The Director General of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NAB- DA), Professor Abdullahi Mustapha, has revealed that using biofortification in plant breeding can help fight malnutrition and also increase smallholder farmers’ incomes. Professor Mustapha, who stated this at the ground breaking hybrid conference, held in Markudi, Benue State, claimed that using biofortification varieties alternately in existing intercropping systems with maize, yams and legumes could boost dietary.
According to him, micro- nutrient deficiencies mainly underlie much of this malnutrition epidemic as staple crop dependence provides insufficient essential nutrients. Mustapha said: “Using bio- fortified varieties alternately in existing intercropping systems with maize, yams and legumes can boost dietary. Maize also offers an appropriate entry point being a traditional staple crop and vital food security pillar for Nigerian smallholder farmers.
“These resilient, climate smart cereals suited to arid zones already provide major calorie sources in many parts of the country. Biofortifying them can thus sustainably alleviate malnutrition. “Popularising iron-rich cowpea and soybean will benefit women’s health and productivity given their high nutritional needs. “Overall, mainstreaming such improved varieties across Nigeria’s diverse agro-ecologies can profoundly impact malnutrition if policies also enable farmers’ adoption and consumption.”
The generation of micronutrient-dense crops through the use of biotechnology is more cost effective, sustainable and realistic. In his remarks, President, Plant Breeders Association of Nigeria (PBAN), Professor Terkimbi Vange, said the conference aimed to provide a platform for researchers, scientists, educators, policymakers, and industry stakeholders to share knowledge and breakthroughs in plant breeding, fostering discussions, and contributing to sector advancement.