Nutrition experts have tasked Nigerians on the importance of adequate consumption of protein-rich foods to ensure productivity and sustainability for the future.
They made the call in Lagos on Thursday, June 22, 2023, at the Right To Protein Nigeria Conference.
They said protein consumption is an open window for numerous health benefits, contributes significantly to economic development by promoting sustainable farming practices and supporting small-scale farmers can boost productivity, generate income, and thus contribute to improved lives and livelihood and poverty reduction.
Right To Protein is a public health initiative of the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) that aims to raise awareness about the importance of protein in the diet and the right of every individual to have access to sufficient, affordable, and high-quality protein for better nutrition, health, and wellbeing.
Kevin Roepke, regional director, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa (SAASSA), USSEC, in his welcome address, said that the event’s focus on “Protein for a Sustainable Tomorrow and Nutrition Security” underscores the past 4 editions of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) reports’ humbling reality, just seven years away from 2030, with the distance to especially reach the Sustainability Development Goals 2 target of ‘Zero Hunger’ growing more expansive each year.
According to Roepke, this year’s report further dispels any lingering doubts that the world is moving backwards in its efforts to end hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms.
He said: “So, at this critical juncture, where do we stand now? And what can be done to help us build forward better and put us on track to achieving Zero Hunger?”
“When transformed with greater resilience to major drivers, including conflict, climate variability and other extremes like economic slowdowns and downturns, food systems can provide affordable healthy diets that are sustainable and inclusive, and become a powerful driving force towards ending hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms, for all.”
Stating that proteins have been an essential part of human diets, Roepke noted that due to the ever-rising population, the demand for protein is increasing exponentially.
“Ensuring access to adequate and nutritious food for every individual is a fundamental human right. Unfortunately, millions of people worldwide still suffer from malnutrition and lack access to a diverse and balanced diet. By focusing on protein sources that are sustainable, affordable, and accessible, we can make significant strides towards achieving nutrition security for all,” he said.
Also speaking at the conference, Olubukola Omobuwa, acting Head of the Department of Human Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Osun (UNIOSUN), emphasised that nutrition is a critical part of health and development, and people with adequate nutrition are more productive and can create opportunities to break the cycles of poverty and hunger gradually.
“Malnutrition contributes to about 50 percent of deaths among children under the age of five in Nigeria.”
Highlighting the importance of proteins to human beings, Omobuwa advised Nigerians to take in at least 53.8g of protein daily as recommended by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO); adding that complete proteins are those which contain all essential amino acids, such as animal products, soy, and quinoa.
According to Omobuwa, protein consumption can promote food security by causing an increase in demand and diversifying protein sources beyond the traditional options to reduce reliance on a few staple crops and so mitigate the risks of crop failure due to climate change or pests,” she said.
Other ways promoting consumption can engender a sustainable tomorrow for Nigeria is by employing sustainable protein production methods to minimize the environmental impact associated with traditional farming practices, promoting agroecology, organic farming, and sustainable aquaculture techniques by reducing the use of harmful chemicals and reducing carbon footprint thereby mitigating climate change.