As part of measures to address Vitamin A deficiency, particularly amongst Nigerian children, two major International non-governmental organisations; the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and HarvestPlus have called for more consumption of cassava and maize.
Nigeria ranks number 13 out of 123 countries suitable for investing in vitamin A cassava and 25 out of 128 countries suitable for investing in vitamin A maize and both nutrient-dense crops provide up to 50-100% of one’s daily vitamin A needs.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 30% of Nigerian children under five are estimated to be vitamin A deficient and annually, Nigeria loses over US$1.5 billion in GDP to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Also, the Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2) also highlights the importance of improving micronutrients intake and dietary quality as an essential part in tackling malnutrition.
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In a bid to improve the vitamin A intake for Nigerians, GAIN and HarvestPlus, have partnered to launch a programme to accelerate progress in improving access to essential vitamins and minerals for vulnerable people.
The International NGOs noted that the Commercialisation of Biofortified Crops Programme focuses on promoting consumption and marketing of Vitamin A maize and cassava to reduce the vitamin A deficiencies in Nigeria and this is currently being implemented in eight states in the country – Vitamin A Maize (VAM) – Kaduna, Niger, Imo, Oyo; Vitamin A Cassava (VAC) – Nasarawa, Anambra, Cross River, Osun.
“A major achievement towards reducing vitamins deficiency is the Nigeria National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development’s (NCARD) approval for the mainstreaming of staple crop biofortification in all aspects of agricultural interventions in Nigeria and so far the CBC Programme has been working with actors along the value chain, especially food processors to get their buy-in into processing more of these focus crops”, they said.
Ijudai Jasada, one of the CBC Programme Mangers said, 21 preselected processors have been onboarded in six of the implementing states and linkages have been facilitated between the source of these crops to these onboarded processors”.
He stated that: “19,694 new value chain actors were reached with information on the economic and nutritional benefits of Vitamin A Maize and Cassava in the eight states.”
Goodluck Ogu, another CBC Programme Manager, who leads the supply side of the CBC Programme stated that over 150,000 farmers have been onboarded by the programme to increase supply of the vitamin A maize with 50 businesses plots established for farming.
He further added that: “30 new VAM seed distribution outlets were opened in 6 Local governments from the states of implementation for maize, about 1,100 farmers; 250 agro-dealers; 50 extension agents; 50 local grain merchants have been trained in the maize value chain, while 251,560 bundles of vitamin A cassava stems have been supplied to farmers with 40 business plots established in the states of implementation for cassava”.
The Commercialisation of Biofortified Crops Programme addresses hidden hunger in Africa and Asia by significantly expanding the reach of nutrient-rich biofortified crops and foods (iron beans, iron pearl millet, zinc wheat, vitamin A cassava and vitamin A maize), to 190.6 million consumers by 2022 and 571.8 million by 2028.
Alongside national partners, the Programme is catalysing commercial markets for biofortified staple crops and food products in Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Tanzania.
The Programme is co-led by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and HarvestPlus, with funding from Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.