Combating Anemia in the Peruvian Highlands

Case Studies
Food Security, Health, Gender, Nutrition, WASH
Action Against Hunger
Latin America & Caribbean
Resource Publication Date:
September, 2013
Content Format:

This is one of 50 Harvesting Nutrition project case studies. Harvesting Nutrition was a contest held in 2012 and 2013 that showcased active projects working to improve the impact of agriculture and/or food security on nutrition outcomes. Co-sponsors were SecureNutrition, Save the Children UK, and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN). Learn More.

Project Description: ​

The component of potato bio-fortification to fight against anemia forms part of a project entitled “Combating Anemia in the Peruvian Highlands”, of which it is the third result: “iron consumption has improved in the intervention areas through micronutrient bio-fortification of local crops as a long term strategy relevant for the conservation of the biodiversity of Andean products, through adapting the nutritional value of traditional varieties in order to increase iron content”.

The objective for this component is to introduce clones of bio-fortified potatoes with greater iron content to improve the consumption of iron and conserve local biodiversity.

The bio-fortified potato clones are selected according to agronomic factors, production, and acceptability to farmers. This will contribute to recuperating potato biodiversity (lost during the years of internal conflict in the country), improve yield and resistance to plagues, as well as to the capacity of farmers to use new production techniques. It will also improve the population’s nutrition, especially in Andean regions, where there is limited access to enriched products or to vitamin C and iron supplements. The vitamin C content of potatoes improves iron absorption.

Impact of project: ​

This experience allows us to conclude that the bio-fortification of local products is more acceptable to local families compared to products that do not form part of their usual diet. As well, bio-fortification oriented at increasing the population’s access to nutrients that improve their nutrition situation should also permit an increase in product yield with the possibility of selling excess production to improve family earnings, therefore contributing to local development. In the case of Peru, the potato is a tuber that is central to the Andean diet, and most Andean communities produce diverse varieties of potatoes using artisanal techniques. The clones of bio-fortified potatoes, with high iron content, were highly acceptable to the communities involved, because they allowed them to recuperate biodiversity lost during the internal conflict in Peru. Serapio, a local leader, stated, “What has most touched my heart was to see the potato seeds they brought us. Without potatoes there is no life, things would be so different. I can’t imagine my life without them.” As well, acceptability was enhanced by the integration of new knowledge regarding seed selection and storage within existing knowledge on planting, through a knowledge exchange during the production process. At the same time, the fact that they benefit children, by helping to prevent anemia, contributed to their acceptability.

Why this project is a Good Practice example: ​

In Latin America and the Caribbean, micronutrient deficiency has been recognized as a problem since the 1950s, affecting mostly children under three years of age and pregnant women. In Peru, half of children under three still suffer from anemia, which is why bio-fortification is important for our country, as one of the ways to contribute to the prevention of deficiencies in diverse micronutrients, such as vitamin A, iron and zinc. These deficiencies are present in all social strata of our population, principally in rural areas. Given that a bio-fortified product has a higher concentration of micronutrients, bio-fortification constitutes a sustainable strategy for the prevention and control of anemia, as well as being an effective way of preventing it in rural zones, where a larger number of vulnerable population live. We should remember that the potato is an important product in the diet of farming families in the Peruvian Andes. It represents between 40% and 70% of daily food intake and depending on the agricultural calendar consumption ranges between 1.3 to 7.5 kilograms per family per day.

Impact Evaluation:

Impact evaluation in progress

Lessons Learned:

  1. The incorporation of new agricultural products should consider their integration with local planting methods, through a process of exchange of concepts, ideas and experiences.
  2. Andean farmers’ rapid acceptance of the process was due to the need to recuperate potato diversity through the introduction of traditional variety clones fortified with iron. This was important to the farmers because some of their native varieties had been lost and others were on the point of being lost, due to the period of violence in the region that forced them to abandon their land, as well as to plagues and to low land productivity.
  3. The use of a practical teaching method that allowed farmers to gain new knowledge quickly, linked mainly to the seed selection process and storage systems for potatoes.
  4. Male farmers do not usually share the information that they receive with women, due to the distinct roles that each carry out. For potato planting, women are the ones that select seeds at the end of the harvest. This work involved a positive selection method in order to select seeds, which starts when the first sprouts of the plant appear. For this reason it is important to consider educational activities for women from this moment onwards, and meet their expectations in terms of being able to receive new knowledge.


Funders: European Union

Primary Contact: Luis Espejo Alayo, Strategic Coordinator

Country: Peru

Project Dates: February 2011 to January 2015

Interventions: Incorporate explicit nutrition objectives and indicators, Assess the context at the local level, Target the vulnerable and improve equity, Facilitate production diversification, Improve processing, storage and preservation,

Target Population: Children under 3, Rural farmers, Pregnant/lactating women (PLW), Women farmers,

Project Stage: Ongoing activities Geographic

Coverage: State/Province

Photo: Curt Carnemark / World Bank