The Nigerian government and HarvestPlus have flagged off the dissemination of provitamin A cassava planting materials to farmers, inspired by agricultural reforms aimed at cutting down the number of persons afflicted with vitamin A deficiency and improving food security.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akin Adesina with the Governor of Akwa Ibom, Godswill Akpabio jointly kicked off the dissemination of the cassava planting materials in the capital city of Uyo.
Researchers say using provitamin A cassava to tackle vitamin A deficiency is an excellent option because of the easy
availability and accessibility of cassava in most rural communities.
A nutrition survey report by the Nigerian government shows that vitamin A deficiency hurts the health of about 20%
of pregnant women and 30% of children below the age of 5, according to Dr Howarth Bouis, HarvestPlus Director in a speech read on his behalf.
People afflicted by vitamin A deficiency suffer either from night blindness, stunting, low immunity or even death.
“The World Health Organization estimates that about 250 000 to 500 000 vitamin A-deficient children become blind
every year, half of them dying within 12 months of losing their sight,” said Dr Kenton Dashiell, Deputy Director General for Partnerships and Capacity Development with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
Efforts by the Nigerian government to solve this malady include fortification of products such as wheat, soft drinks, flour, and sugar with vitamin A. The biofortification of cassava aims to amplify these efforts, taking vitamin A to people who may not be able to afford the cost of fortified foods.