Nigeria is an A4NH focus country, along with Vietnam, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and India. In Nigeria, its work is coordinated by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). A4NH’s work in Nigeria is underway in four of the program’s five research flagships: Food Systems for Healthier Diets (Flagship 1), Biofortification (Flagship 2), Food Safety (Flagship 3), and Supporting Policies, Programs, and Enabling Action through Research (Flagship 4).
Flagship One: Food Systems for Healthier Diets (FSHD)
Nigeria’s food systems are complicated and evolving, with increasing needs of consumers in growing cities and challenges such as navigating longer supply chains to deliver fresh foods to markets. Researchers in FSHD, which is led by Wageningen University & Research, with Bioversity, CIAT, IFPRI, and IITA, are studying this situation from multiple angles to understand the food system as a whole. These range from examining what gaps exist in diets, what the policy environment is, and what opportunities exist for private-sector partnership. Goals include improving intake of fruits and vegetables in urban areas, by first understanding what drives the choices consumers are making; reducing food loss in the tomato value chain by replacing baskets with crates; and exploring how fortified milk impacts the food system. The team is also working to map the food system in Lagos, so researchers and policymakers have a better understanding of its workings and where interventions might be appropriate.
Flagship Two: Biofortification
Nearly 30 percent of Nigerian children under the age of five are vulnerable to illness and infection due to vitamin A deficiency. A4NH, led by HarvestPlus, aims to sustainably increase vitamin A intake, thereby improving nutrition and health outcomes, through developing and delivering biofortified vitamin A cassava and maize varieties for Nigeria. Partnerships with IITA and the National Root Crops Research Institute resulted in the release of six vitamin A cassava varieties, while work with IITA and the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training yielded the release of eight vitamin A maize varieties. Research conducted in Nigeria, and elsewhere in Africa, on farmer and consumer acceptance of these two biofortified crops and their efficacy in improving vitamin A deficiency status have yielded positive results. Advocacy efforts have resulted in biofortification being included in various national- and state-level nutrition and agricultural strategies, while partnerships with the private food sector, combined with innovative communication and marketing strategies like celebrity champions, media, local movie industry “Nollywood,” and the annual Nutritious Food Fair, resulted in increased demand.
Because of public, private, and civil society partnerships for delivery of planting materials, at the end of 2017, an estimated 1.5 million Nigerian households were benefiting from these enriched cassava and maize.
Flagship Three: Food Safety
As diets change and value chains grow longer and more complex, the need to prioritize and mitigate food safety risks becomes more urgent. A4NH’s work in food safety, which is led by the ILRI with support from IITA and IFPRI, includes a report to identify where food safety investments can yield best results. The report detailed what value chains, foods, and issues are of particular concern in Nigeria, providing policymakers with a road map to guide future action.
A key food safety issue across Nigeria, and throughout Africa, is the risk posed by aflatoxins, a mold that contaminates crops, rendering them unsafe for consumption and unable to be sold. Maize and groundnuts, two key staple crops in Nigeria, are particularly affected. IITA is working to mitigate this risk, with the development of a biocontrol product, Alfasafe®. Nigeria has been a pioneering country in the development of Alfasafe, as the first to have a country-specific strain commercially available.
Flagship Four: Supporting Policies, Programs, and Enabling Action Through Research (SPEAR)
The burden of malnutrition is high in Nigeria, but there has been a gradual decline in the national prevalence of stunting and maternal underweight over the past two decades. Yet this progress has not been uniform across the country: while some states have experienced significant reductions in undernutrition, rates have increased elsewhere. Under SPEAR, Stories of Change: Nigeria is a mixed-methods study aiming to document nutrition-relevant country- and state-level changes and challenges since nationally-representative data came available in 2008. Researchers are examining changes in nutrition-relevant indicators, policies and programs, as well as stakeholder perceptions at federal, state, and Local Government Authority levels. Taking a multisectoral perspective, potential challenges and opportunities for change will be explored based on relevant stakeholder perceptions. Emphasis will be placed on learning from experience in addition to available data in recognition of the value of experiential learning in bringing about the desired progress on nutrition.