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It’s Time To Improve The Nigerian Food Plate

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By Elvis Eromosele
Africa is big on agriculture. It has to be. It is the second-largest continent in the world. It is also the second most populous. So, there’s plenty of space to farm and over a billion mouths to feed.
It is no surprise therefore that an estimated 65 per cent of Africa’s population relies on subsistence farming. Subsistence farming, or smallholder agriculture, by definition, is when one family grows only enough to feed itself.
Nigeria is the most populous country on the continent. Although it depends heavily on the oil industry for its budgetary revenues, Nigeria is predominantly still an agricultural society. Reports indicate that approximately 70 per cent of the population engages in agricultural production at a subsistence level.
Sadly, with so many people engaged in farming across Africa, a large number of the population still don’t get enough to eat. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, in its State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report for 2020 revealed that one in five Africans is undernourished, with 250 million people or 19.1% of the population going to bed each night hungry across the continent.
However, the truly sad part is that 30% to 40% of the food produced on many farms in Africa never reach any plate – they go to waste! It is beyond disheartening. Imagine, if you can, food decomposing in farms while plates are empty a city away. It is not a pretty picture by any means.
So, the great task is to improve access to food for all, especially protein-rich nutritious foods.
The truth is that any effort to improve nutrition needs to involve the government. The government is the biggest business and enabler of business anywhere in the world.
In 2021, as governments consider how to ensure citizens get enough food and nutrition, the Nigerian government would do well to consider some sort of direct intervention.
Several options have been proposed to help the country improve the Nigerian food plate. Here are three exciting possibilities: first, the introduction of a protein-centred national nutrition policy; second, food complementation, especially with protein; and thirdly, widespread and structured nutrition education.
The introduction of a protein-centred national nutrition policy is a good place to start if the goal is to improve the Nigerian food plate. A keen advocate of the nutrition policy, Dr Adepeju Adeniran, public health expert and national chairperson Women in Global Health, Nigeria, noted that there is the need for a concerted effort in ensuring that the entire population enjoys a measure of good health.
A national nutrition policy should, therefore, at the minimum, provide the framework for addressing the problems of food and nutrition insecurity in Nigeria, from the individual, household, community and national levels.
Dr Adeniran explained that the policy should cover three key areas:
Education/ information: Public knowledge and education about the benefits of protein should not be limited to school education and theory only. Re-learning and a lifelong familiarity with proteins’ benefits to the homemaker should be continued in public spaces like hospitals, primary healthcare, community and even religious centres. Human education can be carried out by nurses, community health workers and community leaders.
Availability/supply chain: Supply chain support can be entrenched by import/export policies that prioritise protein-rich foods. Agricultural and food production policies can also support farmers by way of fertilizer and farm-to-market transport subsidies or government-initiated protein produce purchase. This will encourage farmers to produce protein-rich plants and animal farmers to be able to produce proteins at a cheap enough rate for the public to purchase and consume.
Affordability/price/subsidy: Product availability will, through market forces, drive down the protein product cost and address price. However, to further ensure household affordability, subsidies can be used to further cheapen the price of the protein foods to a price point that can easily be afforded by household planners and providers.
The next is food complementation with protein.
Now, this has become important with the nutrition transition from the consumption of natural local foods to the consumption of processed foreign/new foods, which are as a result of technological advancement. These processed foods are high in refined starch, fats and sugar.
This trend has been adopted more by the younger generation across all income groups and is now a fad. Little attention is paid to the nutritional adequacy of these foods, and the food processing industry has expanded with its seemingly economic benefits.
With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn, the consumption of these foods, popularly called ‘fast foods’, even among affluent families, has reduced, for economic reasons.
Dr Beatrice Oganah-Ikujenyo, a seasoned nutritionist and chief lecturer at the Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, noted that it is the time to adjust our food habits to begin consuming more of our locally produced natural foods, especially legumes – soybeans in particular – to boost protein intake and prevent protein deficiency among all age groups. This can be achieved if creative, exciting and innovative recipes are developed. This is where meal complementation with legumes is key.
Dr Oganah-Ikujenyo argued that this technique is more important now especially amid the pandemic when the cost of meat and seafood has increased astronomically, while the purchasing power of the populace has progressively reduced.
On how complementation would work in real life, she revealed that at the household level, soybean flour can be added during meal preparation to staple foods such as elubo, garri, semo, yam/sweet potatoes/plantain pottage; incorporated into soups, sauces and stews; use as soup thickeners in banga, nsala and black soups and as a composite with cowpea (beans) in making moi moi and akara balls.
At the industrial level, she noted that food processing companies can contribute to the fight against protein deficiency through research, development of composite self-raising flour containing soybean with comparable texture and quality that can be used to produce confectionery.
Noodles, Spaghetti and Macaroni can also be simulated from soybean composite flour to suit the nutrition transition trend of the young people and at the same time boost their quality protein intake. Food complementation will truly be a great way to improve the Nigerian food plate.
On wide-spread and structured nutrition education, Prof Henrietta Nkechi Ene-Obong of the Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Calabar, Cross River State, contended that it is a key ingredient in the quest to reduce protein deficiency in Nigeria
To aid nutrition education at the national level, Prof Ene-Obong stated that there is an urgent need for the establishment of Home Economics and nutrition extension agents across the country. The agents would function much like an agricultural extension agent, only in the nutrition space.
Undoubtedly, the message about nutrition must be brought to the level of the people across all strata of the economy and where possible provided in the local languages in the quest to boost nutrition education.
According to Prof Ene-Obong, “Home economics and nutrition extension agents would be in the best position to simplify the nutrition message and bring it to the people to bring about the desired outcome in behaviour across the citizenry.”
The don equally supported calls for the introduction of nutrition education in schools, nursery, primary and secondary, as students can learn and equally be able to teach their parents at home.
Studies have shown that food consumption habits in Nigeria depend on the availability of food source, affordability of the food and knowledge of the nutrition value along with the personal choice or preference of the buyer. The task of improving the food plate is one that must be won.
It is possible to improve the Nigerian food plate. The issues are clear. The opportunities are available. And 2021 would be a good time to start.
Elvis Eromosele, a Corporate Communication professional and public affairs analyst lives in Lagos.

