Biofortification with Zinc and Iron for Eliminating Deficiency (BIZIFED)

Research Centre for Global Development (C4Globe)

Zinc deficiency affects 17% of the world’s population and iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) is the world’s most common micronutrient disorder, with the greatest burden in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).

In Pakistan, the National Nutrition Survey 2011 indicated that over 40% of women were zinc deficient and 20% had IDA.

The health consequences of zinc deficiency include stunted growth and impaired neurodevelopment in children, increased susceptibility to infections in children and adults, and complications during pregnancy and childbirth. IDA affects maternal and child mortality, physical and cognitive development in children and work productivity in adults.

Biofortification is a process by which the nutritional quality of food crops is improved through conventional plant breeding techniques and the addition of nutrient-rich fertilisers. An increasing body of evidence suggests that it may be a cost-effective and sustainable approach to reduce micronutrient deficiencies.

We are conducting the first large-scale investigation into the potential of biofortified wheat to reduce zinc and iron deficiencies among adolescent girls and children in Pakistan. The project, ‘Bizifed’, won the Research Project of the Year at the Educate North Awards in 2022.

Read Scaling biofortified zinc wheat in Pakistan: Evidence from the field, an article written by HarvestPlus who are the research organisation behind the biofortified wheat that was trialled in the research.

The programme of work includes three Work Packages:

WP1 – A trial effectiveness study of the potential of biofortified wheat (Zincol-2016) to improve zinc and iron status among adolescent girls and children living in a low resource community in Pakistan.

WP2 – A spatial modelling study to integrate soil and crop data, together with environmental covariates, to enable prediction and mapping of the variation in wheat grain zinc concentration due to soil properties, farmer management and wheat variety.

WP3 – A mixed methods study to understand the socio-cultural factors and market systems that affect the sustainable uptake of biofortified wheat in Pakistan.