Stakeholders Brainstorm on Food Security at NIFST Conference

The 38th Annual Conference of the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology (NIFST), served as a forum for robust discourse as stakeholders brainstormed on how food security can be enhanced in view of the daunting challenges facing food production in Africa. The theme of the conference was titled, “Food Value Chains: Opportunity for Wealth Creation and Food Security”.

Speaking at the occasion, the University’s Director of Grants Management and Project Director, Cassava: Adding Value for Africa phase II, (C:AVA II), Dr. Kolawole Adebayo, said 90,000 smallholder households in Africa had assured stakeholders in the cassava value chain of its readiness to render technical support to them at no cost that would help them carry out their productions profitably. Dr. Adebayo, who is in charge of the C:AVA II project in five African countries, including Nigeria, pointed out that although the Federal Government, through its Cassava Transformation Agenda Programme (CTAP) had set the ball rolling for the production of high quality cassava flour (HQCF), emphasized that continued return on investments would be able to keep the HQCF market alive and “the only pragmatic way to sustain the production of high quality cassava flour is to ensure profitability in the business”. He added that C:AVA II project was making innovative, technical support available to stakeholders in the value chain, pointing out that such support would help in the preparation of business plans, feasibility studies, new product development and market linkage. “What we have done is that we have employed two additional Business Development Experts, whose services should be available to SMEs who wish to set up HQCF business. The experts cover South-south, South-east and North-central. They will help you identify potential sources, funds and machinery”, he stated.

While urging the stakeholders to take up the innovative and technical assistance opportunities offered by C:AVA II project, he challenged the SMEs that had gotten delivery of the 6-cyclone flash dryer from the Federal Government, to run their equipment continuously for 16 hours in order to achieve maximum efficiency.

In the same vein, it has been observed that post-harvest losses continue to occur in the fresh produce food chain and during processing as research estimates indicate that 30 to 40 percent of the foods produced globally are lost post-harvest or wasted because they are never consumed. To look for a way out of these problems, the GRATITUDE Project – Gains from Losses of Roots and Tuber Crops -funded by the European Union Framework 7, organised a side event at the just-concluded NIFST Conference and General Meeting, which had in attendance, over 300 food professionals from different sectors such as the academia, industries, research institutes, private entrepreneurs, among others, from Nigeria and abroad. It was observed that the development of the entrepreneurial capacities of small and medium-scale enterprises was important, to manage and profit from waste because managing food losses and waste in less developed countries offered the potential to improve livelihoods, which could in turn contribute to rural development, poverty reduction and food security as over the years, the rise and expansion of integrated supply chains and renewed emphasis on efficiency and food safety was found to have spurred a major paradigm shift in the way the post-harvest system, including processing was conceived from a series of individual components to an integrated value chain linking producers, intermediaries and consumers. Therefore, by adopting a value chain approach to post-harvest loss reduction and managing wastes, it would give a clearer picture of the various participants and benefits derivable along the value chain such that sustainable and cost-effective solutions could be implemented. Various well-research papers were presented at the forum, which underscored the “need for all the novel findings and innovations obtained from the GRATITUDE Project should to be made available to willing investors, entrepreneurs and/or SMEs to break the reoccurring culture of research finding(s) hiding on the scientists’ shelves in the University”. The Dean, College of Food Science and Human Ecology (COLFHEC), and the Project’s Country Coordinator, Professor Lateef Sanni, also highlighted the achievements of GRATITUDE in the areas of capacity development and mentorship to include the sponsorship of over 15 MSc. students and 3 PhD students research work and attendance at international conferences, and that, one of the GRATITUDE project graduate students, Miss Ifeoluwa Olootu, won the best Young Scientist Presenter Award at the 2014 World Food Congress, organised by the International Union of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST), recently held in Canada.

The communiqué issued at the end of the conference indicated that great market potential exists locally and internationally for Nigerian spices and seasonings provided that challenges of adulteration, yield, consistency, adequacy of regulation and standards that limit product quality and safety could be mitigated. It also called on government to, as a matter of urgency, provide an enabling environment for the private sector to grow entrepreneurship and provide affordable High Energy and Nutrition Safe Foods (HENS) using local raw materials. It also expressed displeasure that about 41 per cent of Nigerian children under the age of five were stunted due to malnutrition, despite of the abundant of locally available resource in the area of agricultural produces, technology and expertise. The conference, however, emphasised the need for the promotion of entrepreneurship in the utilization of these resources in order to ameliorate the high level of malnutrition, enhance critical wealth creation and sustained food security.

Last Updated on December 16, 2014 by admin

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