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Jumia partners Samsung,Xiaomi, Intel, Others To Offer Huge Discounts On Tech Gadgets For 2021 Tech Week

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The Jumia Tech Week, kicked off today March 1st through 7th, 2021. During the week long sales, Jumia will be providing customers the opportunity to get best deals of up to 70% off on latest tech items such as TV sets, cameras, mobile phones, computers, video games and others.

Partnering with global gadget and electronic manufacturers such as Samsung, HP, Intel, Umidigi, and Xiaomi, Jumia is giving customers over 6 million choice products to shop from while staying safe.

Speaking on the campaign, Jumia Nigeria CEO, Massimiliano Spalazzi said the Jumia Tech Week caters to the needs of remote workers, entertainment and sport lovers as it gives them the opportunity to buy tech-related items at the most affordable prices.

“The campaign caters to everyone with gadget needs: those working from home who need laptops, storage devices; gamers who need the latest video game; gadget lovers in need of latest phones; entertainment and sport lovers in need of speakers, earphones and television sets can shop for them during the Tech Week. All you need is download the JumiaApp, register and start shopping,” he said.

READ  High Cost, Major Reason For Poor Protein Consumption in Nigeria - Report

The Campaign will also feature March 1st and 5th as explosion days during which customers can get products at giveaway prices. Customers will also stand a chance to win prizes during daily Flash sales, Treasure Hunt, spin & win sessions.

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Verdant Zeal Wins 1st AAAN President Cup FIFA Tournament

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The Association of Advertising Agencies Nigeria (AAAN) just concluded its first
President’s Cup Football FIFA Tournament. The tournament which started on
Tuesday, February 16th ended on Friday, February 26th held at the AAAN
Secretariat and was streamed live on the AAAN social media platforms.

According to the Chairman of the Events Planning Committee, Mr. Doyin
Adewumi, fifteen (15) agencies participated in the competition for the grand
prize of two hundred thousand naira (N200,000), while the first and second
runners-up get N100,000 and N50,000 respectively.

