— Named Semi-finalist In MacArthur Foundation Competition For $100m Grant
HarvestPlus is targeting 500,000 metric tonnes demand for biofortified crops and foods in Nigeria this year; to tackle micronutrient deficiency, which is rising by the day.
HarvestPlus Country Manager, Dr. Paul Ilona, who stated this at the first edition of its bi-monthly business forum, in Ibadan, Oyo State, said the gaps created by the shortage of flour for small-scale entrepreneurs and processors, who are in constant demand for roots, require farmers with keen business acumen to spot and exploit.
He noted that the overwhelming turnout of investors at the forum points to the growing adoption of biofortified crops by Nigerians, adding that this calls for a marshal plan to ensure that rural poor can access and afford biofortified crops and foods.
The event, which hosted over 150 farmers, extension agents, food processors and marketers, was organised for stakeholders in the biofortified seeds and foods sector to share experiences, challenges and successes recorded in the course of commercialising vitamin A cassava and vitamin A maize in Nigeria, to stimulate increased investment and bridge the supply gap in the biofortified seeds and foods value chain.
The participants consisted of existing and potential investors in the value chains, who were encouraged to strategise and build linkages to meet the estimated 500,000 metric tonnes demand.
Sharing his experience as a key actor in the value chain, Provost, Federal College of Agriculture, Akure, (FECA), Dr. Samson Odedina, said the forum was timely as it was obvious that the demand for biofortified foods far exceeded supply, noting; “Students in my college have also keyed into the revolution we are witnessing in Nigeria today. We are at the moment, the hub for the production of biofortified seeds and food in Ondo State, Nigeria.”
According to him; “In 2016, students and other investors in my College made well over N50m ($158,730) in the sales of biofortified crops and foods. The demand for the products is growing. It is becoming evident that our production is not enough for the market. This is why this forum is important. We need everyone here and even more people to get involved.”
Leading agricultural industrialist and Chief Executive Officer, Niji Group, Mr. Kolawole Adeniji, on his part, said he does not regret venturing into the cultivation and processing of vitamin A cassava. He added that the increased demand for the products has inspired him to build at least three more factories.
Noting that opportunities for expansion in the biofortified seeds value chain abound, he said he was ready to buy off any quantity of roots farmers can supply and that the production of vitamin A cassava food derivatives was top priority for his factory in 2017.
Meanwhile, HarvestPlus has been named as one of the eight semi-finalists last Thursday by 100&Change, a global competition for a single $100 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
The World Health Organisation estimates that malnutrition contributes to 3.1 million deaths of children under-five every year, almost half of all deaths for that age group.
HarvestPlus has pioneered a simple but transformative way to increase the nutritional value of staple food crops, such as sweet potatoes, beans, maize, and cassava. These improved varieties provide higher amounts of vitamin A, iron, and zinc-the three micronutrients identified by the World Health Organisation as most lacking in diets globally.
MacArthur’s Board will select up to five finalists in September. Finalists will present their proposals during a live event on December 11, 2017, before the Board names a single recipient to receive $100 million over, up to six years.