By Philip Yatai
A global agricultural organisation, HarvestPlus, has mobilised more than 5,000 women to promote the consumption of biofortified crops enriched with micronutrients and vitamins in Kaduna State.
The organisation’s Nutrition and Post-harvest Manager, Ms Olatundun Kalejaiye, made this known to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Kaduna on Monday.
Kalejaiye described biofortification as a “food system approach that nutritionally enhanced food crops that are developed and grown, using modern biotechnology techniques, conventional plant breeding, and agronomic practices.
She pointed out that the major staple food in Nigeria included cassava, maize, sweet potato, rice, beans, yam, plantain, and millet, adding most of the crops were vitamins and mineral deficient.
She said that HarvestPlus worked with breeders using conventional means to naturally increase the nutrient and vitamins content of the staple crops.
She said that the organisation was promoting the consumption of biofortified Vitamins A cassava, maize, and orange flesh sweet potato in the state as part of efforts to address malnutrition.
According to her, the strategy is to make the biofortified crops available such that women will be able to buy, process them into household meals and consume them.
“This will enable women to meet the nutritional needs of their family, thereby preventing malnutrition.”
She said that the organisation had established a Women-led Extension Platform where women were reaching other women, adding that more than 5,000 had been reached in the last three months.
She explained that the women were made up of those with business potentials and those that were interested to make extra income for themselves.
The manager said that the women would be trained on how to make money from biofortified crops by making them available to households for consumption.
She added that another category of the women were women cooperatives dealing with maize processing who would be trained on how to introduce biofortified varieties into their businesses.
She said that the women would be driving nutrition education and information at community level, targeting the women in households.
“This is very critical for the women and community members to know the value of the nutrient and vitamins enriched crops for their nutritious wellbeing.
“The essence of engaging women to reach out to women is to ensure that women know the available biofortified crops and buy them for their family nutrition whenever they go to the market.
“There is also the market angle to this where we trained women on how to process these crops into products that they can sell and make money from it,” she said.
Kalejaiye also said that the women were also being trained on how to process the crops to ensure that the nutrients were retained.
She said that HarvestPlus was leveraging on the fact that when women knew the right thing, they would do it and pass the information to their daughters and other girls around them.
“This can go from generation to generation,” she said.
She added that the organisation was also working with farmers, providing technical support to enable them to grow the biofortified crops profitably.
She equally said that the farmers were provided with seeds and trained on good agronomic practices, while others were supported to do dry season farming so that they could cultivate all year round.
“Other famers and aggregators have been linked to industries in Lagos, so they already have a ready market and all they need to do is produce more.
“To further promote the adaptation of the fortified crops, HarvestPlus has recently launched the first national Biofortification recipe.
“The recipe features a collection of practical and traditional dishes that have been cleverly adapted to provide added nutrition and fight malnutrition through biofortified foods in the country,” she said. (NAN)