In the next three years Nigeria alongside other West African nations would lead implementation of a plantain improvement initiative which aims at reducing by 30 per cent the number of malnourished children in the Sub-Saharan Africa.
This follows a successful launch of a new project known as, “Enhancing nutritional quality of plantain food products through improved access to endophyte primed and high pro-vitamin A (PVA) plantain cultivars under integrated soil fertility management practices in Nigeria, Cameroon, and Gabon.”
The initiative was unveiled by the National Horticultural Research Institute, NIHORT, in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, the University of Buea, Cameroon and the Institut de Recherches Agronomiques et Forestieres (IRAF), Gabon, that aims to enhance the nutritive quality of plantain in the three countries. The project is funded by the African Union Research Division.
Over the next three years, the four institutions will implement the new project, whose goal is to address the challenge of malnutrition amongst the approximately 190 million pre-school children and women of child bearing age who consume plantain as one of their key staple foods.
At the launch, IITA West Africa Hub Deputy Director, Michael Abberton, noted that the new project is well aligned with IITA’s vision of success across sub-Saharan Africa of reducing the number of malnourished children by 30 per cent and revitalizing over 7.5 million hectares of degraded farmlands in sub-Saharan Africa.
The project has five objectives which includes determining the diversity and bioactivity of beneficial microbial endophytes associated with plantains in smallholder farms in Cameroon, Gabon, and Nigeria, prime high PVA content plantains with endophyte formulations and validate them against banana pests and diseases and to assess the efficacy of endophyte formulations under variable fertilization regimes using organic manure and complex mineral fertilizer formulations.
It is also expected to produce innovative high PVA plantain-based products and assess consumer acceptance and participatorily disseminate effective combinations of endophyte, manure, and fertilizer formulations, and create awareness on plantain products that could alleviate vitamin A deficiency (VAD).
“The project is designed to run through the whole plantain value chain within the three countries including: plant multiplication, crop management, processing, and training of women and youth on existing business opportunities,” explained Dr Amos Alkonya, the Project Leader.
“The vision we have for this project is very big and noble. Improving pro-vitamin A in plantain will help greatly in cutting down the current annual mortality rate of 6 per cent amongst children under the age of 5 in sub-Saharan Africa arising from pro-vitamin A deficiency,” he added.