HarvestPlus has been working closely with the public and private sectors in Nigeria to tackle malnutrition via the consumption of biofortified crops, while also improving livelihood opportunities for Nigerians through manufacturing and production of these crops. These efforts are part of Nigeria’s staple crop biofortification program, which was launched in 2010 to address micronutrient deficiencies in the country, particularly but not exclusively vitamin A deficiency. Nearly 30 percent of children under the age of five in Nigeria are deficient in vitamin A, putting them at great risk of illness and death.
HarvestPlus’ engagement across the public and private sector has been done in part by building the capacity of new and existing extension agents within both sectors to promote production, processing, packaging and distribution of biofortified crops and foods across Nigeria. These agents provide training not only to farmers but also food producers, providing them with research-based information to improve agricultural production, productivity, processing, and marketing of agricultural goods and services. This work is conducted under the Agricultural Extension Service of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Nigeria.
Capacity building is carried out through comprehensive trainings of master trainers, who then go on to train other groups of extension agents. Trainings of master trainers provide them with up-to-date knowledge about nutrition, food processing, safety, best agricultural practices, and best storage practices to reduce food and nutrient losses. As a result of these trainings, biofortified crops will become more easily available, accessible, and affordable for millions of Nigerians.
This training initiative has, in turn, led to the emergence of over 300 micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria who support the value chain of biofortified crops such as vitamin A cassava and maize, alongside public sector actors.
Demonstrating opportunities across the value chain
Recently, HarvestPlus hosted extension agents from the Agro Renewal Movement International (ARMI) Ltd at the HarvestPlus country office in Nigeria for a two-day training on value addition and enterprise development. This training was held with support from CATO Foods, a major food production and distribution company in Nigeria.
ARMI Ltd is a private agriculture company in Nigeria that focuses on using innovative technologies to diversify opportunities within agricultural value chains. The company has a subsidiary arm, Live Rich Foods Ltd., with a mandate to manufacture and distribute nutritious foods using locally sourced ingredients.
“The production of biofortified foods fits perfectly into the ethos and mission of Live Rich Foods, which is primarily to guarantee healthy and top-quality foods across Nigeria and beyond,” shared Mustapha Adedapo, the CEO of ARMI, while speaking at the training event.
The objectives of the training were to familiarize participants with the various opportunities for enterprises across the value chain of biofortified crops and foods, and to empower them with the knowledge and skills they need to process, invest, and train other potential investors.
As part of the training, HarvestPlus provided an overview of biofortification in Nigeria and how building partnerships within the public and private sector has ensured the uptake of new innovative products that have been developed from vitamin A cassava and vitamin A maize.
HarvestPlus also emphasized the necessity of trainings and refresher trainings for stakeholders throughout the value chain of biofortified foods, describing it as a guaranteed way to ensure that food producers process, package, and distribute high-quality products.
Providing hands-on practical training to build expertise
During the practical training, the attendees were taught step-by-step how to process and package four vitamin A cassava foods (Biobite, Bionugget, Cassavita, and Cassmoi) and four vitamin A maize-based foods (Gari, Odourless Fufu Flour, High-Quality Cassava Flour, and Cassatard).
A food product display was set up as well to showcase commercialized food products made from vitamin A cassava and vitamin A maize, and allow trainees to see and taste the biofortified foods. Informative sessions were also held on the nutritional benefits of biofortified foods as well as the potential products that ARMI can invest in. Participants of the training then went on a field tour to see firsthand the process of biofortification, the seed system, and its potential as a source of income.
Encouraging B2B support across the food production industry
An interactive business meeting was then held to conclude the two-day training event. The purpose of the meeting was for participants to strategize with HarvestPlus and CATO Foods on how to begin investing in the production and distribution of biofortified food products, with special attention on how to ensure a consistent supply of raw materials, access good quality packaging materials and build sustainable markets.
In his concluding statements, Adedapo expressed his appreciation for the comprehensive training. He said, “This training has helped us learn so much in such little time. We are eager to quickly start production and distribution of three products immediately. With time, we plan to add more products and expand further.”
CATO Foods Co-founder Pelumi Aribisala then shared his experiences as a biofortified food processor and marketer. CATO is currently a role model for ARMI and Live Rich Ltd., and has plans to support the new enterprise with technical support and linkages as well as with guidance on planning and executing awareness raising initiatives on biofortified food products.
“I think it is best that a company like ARMI start small and then expand as the business grows. This will help the company better align the capacity of its processing equipment with the production goals of its factory,” he said.
HarvestPlus works with up to 60 partners from the public and private sectors, like AGRI and CATO foods, in Nigeria to get biofortified foods to consumers through creative, convenient, and affordable products. Not only do these products deliver nutrition, but they also are profitable and growing lines of business for many Nigerians throughout the country.