Farmers across the cassava planting belt in Nigeria, particularly those in rural households, have started receiving pro-vitamin A cassava varieties, as part of efforts to fight vitamin A deficiency.
This is according to a statement from the Ibadan-based International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) made available to SavidNews Nigeria in Lagos.
“The plan is to ensure that over two million farmers have access to vitamin A cassava stems for planting across the major cassava producing states in Nigeria with initial emphasis on Akwa Ibom, Benue, Imo and Oyo States as regional hubs,” the statement said.
Popularly known as yellow cassava, the new improved varieties, agriculture experts said, held part of the solution to Vitamin A deficiency in Africa.
In Nigeria vitamin A deficiency is widespread. It affects about 20% of pregnant women and 30% of children below the age of five years.
A deficiency in vitamin A leads to poor health, blindness, stunting and even death. It is believed that the yellow cassava varieties will help in reducing vitamin A deficiency.
The new varieties were the outcome of decades of research carried out by researchers at the IITA in partnership with the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, in Eastern Nigeria.
Financial support for the research came from HarvestPlus. The collaboration has been able to produce pro-vitamin A cassava varieties to tackle this malnutrition menace.
The partners plan to distribute 300,000 bundles of stems to 100,000 households in Nigeria in 2013 alone.
Currently, more than 40,000 traceable farmers in 10 states of the country received stems last month, while more states will receive the stems before the end of August.
Besides improving the health and nutrition of the people, the cultivation of the varieties can provide jobs, improve incomes and lift poor households out of poverty.