. VANGUARD, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2010
Stakeholders plan release of Vitamin A cassava in Nigeria 1\ GRICULTURE and . ~ health experts are holding talks in Ibadan to discuss the progress made in b reeding new varieties of cassava that can provide Vitamin A through the diet. The nutritionally-improved cassava will give more Nigerians a c cess to Vitamin A and help fight 'hidden hunger.' Pre-varietal release trials of the varieties across the country have proven that farmers find them irresistible. "Farmers love the varieties and the varieties have good culinary qualities. When you make lafun cassava porridge - with it, it is v~ry smooth," says Chief Tola Adepomola, Vice -President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), who is participating in the prerelease trials. "To us, the varieties save the cost of producing gari - a processed form of cassava. We do not need to buy palm oil to process yellow gari. We
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hope that these varieties feel the biofortification will help solve t he of staples . such as problem of Vitamin A cassava that is .widely deficiency and make consumed will give the farmers have more vulnerable groups more access to nutritious access to nutriti ous diet," said Paul nona, food," he added . Since cassava is e'a ten HarvestPlus' Country daily in most of Nigeria, Crop Manager. Working with partners these new varieties that have been bred to across the world, an provide Vitamin A. could HarvestPlus, improve the nutrition for international research organisation; is leading millions of Nigerians, said Harrie Hendrick:x, the effort to improve the HarvestPlus' Head of Vitamin A content .of cassava using Prod uct Delivery. conventional p)ant Currently, about 30 per breeding techniques. cent of children under Partners including the five are at risk of Vitamin International Centre for A deficiency and are at Tropical Agriculture greater risk of childhood (CIAT) , the infections such 路 as International Institute diarrhea diseases, for ll'opical Agriculture measles, and eye in. Nigeria (IITA) , the damage (incluqing Nigenan National Root blindness). Researchers - Crops Research are of the opinion .that Institute (NRCRl) and biofortification of key the private sector are staples is an option to part of the strategy to stem the frend, help ensure successful especially among delivery, and adoption resource-poor farmers of Vitamin A cassava in Nigeria . "We are and children. "We have seen making g,ood progress fortication of Vitamin A in reaching the target in commodities such as levels we have set for sugar and flour but we Vitamin A in cassava, "nona added.
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"Varieties with intermediate levels of Vitamin A will hopetully be released in 2011 with varieties with even more VitaminAin the breeding pipeline. This meeting will help make sure we are on track for that. The longterm goals are to ensure that-millions of people have access to, and are using, Vitamin A cassava varieties by 2018." Dr Peter Kulakow,
IITA Cassava Breeder, said the multiplication of the nutntionallyimproved varieties IS ongoing , "The plan is to ensure that farmers have access to the varieties once officially released," he stated. The Oyo State Government backed the initiative to make the nutritionally-improv.e d varieties available to its farmers, saying that it would improve the nutritional status, food
security and standard of living of its people. "The government of Oyo State appreciates your ingenuity and ... We Identify with this programme . The promotion of cassava with higher levels of proVitamin A can help to red uce Vitamin A deficiency among un de r路ri 0 uri she d communities that rely on cassava for sustenance," says Kunle Ishola, Oyo State Commissione r for Agriculture in Ni geria.