Farmers captured under the project are trained on best agronomic practices, exposed to high-yielding biofortified seeds, financial support and effective marketing strategy among others.
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), has said the implementation of its “Strengthening Nutrition in Priority Staples Project (SNIPS)” in Nigeria is helping to promote climate resilient and nutritious staple foods across major states in Nigeria.
The organisation revealed this at its Agriculture Innovation Clinic (AIC) program in Kaduna State on Thursday.
“Ensuring food and nutrition security is one of the most pressing challenges for sustainable social and economic development in Nigeria,” the organisers said, noting that meeting this need presents an important opportunity for tackling malnutrition across the country.
The SNIPS initiative
Launched in 2021, SNIPS is a five-year project currently being implemented across four states by GAIN in partnership with GIZ and the Green Innovation Centre (GIC), with support from the German Government through the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in Nigeria.
The benefitting states include Kaduna, Benue, Nasarawa and Oyo.
The main aim of the program is to enhance affordable, accessible and desirable nutritious and safe staple foods across the country.
The staple crops captured under the project include cassava, maize, rice and potato, with the hope of bringing to the fore innovations that have the potential to contribute to smallholder farmer livelihoods and sustainable rural development.
“The Project is currently focused on productivity, incomes, and jobs for smallholder farmers active in the priority value chains,” GAIN said.
The project comprises three major components–Workforce Nutrition, Business Support and Biofortification.
Farmers captured under the project are trained on best agronomic practices, exposed to high yielding biofortified seeds, financial support and effective marketing strategy among others.
This, they said, can enhance rural farmers’ resilience to external shocks such as fluctuations in food prices or disruptions in food supply chains amidst lingering scourge of climate crisis.
Biofortification or “biological fortification” refers to nutritionally enhanced food crops with increased bioavailability to the human population.
They are developed and grown using modern biotechnology techniques, conventional plant breeding, and agronomic practices.
In his remarks, Godwin Ehiabhi, GAIN’s Senior Project Manager of Supply Chain for Commercialisation, said the SNIPS project was designed to give a nutrition lens to an existing project of the GIZ called the Green Innovation Centre.
“What we are doing under the SNIPS project is to ensure that we promote the production and consumption of safe and nutritious food in Nigeria,” he said.
This, he said, means that they are all out to give a nutrition lens to what the Green Innovation Centre is doing in Nigeria.
Due to insecurity, he said they have not been able to achieve much progress in Kaduna state but that they have gone far and have achieved much progress and success in other states in the country.
“We are focused on four staples, this time our focus is on nutrient enriched varieties of these staples. What that means is that we would be talking about vitamin A-enriched Maize, Cassava, Orange Fleshed Sweet Potatoes and the rice value chain,” Mr Ehiabhi said.
Mr Ehiabhi emphasised that the expected outcome of the project is to improve diets among families in rice and maize value chains to contribute to improved health and productivity of farmers and workers.
Similarly, the business support component is expected to enhance farmers and Small scale businesses capacity to produce more nutritious and safe foods that are accessible, affordable and desirable.
Likewise, farmers captured under the biofortification component across the state are expected to grow more biofortified crops in a sustainable manner for consumption in Nigeria.
Private sector partnerships
On her part, Mercy Olorunfemi, GAIN’s project manager, Business Support, said due to their mandate which is to eradicate problems caused by malnutrition, support access to healthier diets and holistic food system transformation, it is important to work with the private sectors and businesses.
“The private sectors are the ones producing and processing all the foods that we consume. Without the private sector, we would not be able to get the food to consume. The farmers are part of the private sectors, the processors, aggregators and the whole value chain actors that work across the supply chains to ensure that we have these nutrient enriched and nutritious foods at our door steps,” she said.
She said they feel it is important to support these businesses because if they don’t build their capacities, provide them with access to finance and support them to build healthier and safer foods, they won’t be as much healthier food required by citizens in the country.
As a result of this, Mrs Olorunfemi said they are providing training and support around food safety because they want to ensure that Nigerians are consuming healthier and safer foods.
GAIN noted that diets of rural Nigerians are particularly poor, and that many Nigerians are currently experiencing vitamin and mineral deficiencies, leading to severe health outcomes including premature and preventable death especially in under 5-year-olds.
According to the 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey, approximately 66 per cent of Nigerian children are at risk of vitamin A deficiency due to a lack of diversity in their diets as a consequence of poverty.
“This “hidden hunger” is particularly prevalent among farming families who are overly reliant on staple foods. The number of people at risk from unsafe food is also alarming – an estimated 173 million cases of diarrhoea due to foodborne illness and about 33,000 deaths are reported in Nigeria,” GAIN said.
It said food safety is also a problem in informal markets where these SMEs operate, adding that
poor food safety regulations/policies, poor food safety knowledge and practices mean that consumers are exposed to unsafe foods.
“SMEs, who handle most of the food that is produced, transported, marketed, and consumed in low-income countries such as Nigeria are hindered by a lack of business knowledge and skills, and often lack resources for innovation,” GAIN noted.
Based on this, GAIN said it will leverage on its existing work and partnerships in the selected implementation states of the SNIPS initiative to achieve the set objectives of the project, ultimately impacting positively on the nutrition indices of Nigerians who live and work in these states and beyond.