A dramatic improvement in the health of the Nigerian child may be in the offing with the distribution of vitamin A fortified cassava stems to over 2,000 farmers in KotonKarfe Local Government Area of Kogi State last week by HarvestPlus-Nigeria and its partner, Envoy Consulting, in a ceremony graced by the state governor, Captain Idris Wada (retd), and hosted by the Ohimegye of KotonKarfe, Alhaji Abdulrazak Sani Isa Koto, in his palace.
The distribution of the enhanced quality cassava stems to the farmers followed HarvestPlus-Nigeria’s mandate to ensure that an additional 350,000 farming households receive the fortified cassava stems in 2014, from the 106,000 farming households who received the quality stems in 2013.
Governor Wada pledged to make KotonKarfe a centre for the cultivation and distribution of vitamin A cassava in order to arrest the problem of malnutrition. He added that the state had perfected plans to become a model for staple crop processing in Nigeria by establishing model processing centres that would help create jobs for the youth.
He appreciated HarvestPlus for the provision and distribution of the fortified cassava stems, a measure he acknowledged would go a long way in confronting diseases such as blindness, stunting and anaemia, especially among children and pregnant women who are most vulnerable to the diseases.
Speaking further, Wada noted that it was his administration’s goal to make agriculture a noble profession in the state, hence his drive to ensure that the sector is driven by the private sector in order to position the state for the emergence of cassava as the top foreign exchange earner in the nation.
Speaking earlier, His Royal Majesty, the Ohimegye of KotonKarfe, Alhaji Isa Koto, sought the state government’s collaboration with HarvestPlus in the cultivation and dissemination of other fortified staple crops, such as Zinc Rice and vitamin A maize and the provision of technical training in the production of the fortified crops.
In his welcome address, the Country Manager of HarvestPlus-Nigeria, Dr Paul Ilona, said the dissemination of vitamin A cassava stems was to secure the future of the Nigerian child. According to him, “So that every Nigerian child will reach his/her potential in life, we need the Nigerian child to be healthy for the future.”
The inauguration ceremony was witnessed by farmers under the aegis of different groups across the two local government areas of KotonKarfe and Lokoja in the state. The farmers were registered to aid being tracked and effective monitoring of their activities by HarvestPlus-Nigeria.
The occasion also witnessed the display of various food products made from vitamin A cassava. These products were tasted and eaten by the people. This then led to the request by the Ohimegye for their women folk to be empowered with the skills to produce the sumptuous meals on display.
A major highlight of the event was the award of a chieftaincy title to the Director – General of HarvestPlus global, Dr Howarth Bouis, in appreciation of the development of vitamin A cassava and its distribution to the people of Ebiraland in Nigeria.