After a gruelling match, the victory went to VD Team from Verdant Zeal who
beat Tequila Limited; 5 – 2, becoming the first agency to win the first ever
AAAN President’s Cup Football FIFA Tournament.

The President of the Association, Mr. Steve Babaeko during the presentation
of the cup noted that the purpose of the tournament was to bring young
practitioners together through a healthy competition as well as foster a
healthy rivalry and relationship amongst them.

READ  See What UBA Chairman, Tony Elumelu Was Caught Doing (PICS)

 

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Nigeria’s Digital Switchover: Fresh Missteps Loom

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Dominic Omuedi

Heartwarming, it was for me, to read reports of the press conference addressed on Tuesday by Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, on the country’s Digital Switchover (DSO) process, which seemed to have been interred under the rubble of poor conception, mismanagement and corruption. The cheer brought by the government’s announced intention to reboot the process, positive as appears, has shown nothing beyond the fact that the DSO process is not completely forgotten. No more. No less.

At the press conference, Mohammed unveiled a 13-member Ministerial Task Force to take charge of the DSO process which, for years, has proceeded in staccato fashion and left the country trailing many others, including in Africa.

Members of the task force, to be chaired by Mohammed, include Armstrong Idachaba, Joe Mutah of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture (Secretary), Dr Armstrong Idachaba, acting Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC); Olusegun Yakubu of Pinnacle Communications and Toyin Zubair, promoter of the defunct HiTV and now of Inview.

At the press conference, Mohammed announced that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved outstanding payments to key DSO stakeholders, a development he said will remove all the hindrances to the entire process in the past three years. The funding source for the DSO, broadcast industry experts reckon, is from the N34billion paid by MTN for broadcast frequency.

“With the payment approval by FEC, and with 31 states to cover, we have our work cut out for us. We have no more excuses for not rapidly rolling out the DSO across the country, hence my decision to set up a 13-member Ministerial Task Force, which I will personally chair, to take charge of the rollout,” the minister said excitedly.

He added that the government took a decision last year, on account of the financial difficulties induced by Covid-19, that the DSO process will be private sector-driven, effectively cancelling the plan to provide subsidies for Set-Top-Boxes (STBs) or signal carriage.

What followed, typical of pronouncements on the DSO, was a raft of big-sounding and dreamy projections. The DSO, said the minister, will deliver over one million jobs in the next three years, with 50,000 of such coming via local production of 24 million STBs and Smart TVs.

“Not even 20 Set-Top-Box manufacturers can comfortably produce the initial requirements to feed the market.  Furthermore, our position in West Africa, coupled with our size, makes us the definite source of these products for the   whole sub-region,” he said.

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Television production, he said, will create 200,000 jobs, as digitization will lead to “180 state channels, 30 regional channels and at least 10 national channels”. Digitization, he added, will boost local content propagation and draw many more Nigerians into the business. This, he said will create 400,000 jobs in film production and nudge Nollywood towards subscription Video-On-Demand on STBs and online, thereby providing cheaper distribution means, helping producers to make more money.

The envisaged boom in production, added the minister, will create an additional 200,000 jobs via increase in foreign demand for fully indigenous content and fetch the country in excess of $100 million.

“I have no doubt in my mind that a successful DSO is not just a job spinner, creating over one million jobs in three years, but also a money spinner,” said the minister.

Anyone familiar with the country’s DSO journey will not just doubt the minister’s projections, but dismiss them as drunkenly optimistic, especially given how squalidly it has been managed.

Undoubtedly, poor funding has inhibited the process. But more than that, squalid leadership and ill-conceived strategy are greater inhibitors. For instance, despite the pilot project, with the last roll-out three years ago in Osogbo, Osun State, there is no sustainable Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) coverage even in Plateau, Enugu, Osun, Kwara, and Kaduna states as well as the Federal Capital Territory, which were pilot states. Free Tv signals limited to state capitals.

This implies inhabitants outside state capitals are excluded and shows that the broadcast signal carriers selected for the DSO have inadequate technical and financial capacity for effective DTT coverage, the first step in the DSO.

