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Dhaka Tribune

Biofortified zinc rice dissemination in Thakurgaon through enrich project

HarvestPlus joined hands with World Vision Bangladesh and Nutrition International, Global A airs Canada funded ENRICH (Enhancing Nutrition Services to Improve Maternal and Child Health in Africa and Asia) project

Update : 30 Jun 2021, 01:48 PM

HarvestPlus improves nutrition and public health by developing and promoting biofortified food crops that are rich in vitamins and minerals as well as providing global leadership on biofortification evidence and technology.

HarvestPlus is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) and is based at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

HarvestPlus joined hands with World Vision Bangladesh and Nutrition International, Global A airs Canada funded ENRICH (Enhancing Nutrition Services to Improve Maternal and Child Health in Africa and Asia) project. 

HarvestPlus shouldered the responsibility to promote cultivation and consumption of biofortified zinc rice through the project.

HarvestPlus introduced the process of bioforti cation for the development of crop varieties. 

The Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) released biofortified zinc varieties, and the institute deserves kudos for developing the  first biofortified zinc rice in the world. Biofortication involves conventional breeding using at least one of the parents that naturally contains higher amounts of a micronutrient of interest, to produce staple crops with desirable nutrient and agronomic traits.

Around 45% of the country’s preschool children, 40% of school-going children, and 57% of nonpregnant, non-lactating (NPNL) women are estimated to be zinc de cient (National Micronutrient Status Survey 2011-2012).

Every year,Bangladesh loses over $700 million in GDP to mineral and vitamin de ciencies. 

(Bangladesh: Nutrition at a Glance, World Bank). Rice, being the staple food, is the principal source of protein and minerals in the diet of Bangladeshi people, and zinc rice provides up to 70% of daily zinc requirement when eaten regularly.

Dissemination of biofortified Zinc rice in Thakurgaon

During the project period 2016–2021, about 94,130 out of 145,050 smallholder farming households (0.02−1 ha) in Thakurgaon received seeds of bioforti ed zinc rice.

The project conducted training of trainers (ToT) for the Sub Assistant Agricultural O cers (SAAO) of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) on biofortification and zinc rice cultivation technology, and 168 SAAOs became confident to deliver the information and instructions to the farmers about zinc rice cultivation and seed preservation.

A total of 6,159 farmers received training on bioforti ed zinc rice production, cultivation and post-harvest handling. 

The Deputy Director, District Training Ofifcer, Upazila Agricultural Officers and sub-Assistant Agricultural Officers of DAE acted as resource speakers in the farmers’ training. 

Farmers obtained knowledge on the importance of zinc for human health, availability of released zinc ricevarieties in Bangladesh, production, seed preservation, and commercialization of zinc rice. HarvestPlus Bangladesh trained 85 seed producers on quality seed production and another 137 farmers received training on quality declared seed (QDS) production, costing, and pricing under the project.

Motivational activities to adopt biofortified Zinc rice in Thakurgaon

A total of 92,850 people was made aware through elite meetings, yard meetings, folk song shows and farmers  eld days.

In elite meetings Deputy Commissioners, Upazila Nirbahi O cers, Upazila Chairmen, local administrators, government agency o cials, medical doctors, distinguished professionals, religious leaders, teachers, village leaders, rice value chain actors, media personnel, and farmer leaders were sensitized on bioforti ed zinc rice.

Courtyard meetings held with targeted groups of people for interactive discussions on bioforti ed zinc rice in the communities. 

Courtyard meeting involved both male and female participants. 

A total of 8,289 participants (4,434 male and 3,855 female) attended these meetings.

Participants were proactive in participatory discussion and question & answer periods through a ninety-minute event for a fruitful session. 

Farmers learnt about zinc nutrition, importance of zinc, zinc rice varieties and production techniques such as fertilizer and irrigation management, pest and disease management, seed preservation etc.

Pot songs are a stage performance program, along with digital screenings on zinc rice varietal characteristics and their cultivation practice, seed storage, disease, and insect management. 

The whole script was sung by professional local folk singers along with 30 digital pictures displayed sequentially. 

An estimated total of 39,710 villagers in Thakurgaon district (17,240 male and 22,470 female) enjoyed the events.    


Farmers’   eld days were organized to demonstrate bioforti ed zinc rice production during the project period. 

About 43,848 participants (20,389 male and 23,459 female) attended the  eld days, observed bioforti ed rice  elds, and gathered information on bioforti ed zinc rice from fellow farmers. 

