In Nigeria and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, micronutrient deficiencies are common in poor and rural areas, due to over-farmed, depleted soils and restricted diets. This has put adults and children at risk from infection and developmental problems.
Agriculture experts said micronutrient-deficient in the population could lead to weakened immune systems and thyroid problems.
They said there was the need to adequately address hidden hunger, described as micronutrient -deficient. The event held in Lagos with the theme: Crop nutrition in addressing the challenges in plant growth, yield formation and human hutrition.
The workshop was meant to train agriculture reporters on a more informed approach to reporting plant and soil nutrition.
A professor of Plant Nutrition, Sabanci University, Istanbul, Turkey, Ismail Cakmak, said: “Hidden hunger is lack of vitamins and minerals in food; so even when you eat, you still lack basic nutrients required by your body, to fight diseases and other foreign agents.
Cakmak who spoke on: Food crops for improving food and nutrition security, said micronutrient deficiency referred to as “hidden hunger,” affects people who don’t get enough of the crucial vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, iodine, zinc, calcium and folate.
He said serious concerns remained about the nutrition and health situation throughout Nigeria and the rest of the developing world.
He said an estimated 800 million people still go hungry and while two billion people also suffer from hidden hunger, that is, deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals, which are associated with a number of negative health and economic impacts.
Cakmak said Nigeria lost $1.5 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
He said scaling up core micro nutrient interventions would cost less than $188 million yearly.
“There is a link between nutrition and infection; if nutrition is adequate, infection will not be present. That will reduce pathogenic attacks on plants and immunity and stunted growth in humans.”
He said one solution for tackling hidden hunger is to unite agriculture and nutrition to improve the health and livelihoods of smallholder farming families.
He stressed the need to encourage biofortification, including supporting improvement of micronutrient content of crops through conventional breeding and adding of micronutrients to fertiliser.
He also said there the was need to strengthen the knowledge on the relevance of proper plant nutrition for plant growth.
Cakmak said an optimal mineral fertilisation of plants is also required to produce more nutritious food, especially with micronutrients and protein.
He also emphasised efficient use of fertiliser, adding that low use could expose crop plants to pathogen and pest attack.
While there should be emphasis on soil test, soil maps and other geospatial methods for efficient and effective use of fertiliser and identification of suitable formulations, Cakmak noted that attention should be paid to leaf tissue analyses for effective use of fertiliser.
The expert expressed interest in projects to enhance productivity across entire agricultural value chain, beginning on the farm and extending to when products reach consumers.
To this end, he has partnered with other experts in projects and programmes to increase yields by providing growers with critical information on the development of crops across the world.
The Managing Director, OCP Africa, Mr. Mohammed Hettiti, said his organisation supports capacity building for reporters to help improve agriculture reporting.
He said it had become pertinent to properly report human nutrition and soil nutrients as well as crop micro nutrient requirements.
The Head of Agronomy, OCP Africa, Mr. Aniss Bouraqqadi stressed that the prominent position of agriculture with its enormous opportunities to create wealth, jobs and enhance livelihoods. He said the workshop was to build a ‘comments discussion room’ to share developments in human nutrition.
He stressed the need for partnerships, collaboration and networking and particularly public-private partnerships that will not only ensure that technologies reach farmers and stimulate innovation but also encourage growth of agriculture as a business, nurture private sector growth, which will, in turn, growing interest and employment opportunities.
Bouraqqadi said collaboration was key to ensuring good nutrition for all, even in the face of climate challenges.
He said OCP international is focused on educating growers to enhance crop yield through improved agronomy practices.
Through its Agribooster programme, he said farmers were exposed to different approaches to agronomy, planting, settings and usage affect growth and yield.
He said it was a major initiative designed to boost agricultural productivity by rapidly delivering proven technologies to tens of millions of farmers to enhance their productivity.
He said OCP is developing fertiliser that are specific to the needs of African soils and crops, as well as locally-appropriate service models for African farmers to have reliable, affordable access to these inputs and related products.”
He said his organisation was ready to partner universities and research institutions to strengthen research capacity to meet the challenge of access to nutritious food for the growing population.
SOURCE: THE NATION