Abuja and Washington, D.C., September 22, 2014. Nigeria’s Nollywood’s top movie directors, in partnership with HarvestPlus, a global program to improve nutrition, have made four movies to entertain and inform Nigerians on how they can improve their diets and health. The movies will premiere during the 11th Abuja International Film Festival on September 24, 2014.
The movies feature conventionally bred vitamin A cassava as part of their storyline. Vitamin A cassava is yellow in color because it contains high amounts of beta-carotene, unlike common white cassava. Beta-carotene is a naturally occurring substance that the body converts into vitamin A.
In Nigeria 30 percent of preschool-aged children and 20 percent of pregnant women suffer from vitamin A deficiency resulting in poor vision, blindness and sometimes death. By eating this new yellow cassava variety, women and children can meet almost half their daily needs of vitamin A.
But consumers first have to be convinced to switch over from the traditional white cassava. “No doubt these movies will go a long way in addressing the scarce nutrition information we have in this part of the world and we are optimistic that they will help educate the Nigerian populace that consumes cassava," says Zeb Ejiro of Smile Africa, which represents Nollywood’s top directors.
With more than 75 percent of Nigerians watching Nollywood movies, both in rural or urban areas, these movies have an important role to play in encouraging all Nigerians to grow and eat this nutritious cassava. The movies star Nigeria’s top actors – Segun Arinze, Monalisa Chinda, Chidi Muokeme and Emeka Ossai, among others.
The four movies are: The Yellow Cassava (English), Dada Oni Paki (Yoruba), Ebiyebi (Ibo) and Sakani (Hausa). Each is in a different language to ensure that all Nigerians can learn about the benefits of vitamin A cassava.
The Ministry of Agriculture is promoting vitamin A cassava under its ambitious Agricultural Transformation Agenda and has been a key supporter of Smile Africa’s vitamin A cassava-themed movies. It has also supported HarvestPlus and its partners in distributing vitamin A cassava stems to over 500,000 farmers in 3,000 villages and connecting farmers, processors and sales outlets to ensure that vitamin A cassava is available to the average Nigerian.
"Nutritious foods are critical for good health, but a powerful communication channel is needed to drive this message home,” says Paul Ilona, the HarvestPlus Nigeria Country Manager. “Nollywood produces the most popular and widely accessible films not just in Nigeria, but throughout Africa. This partnership will greatly expand the audience for our messaging on vitamin A deficiency and the nutritional benefits of vitamin A cassava. It supports our goal to reach 10 million Nigerians with this nutritious cassava variety over the next four years.”
The Nigerian Actors Guild led by its President, Ibinabo Fiberesima, will atttend the launch along with the films’ directors and stars. Also invited to the premiere are Akinwumi Adesina, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, his counterpart in the Ministry of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, Directors-General of governmental parastatals and other regulatory bodies in Nigeria such as the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
HarvestPlus leads a global effort to improve nutrition by developing and deploying food crops that are rich in vitamins and minerals. Nigeria was the first country in the world to officially launch vitamin A cassava. This nutritious cassava was developed through conventional breeding in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, and the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike. The films’ launch will also include an exhibition of vitamin A cassava food products and information on the project, with key partners participating.
More About Vitamin A Cassava:
Cassava is an edible root crop grown in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. It tolerates drought and poor soils. Half a billion people in Africa, Asia and Latin America depend on cassava as a dietary starchy staple. Originating in tropical America, cassava was first introduced into Africa in the sixteenth century. Today, Africa accounts for over half of the total global production of cassava, with Nigeria the single largest producer. More than 100 million Nigerians, or 60 percent of the country’s population, eat cassava daily in one form or another. Nigeria was also the first country in which new varieties of cassava that are rich in vitamin A were first released to farmers in 2011. To date, more than 100,000 Nigerian households are growing and eating this conventionally bred nutritious cassava, which can meet up to 40 percent of the vitamin A recommended daily allowance for children under five.