CASSAVANEWS to follow 234Next.com By the middle of 2014, more than 150,000 households in Nigeria are expected to be eating vitamin A fortified yellow cassava, an international agricultural organisation, HarvestPlus, saidHarvestPlus is an international partner of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) leading a global effort to breed and disseminate micro-nutrient-rich staple food crops to reduce hunger in malnourished populations.
In a release in Ibadan on Thursday, IITA quoted HarvestPlus as saying that yellow cassava varieties could provide more vitamin A in the diets of more than 70 million Nigerians, who ate cassava everyday.
The release, signed by Godwin Atser, the spokesman for IITA, stated that yellow cassava varieties were already being multiplied through stem cuttings.
It said that by 2013 when sufficient certified stems would be available for HarvestPlus and its partners to distribute to about 25,000 farming households initially.
The release said farmers would be able to grow the new vitamin A varieties and feed their families on them and in addition, multiply and share cuttings with others in the community, thus amplifying the nutritional benefits.
Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is widely prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, afflicting almost 20 per cent of pregnant women and about 30 per cent of children under the age of five in Nigeria, the release stated.
It added that VAD could lower immunity and impair vision, leading to blindness and even death.
The release stated that children and women would be the main beneficiaries of these new yellow varieties, which could provide up to 25 per cent of daily vitamin A needs.
It said that varieties with enough vitamin A to provide up to half of daily needs were already in the breeding pipeline and should be ready for release in a few years.
The release said new yellow varieties bred using traditional (non-transgenic) methods by IITA and National Root Crops Research Institute were liked by farmers during field trials.
"Demand for these varieties has already started but it will take some time before we have enough quantities to give out," said Paul Ilona, the HarvestPlus Manager for Nigeria .
Although the cassava initiative is being funded by HarvestPlus, other partners include the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) and Nigerian government agencies, the release explained.
Cassava, an extremely adaptable crop, is drought tolerant, requires limited land preparation and grows well in poor soils
As part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research Programme on Agriculture for Improved Nutrition and Health, the global initiative is coordinated by CIAT and the International Food Policy Research Institute.