Resource speakers of farmers  eld days emphasized the importance of zinc in the human body, especially for children and women of childbearing age, and how zinc rice contributes to supplementing a major proportion of daily required zinc for human health through the staple food like rice. 

The participants received a clear message that the production cost, techniques, seed price, and grain price of zinc rice is similar to regular rice varieties, and seeds can also be reused from own production and save seeds for up to six years.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021 | Ashar 16, 1428 SUPPLEMENT 5 Demonstration plot of bioforti ed zinc rice in Thakurgaon SAAOs of DAE Thakurgaon in Training of Trainer (ToT) Pot song show on importance of zinc rice in Thakurgaon


The ENRICH project started commercialization of zinc rice activity in limited scale.

 The project engaged 76 value chain actors through meetings, conducted workshop with 20 seed retailers and aware 32 seed sale representatives of di erent seed companies in Thakurgaon.

The large illustrated billboards were installed to raise awareness among people, with the key message “Cultivate zinc rice, and get zinc nutrition through the whole year” at various strategic locations such as roadsides, mass gathering places like hat-bazar, upazila/union parishad premises etc.

Policy Inclusion

In  five key policies of Government of Bangladesh and strategy documents, biofortified zinc rice has been highlighted to alleviate zinc deficiency and improve human health of common people of the country. The relevant policy and strategy documents are:

⇨ National Strategy on Prevention and Control of Micronutrient Deficiencies, Bangladesh 2015-2024.

⇨ Second National Plan of Action for Nutrition 2016-2025.

⇨ Bangladesh Second Country Investment Plan 2016-2020.

⇨ National Food and Nutrition Security Policy of Bangladesh 2020.

⇨ 8th Five Year Plan 2020-2025.

Lessons Learned

⇨ Almost all the who cultivated zinc rice also consumed zinc rice, and some of the beneficiaries sold surplus grain in the market.

⇨ All sorts of government institutions, non-governmental organizations, educational institutions, religious institutions, local elites, and media personalities    were made aware of biofortified zinc rice in Thakurgaon.

⇨ Some rice millers aggregated and processed zinc rice and marketed zinc rice across the country as a brand of “zinc rice”.

⇨ Farmers used their saved zinc rice seed for the next year.

⇨ The Department of Agricultural Extension has enthusiastically adopted zinc rice in Thakurgaon and elsewhere.

Bangladesh: Reaching farmers with Zinc rice

 Hamidul Islam lives with his family of eight in Thakurgaon. 

He became a beneficiary of the ENRICH project in 2016 and has been growing bioforti ed zinc rice since then. 

When he   rst cultivated the seed on his land, he managed to harvest about 720 kilograms (kg) of rice. 

He reserved about 680kg for family consumption and kept the remaining 40kg as seed for the following year’s cultivation, though his neighboring farmers ended up buying half of his seed stock, re ecting their strong interest in the new rice variety.

In 2019-20, Hamidul volunteered to demonstrate the most promising biofortified variety, BRRI dhan74, on his land which yielded him as high as 8.29 ton per hectare.

“This season I kept a higher percentage of the harvest for my family’s consumption because this zinc bioforti ed rice provides important nutrition to my children and grandchildren,” said Hamidul. 

Hamidul and his family are also encouraging their neighbors and others in the community to replace the non-bioforti ed variety of rice with zinc-biofortified rice in their meals to improve the health of their children. 

The nutritious rice is consumed in many forms in their daily diet: popped rice, pu ed rice, beaten rice, rice cake, and more. 

In Hamidul’s village, about 60% of the farming families are now cultivating zinc rice, and the number is increasing every season. 

Within the life span of the ENRICH, more than 94,130 farming families in Thakurgaon district had received bioforti ed zinc rice seed through the project, and on average, the amount of zinc rice produced by each farming household was equivalent to eight months of rice supplies for an average Bangladeshi family. 

The zinc rice program in Thakurgaon has been praised by local o cials for its nutrition and livelihood bene ts. Anisur Rahman, an additional deputy director, said the varieties grown are well-suited to the local soil and a shorter growing cycle means lower production costs for farmers. 

Maodudul Islam, deputy director of the Department of Agricultural Extension in Thakurgaon, said: “Farmers are able to add a cash crop such as potato between rice seasons, creating new livelihood opportunities.”

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