Why Our Staple Foods Should Be Fortified

Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) has been in Nigeria for the last five years supporting food fortification programmes. The Country Manager, Nigeria and Regional Representative West Africa, Larry Umunna, spoke to TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA about the agency’s interventionist strategies to reduce malnutrition in the country.

Larry Umunna

What are the activities of GAIN in Nigeria?

IN the past five years, we have been working with local stakeholders such as the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the National Planning Commission (NPC).

In March 2011, we decided that Nigeria was an important country and it was not enough to stay back in Geneva and operate by remote control. We came in and set up a country office and invest more resources in Nigeria with the objective to reduce malnutrition, using various interventionist strategies.

What are some of these strategies?

We have a vision of a world without malnutrition, but it cannot be reduced overnight. For us, we are supporting the government, private sector and development agencies to reduce malnutrition. Previously, we have invested money through other partners, but beginning from June 1, we are investing $2 million in the area of food fortification for the next three years; first to see how we can strengthen compliance to the legislation.

There is legislation in place that makes it mandatory for staple foods to be fortified, but the question is are these foods really fortified? How can we help NAFDAC and SON to build their capacities to truly monitor; and how can we encourage the private sector to comply and move towards self-regulation, so that they don’t need a NAFDAC to wield the big stick.

We also recognise that many consumers in the rural areas do not understand what food fortification is all about. We want to create this awareness and build it into consumers about the need to patronise fortified foods.

We are investing $500,000 in a social marketing campaign, which will be launched very soon. We are already finalising the selection of proposals from various marketing agencies by the middle of June. The selected agencies will have the task of developing and implementing a social marketing campaign, in conjunction with our partners.

We need to revive the standards. The standards for food fortification in the country still uses an iron form that is not in line with WHO guidelines. Some work will be done with the SON and the flour millers to ensure the right form of iron is used; otherwise, we are wasting our time. We consume the food; we still don’t get the iron the body needs.

What has changed since GAIN began working in Nigeria?

It is very sad to note that when you think about Nigeria – the giant of Africa, 160 million people, very vibrant private sector, and very wealthy country – when you see that picture, you actually expect the nutrition indicators will be the same. One of the things I always emphasise is that we cannot talk about development if we don’t address this basic indicator.

All the statistics about growth is nothing if our people are still hungry and malnourished. It is very sad to see our GDP in the last five years grow steadily, between six and eight percent, which is much higher than the average growth for Africa, but still, during this same period, we still have situations of 40 percent stunting in children under the age of five. Stunting is a glorified name for chronic malnutrition.

Two out of every five children are malnourished; we still account for 14 percent of the global maternal mortality rate in the world; we still account for 12 percent of under-five child death in the world; we are still one of the 10 countries that account for 80 percent of the global under-weight in the world.

It is difficult to reconcile that with this wealthy picture we have, which is one of the many reasons GAIN decided to make Nigeria one of its priority countries, and we are putting a lot of energy in this because we know if we get it right here, we would at least have put a dent on the global malnutrition figures.

What other projects does your agency intend to implement in Nigeria?

In addition to our food fortification programme, we are looking at infant and young child nutrition. One of the things we want to do, in collaboration with the Federal Government, is to introduce the use of micronutrient powders, which has been formulated and would be made affordable to improve the nutritional status of our foods.

We are starting with Lagos and Kano because we can’t go round the country at the same time. Besides, you need to show that things work before rolling out to other parts of the country and we don’t have unlimited funds.

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Mile 12 Market… The Story Of Food Waste

By TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA

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It was a shouting match between a trader and three men identified as truck driver and motor-boys, which attracted hundreds of onlookers at the popular Mile 12 International Market, Lagos recently. While much of the argument was in gibberish English and Hausa language, it was not difficult ascertaining the cause of the disagreement – a truck fully loaded with carrots.

The congregation of onlookers could only stand and stare at the ensuing melee between the two parties shouting themselves hoarse to be understood. The exasperated trader was refusing to receive his consignment, which arrived late, after a few days delay on the road.

To the bystanders, it was a common sight seeing truckload of perishable food items and farm produce waste even before they are offloaded. After much debate, the driver was paid fully and asked to do whatever he wanted with the spoilt carrots.

This happened on the day Ogun State government officials, in company of representatives from the World Bank, Bank of Industry, Central Bank of Nigeria, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), visited the market.

They were on a fact-finding mission to access the market, establish a replica in Ogun State and more importantly, address the problem of food wastage by establishing the proposed market closer to food processing companies, interested in preserving many of the farm produce.

Food waste or food loss is food that is discarded or lost uneaten. As of 2011, 1.3 billion tons of food, about one third of the global food production, are lost or wasted annually. Loss and wastage occurs on all steps in the food supply chain, and in developing countries, most loss occurs during production.

Mile 12 Market in the Agoyi-Ketu Local Government Area of Lagos State, is known for selling assorted fruits like orange, banana, cucumber, pineapple, garden egg, watermelon, pawpaw and foodstuffs at wholesale price. The market also acts as assembly point for foodstuffs “shipped” into Lagos from other states and outside the country.

