Har­vestPlus of­fers panacea for mi­cronu­tri­ent de­fi­cien­cies

Daily Trust - - AGRICULTURE - By Vin­cent A Yusuf

The Di­rec­tor of Har­vestPlus, Dr Howarth Bouis, has said that de­vel­op­ing and de­liv­er­ing crops that carry es­sen­tial mi­cronu­tri­ents to the vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tion is key to solv­ing the global prob­lem of mi­cronu­tri­ent de­fi­cien­cies, known as hid­den hunger.

Dr Bouis, who was in Nige­ria on a work­ing visit, said this dur­ing a lec­ture he de­liv­ered at the Con­fer­ence Cen­tre of the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute of Trop­i­cal Agri­cul­ture (IITA), Ibadan re­cently. He high­lighted why min­eral and vi­ta­min de­fi­cien­cies con­sti­tute a sig­nif­i­cant public health prob­lem and ef­forts by stake­hold­ers to ad­dress the prob­lem through di­etary diver­si­fi­ca­tion, sup­ple­men­ta­tion to chil­dren aged zero to 59 months, food for­ti­fi­ca­tion, and bio­for­ti­fi­ca­tion.

He de­scribed bio-for­ti­fi­ca­tion, which is the breed­ing of crops to in­crease their nu­tri­tional value, as the most vi­able and cost-ef­fec­tive strat­egy in the chain of so­lu­tions adopted by pol­i­cy­mak­ers. This is so be­cause 75 per cent of tar­get vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tion live in the ru­ral ar­eas where they eat mostly what they plant, mak­ing the sta­ple crops carry es­sen­tial vi­ta­min and min­er­als, pro­vid­ing a great op­por­tu­nity to reach them in a cost­ef­fec­tive and sus­tain­able way.

De­liv­er­ing a lec­ture en­ti­tled, “Bio-for­ti­fi­ca­tion of Food Sta­ples: Progress and Fu­ture Strat­egy,” Dr Bouis gave ac­count of the progress Har­vestPlus has made on bio-for­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­ject from con­cep­tu­al­i­sa­tion, breed­ing of crops, de­liv­er­ing of seeds to farm­ers for mul­ti­pli­ca­tion, pro­duc­tion, value ad­di­tion to se­lect food sta­ples, mar­ket­ing and con­sump­tion of food prod­ucts in over 27 coun­tries where the crops - cas­sava, maize, cow­pea, sorghum, mil­let, wheat, rice, and or­ange sweet potato - have been re­leased.

Ex­am­in­ing the con­se­quences of vi­ta­min and min­eral de­fi­cien­cies, Bouis said, “Avail­able record shows that 375,000 chil­dren go blind ev­ery year and a size­able oth­ers die due to Vi­ta­min A de­fi­ciency. Iron de­fi­ciency leads to im­paired cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties that are not re­versible while zinc de­fi­ciency in­crease in­ci­dence of se­vere di­ar­rhea and stunt­ing, as well as over 450,000 deaths an­nu­ally.”

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