Stakeholders seek Nigerians’ access to affordable healthy food – Guardian Nigeria

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Stakeholders in the nutrition-focused enterprises have expressed the need for concerted efforts and strategic partnerships to accelerate meaningful progress in making affordable healthier diet available and accessible to Nigerians.

The stakeholders who made the call during the 2024 Sun Business Network (SBN) Annual Members Convening held in Lagos, with the theme: “Building A National Collaborative Mechanism For Nutrition In Nigeria: A Catalyst For Change,” said recent data from the National Bureau of Statistics paints a sobering picture of the nutritional landscape in Nigeria.

The National Coordinator of SBN, Tomisin Odunmbaku, said despite extensive investment and interventions, malnutrition indicators have unfortunately worsened over the past decade. “This underscores the urgent need for collective action, with the private sector, including the 39 million MSMEs in Nigeria and our esteemed 397 SBN members, playing a crucial role.

“As partners in your entrepreneurial journey, we are committed to providing the support and technical assistance necessary to fulfill your commitments towards improving nutrition in Nigeria. Additionally, we remain dedicated to advocating for an enabling environment that empowers nutrition businesses to thrive.

“Our focus and programmes are designed to support businesses and we also try to target vulnerable persons. Many of our programmes are about how our business can grow, lucrative in their processes and we also look at vulnerable groups – women and children who deserve products that are affordable and easily assessable. We have a number of businesses that are doing this very well. Beyond that we also design programmes that support them to change this initiative.

“We don’t work alone; we work with other private sectors. We also work among different stakeholder platforms, public sector, private sector, enterprises support organisations. Supporting businesses to produce more food and we emphasise affordable prices so that they are able to reach this people despite the economic hardship in the country.

“Good food is good for health. One thing we have done is to work across sub regional zones. We have now established five sub-regions. Executives will take the lead at sub-regional levels. So they work with businesses at their levels in different states like we have businesses in Kano, Cross River, Jos and all over the country.

“In fact, our location is across the country. So we have businesses that are committed in all of these states and they all produce nutritional products. You will see them when they talk about their products at the nutrition corner. These are some of the ways we do some of them and we provide platforms for them to amplify their works,” he said.

The Executive Director, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Dr. Lawrence Haddad, advised the Federal Government to raise the profile of nutritious food, adding that staple foods like fish, egg, diary and foods are very important.

He said: “I think the Federal Government has done a great job of raising the profile on the importance of food security nutrition. I think now that they have gotten everyone’s attention, giving it really high priorities, they need to develop a plan that everyone won’t get behind, as three or five simple elements in it that we can all rally around.

“The Sun Business Network is helping to solve the crisis by producing nutritious food at affordable prices by using things like smaller package sizes, less packaging and short of value chains to reduce the cost and producing food that is really appropriate for people who don’t have enough money to buy adequate food.”

The Country Director of GAIN, Michael Ojo said the organisation is doing a lot of investments focusing on improving access to healthier diet, making more nutritional food available, more accessible, and more affordable for people to actually choose it. “But there is so many other issues in our system that is really getting in the way of the impact that we hope to see.

“Some of these are shocks that we have all gone through. We all know how COVID-19 affected food supply chains. We can see the impact of government change on our production areas in the country where soil quality is less, weather incident are more uncertain and unpredictable affecting the productivity of lands and yields.

“But also we have a major problem, insecurity. A lot of our cultivable land areas that are suitable for livestock production have not been put to use because of insecurity. So there are number of different things.”

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