To leverage on the federal government’s home-grown school feeding scheme, youths must explore opportunities in biofortified crops, such as vitamin A cassava and vitamin A maize, which have been integrated into the programme, in producing high-in-demand nutritious staples.
Country Manager of HarvestPlus Nigeria, Dr. Paul Ilona, made the submission at the pro-vitamin A cassava pastry training for women in pastry business, sponsored by United Kingdom’s Department of International Development (DFID) Market Development for the Niger Delta (MADE) in partnership with HarvestPlus in Akwa Ibom.
In a statement by HarvestPlus’ Communication Officer, Ikechukwu Onyewuchi, Ilona was quoted as saying that it was unfortunate that an average of 2,300 infants die every day while 145 women die at child birth, noting that every child and pregnant woman has the right to live.
The training was organised to teach 150 young female caterers in the state how to utilise vitamin A cassava in pastries production, as well as, profitable business practices so as to scale their operations for commercialisation.
“We must work to bridge the gap and arrest the rising mortality challenge. Interestingly, in training youths to produce nutritious foods, we are ensuring that they make substantial income while saving lives. Every business must enjoy one form of monopoly or the other, and this may come in terms of quality of products, which would, in the long run, stand them out. Without training youths, especially on how to assure quality in products, they will follow the bandwagon of failed businesses. DFID-MADE does not want that, hence the investment in this training,” Ilona said.
On how youths can capitalise on the school-feeding programme in states that sign up for the scheme, he said: “If youths buy into the school-feeding programme, they will become pioneers because a new market would be open to them. At the national level, a lot is being done in promoting the scheme. So, it shouldn’t be hard to access a market for beneficiaries of the training we have embarked on today.”
One of the participants at the training, Imeobong Edet, who runs a 10-hectre farm in the state, said she was inspired to go into farming by the prospect of feeding Nigerians with nutritious foods, adding that not only has she succeeded in this mandate, she has also opened a processing plant, where she converts her farm produce to staples such as fufu, garri, and most recently, vitamin A fortified flour.
Another participant, a physically-challenged lady, Grace Umoh, said has been offered an opportunity to make the best of her disability, as after a previous training session, she now produces confectionaries from which she makes N20,000 a week from supplying nutritious snacks to supermarkets in the state.
Noting that she now compliments efforts of her husband, she said, “I have been empowered to be productive and useful in the society. My products are in high demand and I am now able to comfortable take care of my new baby.”
On her part, Gender Officer, MADE, Unyime Johnson, said the training would equip caterers, especially women, with skills to exploit improved cassava variety to contribute in uplifting households and providing a means of livelihood to many.
She said, “the vitamin Cassava has helped many people in the state and we are bringing together caterers in top hotels in the state to teach them how to make the best of the flour produced from the improved product. They would help in evangelising the benefit of the product to others.”