The dissemination of vitamin A cassava reached an important milestone in Nigeria on July 30 with a formal national launch under the Agricultural Transformation Agenda of the Federal Government.

Agriculture Minister Dr. Akin Adesina, alongside representatives from the Ministry of Health, officiated at the event in Akwa-Ibom state attended by over 2,000 farmers and other agriculture, nutrition and development stakeholders.

“The national launch is a recognition that biofortified staple food crops such as vitamin A cassava can constitute an important component in the strategy to improve nutritional and public health outcomes in Nigeria,” says Paul Ilona, the HarvestPlus Nigeria Country Manager. “HarvestPlus is proud and committed to support the dissemination of vitamin A cassava in Nigeria.”

The three launched varieties can meet 25 percent of the daily vitamin A needs of consumers in a country where vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is a serious public health concern. VAD affects nearly one in three Nigerian children under five, increasing their vulnerability to immune system weakness and even blindness. All the varieties are conventionally bred, and are the culmination of work by scientists from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the National Root Crop Research Institute of Nigeria (NRCRI) under the HarvestPlus program.

Akwa-Ibom was one of four states originally selected as a pilot for the vitamin A cassava delivery. The project, led by HarvestPlus, has now expanded to eight additional states, and expects to reach more than 100,000 farming households by 2014. Over the next five years, HarvestPlus will continue to work with the Government, farmers and the private sector to significantly scale up vitamin A cassava dissemination in Nigeria. The target is 10 million Nigerians growing and consuming vitamin A cassava by 2018.