Extra early biofortified lentils for South Asia (SA) and Sub Saharan Africa (SSA)

Published: 21 February 2021
Last edited: 21 February 2021
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Unlike standard lentils, ICARDA varieties reach maturity quickly and are biofortified with zinc and iron to fight the hidden hunger. These varieties mature in less than 100 days and fit well in rice systems, giving a bonus crop of protein-rich lentils to strengthen the rural livelihood. To accelerate the adoption of the new lentil varieties, ICARDA’s participatory research-for-development was carried out with the inclusion of farmer organizations and women help groups.


East and South Africa
North Africa
South Asia
West Asia, Middle East
Scale of implementation
Desert ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
Hot desert
River, stream
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Food security
Gender mainstreaming
Genetic diversity
Health and human wellbeing
Science and research
Erratic rainfall
Extreme heat
Increasing temperatures
Shift of seasons
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Ecosystem loss
Invasive species
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Lack of technical capacity
Lack of food security
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 15 – Life on land
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals


Bangladesh | Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Syria, Morocco, Ethiopia, Turkey, Lesotho, and Portugal


Over two billion people in the developing world are malnourished and affected by micronutrient malnutrition. Women and children are the worst affected. More than 47% of women and children in developing countries suffer from iron deficiency impairing physical and mental growth. Zinc deficiency is prevalent and hampers growth and weakens the immune system. Through genetic enhancement, ICARDA scientists have developed micronutrient-dense varieties of lentil, a staple diet of many poor people in the regions of South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. However, areas under lentil cultivation were declining for several reasons: use of low-yielding landraces, diseases, insect pests, frost, water-logging and expansion of area under rice-based systems, leading to no scope for traditional varieties to fit in the short-season window available. Development of short duration lentils biofortified with iron and zinc is an effective measure to combat micronutrient malnutrition also called “the hidden hunger”. 


The solution is intended for farmers. Nutritionally, children and pregnant women are currently the major beneficiaries to address the development issue the solution entails. 

How do the building blocks interact?

Crop modelling to simulate yield gain of lentil has further helped this solution in the target region. Thus, remote sensing-based real-time mapping and monitoring were used to target the rice fallows for variety-specific lentil intensification based on the length of the fallows and soil moisture. This also helped trace back the per cent area utilized in each given season and crop modelling to simulate yield gain of lentil and has further helped to manipulate planting date and lentil phenology in the regions. Several released varieties were discovered in different countries. This has encouraged the national programs to disseminate these varieties as ‘Fast Tracking’ and continue the involvement of farmers in the research for development process and projects.


  • High adoption: 99% of the 150,000 hectares under rice system are now planted between harvests with the new improved varieties.
  • Replaced exports: The additional domestic production in Bangladesh has even replaced expensive imports.
  • Yield increase: Lentil production in India has witnessed rising trend from 1.06 million tonnes in 2012 to 1.64 million tonnes in 2018, an addition of 161,300 tonnes, thanks to yield increase from 678 kg/ha in 2011 to 1006 kg/ha at present of biofortified varieties.
  • High revenue: 36128 tons of addition lentil production worth 28.9 M US$ annually.
  • Participatory informal seed systems: a 3792-ton quality seed of improved varieties through farmers’ participatory informal seed system
  • Wide-scale demonstration: 9202 farmers covering 3253 ha area in 460 villages
  • Digitization: Remote sensing-based real-time mapping and monitoring was used to target the appropriate rice fallows for variety-specific lentil intensification based on the length of the fallows and soil moisture dynamics.
  • Multi-nutritious crop: Lentils are rich sources of protein, micronutrients, and vitamins including iron, zinc, selenium, folates, and carotenoid.
  • Additional innovations: Crop modelling to simulate yield gain of lentil has further helped this solution in the target region.
  • High participation rate: 157 farmers’ training and 112 field days organised and a total of 15323 farmers participated including 1944 women.


Since I started using these improved varieties, my life has greatly changed, I have built a better house, I have more cattle and I was able to educate my children. All farmers of Gimbichu owe their livelihoods and their success to better lentils. We are very grateful to the government for rescuing us from poverty”  Demekech Tekeleyohannes, farmer  from Gimbichu

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ICARDA Solutions