Regular visitors to the market know two things are just as important as money: a pair of robber boots to protect their feet and shoes from getting soiled, and a handkerchief to reduce the assault of human and material waste on their sense of smell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How Weather, Bad Roads Affect Food Prices

Alhaji Abdul Mohammed, General Secretary of the market, said the lack of storage facilities and food preservatives is the major cause of food waste in Mile 12.

“Presently, the price of food in the market is high due to the rainy season. We lack the facility to store and preserve our farm produce. Also, most of our farmers still use the old methods of storage and preservation, which do not last long. It is time they began to employ modern ways of preserving foods, which are beyond what farmers can do on their own.”

A few metres from the building serving as secretariat of the traders’ union is parked a truck loaded with onions. Passersby could barely walk past without holding their breath, due to the stench of decaying onions.

“That truck is still in the line queuing to be offloaded and half of the onions are already spoilt. I learnt Borno State bought the onions from the farmers through their agriculture project. Imagine if this was not a government scheme, the loss would have been borne by the farmers,” Mohammed said.

According to him, agriculture business is rewarding but greatly unpredictable. “One of the factors causing food wastage is weather. Whether it is potato, tomato, or onion, fruits cannot be preserved for long. Secondly, transport problem adds to about 30 percent of food spoilage,” he said.

“In the past, tomatoes were not transported in trucks; they were transported in trains and coaches. With modern trains, you can spend not more than five hours from Kano to Lagos, but spending a whole day on the road is not the best way to transport perishable goods.

“The problem of transportation is compounded by bad roads. Each time trucks jump into the thousands of potholes on the roads, it causes more damage to the goods. Sometimes, trucks fall over and waste thousands of tons of food.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bad Food Has Its Fans

Mohammed added that it is difficult to estimate the amount lost to food loss, because there are buyers for every good, whether good or bad. “There are those who specifically shop for spoilt or damaged goods because it is cheaper,” he said.

A trader at the market, Ibrahim Musa, wants government to take the transport sector seriously, if it is interested in developing the agriculture sector. “Nigeria is so blessed, we do not have food crisis. What we produce is enough to feed the whole of West Africa, but much of this is lost because of the failure of rail transportation,” he said.

“At times, after bringing the goods here, what is left to be sold does not even cover transport cost. For instance, it will cost you N200,000 to transport goods in a 9/11 truck from Benue to Lagos. The day they arrive here does not matter to the transporter because he has to be fully paid before leaving the farm. Yet, we are the ones who will bear the loss if the goods arrive late.

“If government subsidises distribution of farm produce, it will be more beneficial to every Nigerian than the trillions of Naira government is wasting on fuel subsidy.”

On whether decentralising Mile 12 Market will reduce food wastage as a result of congestion, Musa said it still would not solve the problem. “The proliferation of markets would mean there will be price difference and people will naturally gravitate towards where the prices of goods are cheaper,” he said.

“And there is no way we can fix price because it is determined by unpredictable factors. For instance, a basket of tomatoes here is N15,000, which is costly. It is because of the rainy season in the North. If tomatoes flood this market today, it will go for as low as N5,000. So, it is not a matter of decentralising the market because it is too congested.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dissecting Food Problems At Conference

Grappling with higher food prices and falling consumption the world over, as the strains of the economic crisis make it more important than ever for consumers from all countries and walks of life to have access to high-quality, nutritious foods that are cost-effective; a seminar was hosted recently by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Lagos.

The event, held under the Global Broad-based Initiative (GBI) of the USDA, sought to showcase several farm produce and how it could be preserved.

According to the facilitator of the event, Programme Director of Development Communications Network, Akin Jimoh, “the conference was organised for us to learn from those who have done it better like the United States in terms of food supply, nutrition, food consumption and export.

“It is painful that over 50 percent of food produced is lost. Why can’t we export most of those foods that get destroyed at the farms and markets? If government develops the rural areas, our farmers can become richer and the price of food would drastically reduce. There won’t be too much migration to the urban cities and jobs would be created because food is the only thing we cannot do without.

“Government needs to rechannel its efforts to develop our rural areas and not concentrate all its activities at the state capitals. Gradually, the cities would be decongested and people in their prime can be encouraged to go back home and work, instead of leaving the aged alone to carry on farming,” he said.

Stakeholders raised the dire need of ingredient technology to boost the food industry. National President of Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN), Prof. Ignatius Onimawo, said the problem is the transfer of knowledge from the various research institutes and universities of agriculture into the market.

“A lot of our research bodies have done excellent work on procedures and preservation of our foods, but they end up in the shelves. Reason is because the Nigerian food industry is more interested in importing tested food formulas into the country rather than develop the local market,” he said.

