by Adelola Amihere
As part of efforts aimed at addressing the nutritional deficiency in Nigeria’s food system, the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), has announced that it is partnering the Wageningen University of the Netherlands and the Federal Government to address this problem.
The Head of IITA’s Abuja Office, Dr. Gbassey Tarawali who disclosed this in Abuja, said the action was targeted at introducing healthier and more nutritious varieties of food crops in the country’s food system.
Speaking at a Technical Workshop titled, Food Systems for Healthier Diets in Nigeria: Diagnosis and Foresight, Tarawali emphasised the need for policy makers to give attention to issues of nutrition in agriculture.
According to him, “Nutrition is one of the major problems that we are encountering now. In the past, people only thought about producing food; they never took into consideration the quality of the food.
“We just ate any junk (that we could lay our hands on) without considering the productivity; but now, quality is important.
“IITA is the main implementer; IITA will be working with Wegeningen; it has the scientist and the nutritionists.
“We are going to do a lot of things in terms of analysis and introducing new varieties of food crops that are more nutritious than what people used to know.
“You will now have bio-fortified crops – crops that are more nutritious than they used to be.
“So IITA is going to play a major role in terms of providing this bio-fortified varieties, providing the research, providing the critical mass and taking the lead in this project in Nigeria.’’
The Country Leader of the programme, Dr. Busie Maziya-Dixon, however, explained that the workshop was to enable stakeholders to rub minds on ways to set research agenda for the food system in the country in relation to healthier diets.
Also speaking at the event, the Senior Advisor to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Adeyinka Onabolu, described the project as timely, saying that the Federal Government had launched an agriculture food security and nutrition programme.
She said: “This programme is well-timed because even last year in May, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture launched an Agriculture Sector Food Security and Nutrition Programme and it is purely looking at nutrition in terms of the food system.
“What they are proposing to do just aligns perfectly with what the ministry has already outlined as how we are going to address nutrition issues through the food systems approach.’’
Thom Achterbosch, the Senior Researcher, Food and Nutrition Security of the Wageningen University and Research, said the programme was targeted at understanding the diet quality in Nigeria.
Achterbosch said the programme was being funded by donors under the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and agencies under the food supply chain.
His words: “A diet can be good if you nourish the body with the nutrients you need. What we will do in this programme is to understand how consumption connects to the nutrients.
“We want to identify opportunities for improving the diet. What we try to do is to bring argument to the table for wider business cases around supplying healthier food to the population.’’