By Oboh Linus, Lafia.
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) says it has strengthened the capacity of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), particularly smallholder farmers, in Nasarawa State towards ensuring improved and consumption of safe nutritious foods in the state.
Its Programme Manager, Business Support, Mercy Olorunfemi, said this at a programme organised to build the capacity of MMMEs in food value chain on Friday in Lafia.
GAIN is implementing the Strengthening Nutrition in Priority Staples (SNIPS) project in Nigeria, with a particular focus on Benue, Oyo, Kaduna and Nasarawa states, to improve the access and consumption of safe and nutritious foods in the country.
Olorunfemi said that the SNIPS project focused particularly on consumption of cassava, maize, rice and potato, thereby bringing forward innovations with the potential to contribute to smallholder farmer’s livelihoods and sustainable rural development.
According to her, the SNIPS project will achieve success through three key strategies, which are workforce nutrition, bio-fortification and business support.
The programme manager explained that the strategies would drive increased consumption of nutritious foods by smallholder farmers, their families and the wider population, while strengthening Vitamin A Cassava, Vitamin A Maize, Rice and Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato value chains.
Olorunfemi said that this would improve productivity and efficiency of farmers and other businesses to expand the production of nutritious foods in the priority staples value chains.
“Diets of rural Nigerians are particularly poor, and many Nigerians currently experience vitamin and mineral deficiencies, leading to severe health challenges including premature and preventable deaths, especially in children less than five years.
“Hence, the SNIPS project will build on the key pathways adopted by the country for the post-summit transformation of our food systems, including bio-fortification, building the capacity of small and medium size businesses through the business support component,” she said.
She said that the rice processors in the four local government areas of Nasarawa State — Kokona, Doma, Lafia and Awe council areas — were trained in processing adherence to safety regulations of Nigeria, so as to ensure that processed foods were safe for consumption.
“We actually trained rice processors on business sustainability, business operation, so, we are helping rice processors in Nasarawa State to understand the business, how to keep records, package and market.
“We also provide grant this year to ensure that rice processors actually have funds to support their businesses to ensure we eliminate food insecurity and nutrition insecurity in Nigeria,” she said.
Also speaking, Chinwe Owhorji-Arowolo, National Coordinator, Sun Business Network, said that the project revolved around creating an enabling environment, increasing demand for safe nutritious foods and improving its accessibility, with focus specifically on supply chains.
On his part, Mr Nuhu Oshafu, Nasarawa State Commissioner for Agriculture and Water Resources, represented by the Director of Home Economics in the ministry, Mrs Maimuna Mohammed, commended the efforts of the organiser on building the capacity of smallholder women farmers.
He said that smallholder women farmers and youths had always experienced difficulties in securing loans to grow their businesses, noting that government, at various times, had assisted rice processors in the state, particularly women and youths.