale is critical and is driven by market demand and the promotion of biofortified wheat seed to farmers and consumers. Innovative activities, including farmer field days, product launch events, seed promotion, and the use of digital technologies, contribute to creating awareness and stimulating demand.
In a country where malnutrition costs Pakistan $7.6 billion annually, growing biofortified crops emerges as a cost-effective and feasible solution for a nutritious and affordable diet for a significant portion of the population. The success of the biofortification program reflects the potential to transform food systems sustainably and make significant strides in overcoming hidden hunger in Pakistan.