By Mohammed Kandi
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has proposed the introduction of school feeding, in order to address the problem of malnutrition among Nigerian children.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, disclosed this while presenting a performance reviews on Millennium Development Goals (MDG)-funded intervention programmes, projects the Ministry undertook between 2011 and 2013, as well as proposals for 2014 under the Ministry’s proposed appropriation to the House of Representatives Committee on MDGs.
In a statement by the Ministry’s press unit, Dr. Adesina said in the 2014 budget proposal the pilot schemes are in Sokoto state and the Federal Capital Territory.
The minister also informed that one out of every 6 children born in Nigeria die before the age of 5, and that malnutrition is a major cause of mortality and morbidity among children under five years of age, as well as pregnant women.
Dr. Adesina stated that, “In addition to being a major cause of mortality and morbidity among children and vulnerable women, extreme poverty and hunger are also silent mental capacity killers among children, as an underfed and malnourished child finds it much harder to learn than his well-fed counterpart.
He said his ministry has achieved the MDGs number one goal of reducing by 50 percent the number of Nigerians exposed to hunger and extreme poverty by 2015, well ahead of target, listing key intervention areas of the Ministry within the period under review.
He argued that “agriculture is three to four times a more efficient tool for reducing hunger and extreme poverty than any other form of government intervention, as smallholder farmers account for about 75 percent of the rural population where poverty is most acute.”
“Among the measures and projects the Ministry undertook between 2011 and 2013 to achieve MDG goals within the Agricultural Transformation Agenda are development of vitamin-embedded cassava varieties.
“These special cassava varieties which are being distributed to smallholder farmers in key cassava-growing states all over the country,” Dr. Adesina said.
Adesina also pointed out that the Ministry also embarked on development and distribution of orange-feed sweet potato varieties, including the training of 6,000 youths to multiply planting materials for farmers.
While giving a performance assessment of the Ministry’s MDG-funded intervention projects, which he said are at a weighted average completion level of 65%, the Minister said N4.0 billion was proposed for MDG projects in 2013, with N2.1 billion actually released.
He said: “Whatever the level of release the Ministry will receive in the 2014 budget year, a major target of the Ministry’s intervention will be to raise the number of women farmers with access to Government’s growth enhancement support (GES) from 600, 000 in 2013 to 1.5 million this year.”
However, the House Committee on MDGs gave its endorsement of the Ministry’s MDGs programmes and projects.
The Committee also called for closer collaboration between the Committee and the Ministry, to ensure the attainment of the key targets of MDG by the 2015.