By Gabriel Ewepu

ABUJA- THE International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, Monday, expressed worry over complicated nutrition problems in Nigeria as malnutrition and obesity get worse.

This was stated by the Head of IITA, Abuja Station, Dr Gbassey Tarawali, at the 2-day Technical Stakeholder Workshop on Food Systems for Healthier Diets in Nigeria: Diagnosis and Foresight, hosted by International Institute for Tropical Agriculture and Wageningen University and Research, Netherlands, in Abuja.

Tarawali said one of the major problems confronting IITA remains nutrition issues in Nigeria, and expressed optimism that with the conference solutions will be proffered which a policy will be expected from the government to ensure implementation.

The nutrition programme phase 1 has a duration from 2017-2022, and the objectives of the workshop focus on the progress made on gap analysis at the household level, foresight on national food system in Nigeria, the entry points for food system interventions and preliminary policy implications, next steps and future research collaboration under A4NH research programme Food Systems for Healthier Diets. It will end on Tuesday July 3, 2019.

He said: “In fact, nutrition is one of the major problems that we are encountering now. In the past people were just thinking of producing food and they did’t take the quality into consideration they just eat any junk not looking at productivity but now quality is important because you will see from these conference that people are already talking about.

“People who don’t use the right quality of food get obesity some of them are malnourished some of them are not well and they lose in terms of physique and so many other things. That is why actually we are holding this meeting today. It is interesting that this meeting is an international conference, it has people from Waganingen University, it has people from IITA and it also has people from the universities and the national institutions of the country.”

He also said the government ought to come up with a policy to tackle the challenge after the workshop as a way of intervening in the issue of nutrition that has become a major health issue

“At the end of the day there has to be a policy intervention, and that is why we are here. Policy makers know the dangers of not giving attention to peoples’ diet. Whatever is decided here will get to the policy makers that nutrition is an important aspect of human needs”, he stated.

According to him the institute has supplied farmers bio-fortified crops that are more nutritious than they used to be including cassava that used to have up to 80 per cent carbohydrate or 90 per cent carbohydrate, but has been made more nutritious by introducing some nutrients and vitamins into it, which has been distributed to farmers.

“It will be more nutritious to the people who eat cassava, and also maize for instance, maize in those days was just maize now we have now fortified maize which is more nutritious and healthier for the consumers.

He also disclosed that IITA will provide these fortified varieties, research, analysis, and the critical mass and taking the lead for the project in Nigeria and Cameroon.

In responding to the increased consumption of processed food in Nigeria, a researcher from the Wageningen University, Thom Achterbosch, advised that there should be balance in using ingredients by processors considering the health of consumers.

“What we do see is that food processing is often going together with adding additives or adding ingredients to the foods which you have to use in moderation such as sugar and fats and oil.

“You need these ingredients to process foods but what you would want to have is a balance between the use of those ingredients and also the use of other more healthy ingredients so it’s all about a balance and the programme will help to identify where those balances can be found and also the program will help to identify where there could be a market for processed foods that are actually combining both the healthy and convenient products so they have power to sell in the market and are also good for your body”, Achterbosch said.

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