HUNDREDS of farmers gathered at Akinale, an ancient town in Ewekoro Local Government area of Ogun State recently to receive pro vitamin A cassava stems delivered to them by HarvestPlus, a global alliance dedicated to eradicating ‘Hidden Hunger’ in the world.
According to Paul Ilona, Country Manager of HarvestPlus, Nigeria, millions of people around the world including Nigerians suffer from ‘Hidden Hunger’ or micronutrient malnutrition. This means that they do not get enough micronutrients required to lead healthy, productive lives from foods eaten regularly.
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals (such as vitamin A, zinc, and iron), which are absolutely essential to good health, he said. Micronutrient malnutrition can lower IQ, cause stunting and blindness in children, lower resistance to disease in both children and adults, and increase risks for both mothers and infants during childbirth. Hidden Hunger might not be outwardly visible but it is often the cause of various illnesses.
HarvestPlus confronts this challenge by breeding and disseminating new staple crop varieties that are rich in vitamins and minerals. “There is no better way to deliver the nutrients that people need to be healthy than through the food that they eat every day,” Ilona added.
According to him both children and adults suffer from Hidden Hunger and both need micronutrients to enjoy better health. HarvestPlus, he stated, is working with farmers, public and private sectors to significantly scale up vitamin A cassava dissemination in the nation.
The traditional ruler of Akinale, Oba Olufemi Ogunleye, the Towulade of Akinale, who facilitated the event thanked HarvestPlus for making the provitamin A cassava stems available to farmers. He said it was a very important milestone in Akinale because it was the first time the team is coming to Ogun state and Akinale was the first place on the list. He encouraged the farmers to take advantage of the newly bred cassava varieties and spread the good news to the surrounding villages.
Dr. Samson Odedina, Envoy Consult and Agric Product Ltd, a major partner of HarvestPlus remarked on the significant contribution a staple Vitamin A cassava food crop would make to the health and wellness of the people. He then called on Ogun State government and other stakeholders to ensure that more farmers receive the biofortified cassava stems.
Odedina reminded the participants that the dissemination of vitamin A cassava was launched nationally in Nigeria on July 30, 2013 by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina in Akwa -Ibom State, under its Agricultural Transformation Agenda. He also noted that farmers in Ogun State are privileged to receive vitamin A cassava stems in 2013 against 2015 for which it was earlier scheduled.
Baale of Jaguna village, Salako Yawe and Isiaka Eleyele, another community leader expressed his appreciation for the good work done.