By Princewill Ekwujuru
In a renewed effort at combating vitamin A deficiencies among Nigerians and to boost its consumption, a major nutrient for clear sight, a non governmental organisation, NGO, Harvest Plus, has embarked on the distribution of vitamins A enriched cassava stems to farmers in rural communities in Nigeria.
According to the Database Administrator of Harvest Plus, Mr. John Alamu, the project was conceived and funded by donor agencies to address the global challenge of malnutrition, especially in developing countries where it has been discovered that one out of every three person is afflicted with essential nutrient deficiency.
He disclosed that the project, which started with four pilot states in Nigeria, namely, Oyo, Imo, Benue and Akwa Ibom States, is expected to be extended to other states in phases every year, adding that by the end of 2014, over 3,350 vitamin A cassava stems would have been distributed to about eight states in the federation.
He also disclosed that Harvest Plus is collaborating with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Federal Ministry of Health in the project, and so far the enlightenment campaign is going on alongside the distribution of the cassava.
He explained that vitamin deficiency is the major causes of some illness, adding that vitamin A helps to improve eye sight and boost immune systems in the human body.
He stressed that much of the foods people consume are deficient of these essential vitamins, hence the deliberate effort to develop the vitamin A enriched cassava.
He said the new cassava which debuted in 2011 could be use to prepare various types of foods such as moi moi, garri, fufu, among other forms of food consumed by Nigerians.
He said vitamins A cassava has a natural vitamin A in it, and therefore different from the development of the controversial genetically modified crops, which he admitted when consumed in large quantities could pose serious health risks.
The one day retreat held in Ibadan recently with the theme: ‘Promoting the Consumption of Vitamin A Cassava’ seeks to create awareness of the existence of such crop in Nigeria and to avail members of the public the opportunity to key into its production and marketing.
He however admitted that research is still ongoing to produce the vitamin A cassava in high commercial quantity and nutritional value.
Alamu disclosed that the NGO has partnered with Nollywood actors and have produced videos that would be used to disseminate and propagate the vitamin A cassava consumption in rural areas that are the most vulnerable in vitamin deficiency. He said the videos would be released soon.
On his choice of Nollywood as the channel for information dissemination, he explained that research has shown that people in rural communities tend to listen more to their favourite actors who validate certain products and lifestyles than using hand bill and poster, which they have discovered to be ineffective in their campaign so far.