Last week, the first vitamin A cassava shop was officially launched in Ibadan, Nigeria, in order to increase awareness of this new nutritious cassava variety.
Cassava is a major staple food in Nigeria, eaten daily by more than 100 million people. However, the commonly available white cassava lacks micronutrients, such as vitamin A, that are essential for a healthy and productive life. Nearly one in three children under five and one-quarter of all pregnant women in Nigeria are vitamin A deficient, resulting in impaired immunity to infectious disease, poor vision, blindness, and sometimes death. By eating vitamin A cassava, women and children can get almost half of their daily vitamin A requirements.
With more than 500,000 Nigerian households currently planting and eating vitamin A cassava throughout the country, and over 550 commercial farmers on board to multiply the crop on 1,000 hectares of farmland, vitamin A cassava is becoming more widely available. The model shop will be a one-stop shop for vitamin A cassava products where consumers can buy stems, roots, and ready-to-eat products such as pies, cakes, and fufu – a traditional staple food made from cassava flour.
“This is just the first model,” said Paul Ilona, HarvestPlus Country Manager for Nigeria. “We need to establish 300 of these model shops across Nigeria so that Nigerians can enjoy the full health benefits of the crop. We need partners to buy into this initiative in order to make it a reality across the country.”
HarvestPlus Deputy Director of Programs Dr. Ina Schonberg launched the shop alongside Balogun Olooto, the paramount ruler of Idiose, Ibadan.
“We look forward to seeing Nigeria develop innovative strategies to scale up vitamin A cassava as well as vitamin A maize, and build sustainability for the project in the country,” said Dr. Schonberg. “It is in this regard that we applaud the support and partnership of Nollywood stars and the traditional chiefs in attendance, as they will help carry this message further to their people”.
The launch was organized by HarvestPlus-Nigeria in collaboration with local development partners. Nollywood actors and directors – who have been working with HarvestPlus to promote vitamin A cassava through film – were also at the launch and amplified the atmosphere as fans excitedly called out their names. Zeb Ejiro, Nigeria’s top movie producer, used the opportunity to commend HarvestPlus for its use of film to increase awareness of vitamin A cassava.