L-R: Elizabeth Parkes,IITA Cassava Breeder; Richardson Okechukwu, IITA Scientist; Paul Ilona, HarvestPlus Country Manager; Akin Adesina, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development; and Gbassey Tarawali, IITA Scientist, being honored by the Nigerian government for the development of pro-vitamin A cassava varieties in Nigeria
Scientists who led the development of pro-vitamin A cassava varieties in Nigeria were honored with an annual ministerial award inaugurated by the Nigerian government on Friday.
The development of the pro-vitamin A cassava was led by IITA but funded by HarvestPlus. The National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) was a local partner in the project. The over two-decade research led to the development of the pro-vitamin A cassava varieties that are yellowish in color.
Nigeria’s Agriculture Minister, Dr. Akin Adesina, who conferred the award on the scientists, said the varieties would help in efficiently tackling malnutrition especially vitamin A deficiency in Nigeria.
The minister also threw his weight behind efforts to promote biofortification in the country with plans to put in place an aggressive strategy to take the pro-vitamin A varieties to 1.8 million farm families.
HarvestPlus’ Country Manager, Paul Ilona commended the government’s efforts towards tackling, adding that the best way to tackle malnutrition was through the provision of nutritious foods to the people.
At the moment, approximately 250,000 to 500,000 malnourished children in the developing world go blind each year from the deficiency of vitamin A, half of whom die within a year of becoming blind.
In Nigeria, vitamin A deficiency afflicts almost 20% of pregnant women and about 30% of children under-five in Nigeria.
IITA Director-General, Dr. Nteranya Sanginga commended the Nigerian government for her support to biofortification
Represented by Dr. Gbassey Tarawali, the director general said the institute would support the government to meet her target of reducing vitamin A deficiency.