In order to improve the daily consumption of protein in the country, women, farmers, cooperatives, traditional institutions, religious organisations, town unions, labour unions, media, film industry and institutions of learning among others have been called upon to join in the campaign.
Food experts and nutritionists while stressing the need for the country to increase its protein consumption made the call during a Protein Deficiency Awareness webinar themed ‘Nigeria Food Culture and the Challenge of Protein Deficiency’.
Dr. Omadeli Boyo, Medical Director, Pinecrest Special Hospital and public health expert who is the keynote speaker said there is need to sensitise communities on the importance of protein consumption while taking into consideration the practice of the various ethnic groups in the country.
He said that most Nigerian staple foods have a large percent of carbohydrates, that Nigerians need to deliberately plan to eat a balanced diet, while noting that it is very difficult to change the food culture of Nigerians, but said that most Nigerian homes can hardly afford foods with high nutritional value.
He also called on government at all levels to enact policy that will ensure that children are educated from early childhood through to universities on the importance of protein, adding that food is part of culture and is a reflection of the way of life of a people.
“Food is part of culture and is a reflection of the way of life of a people. Culture change can be very difficult and can only happen over time using tools such as studies of the knowledge, attitude and practices of the various ethnic groups,” he said.
He stressed most Nigerian families can hardly afford foods with high nutritional value, forcing them to feed mostly on starchy foods which are very high in carbohydrates and are often cheaper.
Ezekiel Ibrahim, National President, Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) said that the high rate of poverty in the country has prevented Nigerians from consuming foods that are rich in either plant or animal protein.
He said that chicken remains the best source of animal protein and that unlike in the past when it would take three months to breed the local chicken to the level where it will be ready for consumption, in just four weeks, a broiler could be ready for consumption.
Ibrahim said that successive governments have paid lip service to agriculture following the sudden discovery of crude oil and that the low protein consumption among Nigerians is as a result of poor government and poor planning.
He called on the government to build an effective and efficient agricultural sector to improve farmers’ yields per hectare, thus, driving down the prices of food.
He lamented that the situation of insecurity across some northern states is hampering the production and subsequent availability of soybeans which is an essential protein source for the production of poultry feeds, adding that the cost of feeds is significant, and that soybean is an important source of protein in poultry feeds.
Lanre Fasakin, Managing Director of Communication and Market Research Group Limited (CMRG), speaking on the outcome of a recent protein deficiency survey conducted by his firm in the country, said that the study shows that Nigerians have high knowledge of protein-based foods and that affordability and availability are the two key factors that drive the kind of food Nigerians eat.
He identified plant-based protein as a very good alternative since meat-based proteins have become luxury items in the Nigerian menu, stressing that soyabean is a very rich source of protein, but a major ingredient in animal feeds.