The minister’s near-orgasmic projections on STBs, which convert analogue signals to digital, ignore the fact that the country, for strange reasons, chose a process that builds conditional access (CA) on top of the STBs instead of a standard affordable STB process. This means that the STBs process adopted for Nigeria’s for DSO will be out of the financial reach of most Nigerians. The standard STBs for DSO are supposed to receive free-to-air signal and affordable.  Those with conditional access built onto them are similar to pay television STBs and are much pricier. Inview, the company providing the TV system/ conditional access, has already been paid N1billion for running the TV system only in Abuja and Jos.

READ  Experts Explore Options To Curb Protein Deficiency In Nigeria

The company and others involved in the process are understood to have filed invoices for additional sums.

The cancellation of subsidy for STBs, forced on the government by the inclement economic climate, is certain to ensure that the prices of the boxes will stretch users to breaking point. Prior to the devaluation of the naira, for instance, the recommended price STB ranged between N20,000 and N30,000. The boxes used in the roll-out at pilot locations were all imported, with the Federal Government giving the alleged STB manufacturers guarantees to fund the importation to the tune of N5billion.

The inordinately ambitious projection that Nigeria will, within three years, be heaving with locally manufactured STBs is something akin to a boxer’s boast-full of sound and fury.

According to experts, there are only three companies claiming to have STB assembly lines in the country and not a single one is manufacturing. How the few companies, even operating at full capacity, can assemble 24 million STBs over five years has something that has eluded experts, who reckon that it will take a minimum of five years to meet the demand of 24million users- if all the companies function at full capacity. Importantly, not one of those claiming to have assembly/manufacturing capacities are in operation, meaning that they are engaged in no economic activities and employ nobody, thereby bilking the country through government contracts.

But they are not alone and are actually encouraged by the disposition of government officials, who view funding for the DSO process as “serve yourself,” the local parlance for buffet.

In a 21 March 2019 report published by The Guardian, experts interviewed identified corruption as the main obstacle to the country’s transition from analogue to digital broadcasting. A Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) is on suspension from office and facing prosecution by the Independent and Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) over allegedly fraudulent release of N2.5billion to a private company. The matter, which is beforethe Federal High Court, Abuja, relates to the 2016 release of N10 billion to the Ministry of Information and Culture for the DSO.

READ  See What UBA Chairman, Tony Elumelu Was Caught Doing (PICS)

The ICPC is accusing the suspended D-G of using his position to confer a corrupt advantage on his associates in two private companies.

The suspended D-G is alleged to have asked the Information Minister to approve payment of N2.5 billion to Pinnacle Communications Limited, a private signal distribution operator, as “seed grant” for the DSO for which it was ineligible. Mohammed, who was listed as a witness in the trial, claimed he approved the payment based on expert advice given by the suspended D-G.  The DSO guidelines, provided by a Federal Government Whitepaper, directed that the process be exclusively managed by companies affiliated to the Federal Government. Based on the guidelines, two companies were nominated for the purpose. One of these was ITS, an affiliate to the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), which has no infrastructure of its own and is relying on the one owned by another private operator. It got also go N1.7billion as seed grant.

The assumption that our wonky DSO system will boost local content production because it will serve as distribution platform is also one without basis, as International Telecommunications Union (ITU) DSO policy is simply transiting free-to-air analogue signals to digital signal. Thus, Nigeria’s system, with its in-built conditional access system, will rob Nigerians of the constitutionally-guaranteed right to receive information in view of the fact that most free-to-air broadcaster are government-owned. In effect, 90 million Nigerians already living in poverty will be required to buy STBs, movies online and unlimited internet service to access such.

The claim that Nollywood output will benefit from better distribution is also a ruse. Nigerians are already using smart devices through which they access Nigerian creative content online.

Many have also blamed ministerial interference for the corrugated DSO process, arguing that worldwide, the DSO process is driven by the regulator and the industry.

What I have observed since 2015 is a lot of ministerial interference which, in addition to other factors, will leave the country panting to achieve DTT coverage by the time the rest of the world would have moved on a more modern platform, the OTT

Omuedi, a retired broadcast engineer, writes from Ughelli.

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