• Promote bio-fortified maize, cassava value chains
Bio-fortified Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato (OSFP), yellow cassava and maize, all bio-fortified with Vitamin-A, is the nexus connecting the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and SANO Foods as means of tackling malnutrition caused by deficiencies in micro-nutrients and macronutrient among children and women especially.
To confront vitamin-A deficiency and malnutrition, SANO Foods and IITA have adopted bio-fortified foods such as potato, cassava, maize and their by-products as cost-effective, widely-accepted and locally available means.
The partnership also advocates the use of OSFP puree and flour in bread and other confectioneries. This, they said, would save foreign exchange for the country by reducing importation and consumption of wheat flour. It would also stimulate production, processing, productivity and prosperity of farmers through crop industrialisation.
Solving the vitamin deficiency in Nigeria was the major focus of the product display programme held at the IITA campus, Ibadan, in Oyo State, last week.
As pointed out recently by TechnoServe, a business solution company, Nigeria faces the biggest burden of malnutrition in Africa and is home to the world’s second-largest population of malnourished children.
Also, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says no fewer than 52 million under-five children are wasted, 17 million are severely wasted and 155 million are stunted, while 41 million are overweight or obese because of malnutrition, which includes inadequate vitamins and minerals.
Around 45 per cent of deaths among under-five children are linked to malnutrition, and these mostly occur in developing and poor economies of the world.
Developmental, economic, social and medical impacts of the global burden of malnutrition are serious and devastating on individuals, families, communities and countries in Africa.
The IITA/SANO Foods initiative was attended by critical stakeholders in the food and agro-allied sector. Several value chain products from the selected bio-fortified crops were on display, including turmeric garri (garri mixed with turmeric), OFSP garri (garri with Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato), OFSP bread varieties (Bread with OFSP), lemongrass juice, varieties of tea and several other products.
Solomon Ojeleye, Acting General Manager, SANO Foods, said that the vision of the company was to ensure that “Nigerians have easy access to organic, healthy and nutritional products to reverse widespread malnutrition, just as inflation bites harder and conventional vitamin-fortified foods become too expensive for most Nigerians.”
He added: “SANO Foods has invested so much in research and development to get the new products available and affordable. Bakers nationwide can now use the OFSP puree and flour as substitute for wheat flour to ensure consumers have access to healthy bread.”
At the programme, IITA, under the BASIC II programme, presented the new improved varieties of cassava species that will give farmers higher yield and also more nutritional value for consumers.
Mr Kenton Dashiell, Deputy Director-General, Partnerships for Delivery, IITA, emphasised the importance of cassava to Nigeria’s economy and why farmers need to embrace the new varieties.
Present at the events were Michael Abberton, Director, West Africa Hub, IITA; Alfred Dixon, Director, Development & Delivery, IITA; Prof. Lateef Sanni, Project Manager, BASICS II, IITA; Mr Paul Ilona, Managing Director, Harvest Plus Nigeria and Mr Sola Olunowo, Managing Director Agro Park.
As the WHO puts it, there are two basic types of malnutrition and the first and most important is protein-energy malnutrition (PEM), or a lack of calories and protein.
Protein is necessary for key body functions, including the development and maintenance of muscles. Protein-energy malnutrition is the more lethal form of malnutrition/hunger and is the type of malnutrition that is referred to when world hunger is discussed.
The second type of malnutrition, as described by the WHO, is ‘hidden hunger,’ meaning deficiency in major micronutrients essential for healthy mental and physical development.
Three of the very important micronutrienst in terms of health consequences for people in lower-middle-income countries are iron, Vitamin A and iodine.
Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) also says iron deficiency causes anaemia, which is usually aggravated by worm infections, malaria and other infectious diseases.
Vitamin-A deficiency can cause night blindness and reduce resistance to disease and can also impair growth in infants, according to FAO, and an estimated 250 million pre-school children are vitamin-A deficient.
An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 vitamin A-deficient children become blind every year worldwide, half of them dying within 12 months of losing their sight.
FAO describes iodine deficiency as one of the main causes of impaired cognitive development in children. About 38 million babies are born with iodine deficiency worldwide, especially in Africa and Asia.
The consensus was that vitamin deficiencies could be reduced with affordable, available and locally processed crops and their by-products if stakeholders in the confectionary industries would adopt such to reach larger number of Nigerians and Africans.