Onimawo blamed the food wastage on problem of transportation. “What spoils food are micro organisms, which are found in the foods. When you transport these products under heat, the microorganisms tend to multiply faster due to the temperature, which end up destroying the food. But if these foods are transported in cold condition with rails that have air-conditioned coaches, we would tackle wastages of food,” he said.

“Recently, the management of DHL were in discussion with us on how they can help export some of our farm produce but there was no concrete arrangement reached because they don’t have the infrastructure for food storage.

“DHL flies aircraft loaded with goods into the country six times a week and returns empty. So, they were interested in our food export, but without proper storage, it could not be utilised. Most of our goods are wanted in the international market but because we have not organised ourselves, we can’t tap into this goldmine,” he said.

From left: Dr. J.O Onuora, President of the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology; Olotu Ibru, Corporate Affairs Manager, UTC Nigeria Plc; Prof. Isaac Olaoluwa Akinyele Head, Department of Human Nutrition, University of Ibadan; Dr. Omo Ohiokpehai, Independent Agric-Nutrition Consultant; and Prof. Ignatius Onimawo, National President, Nutrition Society of Nigeria.

 

1,800 Days: Fashola Lists Gains In Waste Management, Agriculture, Water Transportation

By Tope Templer OLAIYA

Lagosians Lament State Of Infrastructure In LGAs, Doctors’ Strike

LAST week was another milestone in the administration of Governor Babatunde Fashola. It was another season to reflect on and review the last hundred days as the government marked its 1,800 days in office.

And like it was in the first edition of the stocktaking event, it was another success story to share in the area of performance and delivery of dividends of democracy at the 18th occasion. And there was a lot to showcase.

But before government officials could reel out their achievements and celebrate, Lagosians at the event voiced out their displeasure about the deplorable state of infrastructure within the local council areas and in particular, the ongoing strike by doctors, which has become an annual practice. They were, however, sparing when they declared the state’s health sector as one of the best, if not the best in the country today.

Lagosians protesting the Doctor’s strike at the Lagos House, Alausa

One of the areas the state has succeeded is in the waste management sector, which has not only transformed Lagos as the cleanest state in the country, but has also created jobs in the last couple of years.

In his address on Wednesday, Fashola explained that the waste to wealth management strategy has created several jobs while the heaps of garbage littering most parts of the state have disappeared. He said that in those days soon after the military left governance, the first challenge was how to find solution to the heaps of refuse. “Those were the period we measured the length of refuse along the major expressway in kilometers.”

On the day Fashola was marking his 18 hundred days in office, over 15,000 street sweepers were on Lagos roads; and at Odogunyan, Ikorodu, Badary and other centres, huge volume of waste were being turned into fertilizers in the state’s waste to wealth programme.

The state government and the Federal Republic of Germany are also collaborating in developing institutions on the waste to wealth initiative as part of measures aimed at improving effective management of waste in the state.

Governor Fashola inspecting some equipment to improve the water transport sector during a recent business trip to Canada

According to the Commissioner for Agriculture and Co-operatives, Gbolahan Lawal, Fashola’s administration is not relenting in boosting the agricultural sector and food production. He explained that government would soon begin cultivation to boost food supply to the state. Also, the construction of a Farmers’ Wholesale Market with 100 shops, cold storage facility, mini-abattoir and ample space for parking has commenced in Poka, Epe, under a federal government programme.

President of Asiwaju Cams, one of the beneficiaries of Oke Aro cooperative society in Ikeja division, Mr. Samuel Tiwalade-Alayode, said the new farm service centre will relieve them of the stress, time and money of traveling down to Ojo for farm produce. He appealed to government to keep to its promise by replicating the centre in the other four divisional zones of the state.

Mr. Babatunde Shadeko, president of Imota Farm Settlement, said the society has benefited greatly from the government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperative, especially in the supply of grains input. He added that with the farm service centre in all divisions of the state, services and input supply would be decentralised.

Members of Aiyedoto Farm Estate Cams, also expressed appreciation to the state for benefiting from its livestock grains input, CADP farm access roads and the FADAMA projects.

The federal government has recently allocated about 50 hectares of farmland to Lagos State in Abuja to support the food production efforts of the state as part of measures to ensure food security and improve internal agricultural production in the country.

While giving a breakdown of the 2012 budget of the state, Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, said billions of Naira has been invested on the repair of both state and federal roads within Lagos. Hamzat put refund of state expenses from the federal government at N59 billion.

Bad spot needing attention on Acme Road, Adeniyi Jones Street, Ikeja.

He also unveiled plans by the state to build an eight-storey secretariat annex, which he said would be allocated to all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) that are not resident within the main secretariat.

To improve the state of transportation, the administration has also inaugurated a six-man board of directors for the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), aimed at exploiting the potentials of the waterways and raising it to inter-model transport policy.

The state Commissioner for Transportation, Kayode Opeifa, said water transportation “if fully harnessed, will serve as a vital form of transportation in the mobility of people and goods in the state.” The state government recently signed an agreement with an Australian boat manufacturing company on the acquisition of 60 ferries to boost water transportation in the state.

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