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Aquatic foods to bridge nutrient gap

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By Mercy Kelani

Nigerians suffer diverse kinds of malnutrition due to unhealthy diets.

According to the Country Director of Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) Nigeria, Michael Ojo, 1.5 billion dollars is annually lost in Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to micronutrients deficiencies. He likewise highlighted that dietary inadequacies are one of the major causes of multiple nutrient deficiencies and increasing morbid and mortality rates in the country. Nigeria suffers diverse kinds of malnutrition as it is responsible for overweight, micronutrient deficiencies, underweight, obesity and associated diet-related non-communicable diseases.

At the Launch of Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy Brief on Wednesday, themed “Transformation and Future of Aquatic Food Systems in Nigeria”, Ojo noted that aquatic foods possess the ability to fill the nutrient gap in Nigeria and enhance improvement of the quality of Nigerians’ diets. Organization of the launch was overseen by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in collaboration with Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Global Panel on Agriculture Food Systems for Nutrition (GLOPAN) and other partners.

Sustainable healthy diets can be achieved through aquatic foods.

GAIN Country Boss further said that the Nigerian government is striving to ensure transformation of the food systems for increment in the production of safe and nutritious foods. However, it has paid lesser attention to the varieties of aquatic foods and potential they have to foster sustainable healthy diets and tackle the challenge of malnutrition. Fish is an important protein that should be present in the diets of low-income families. Dried small fish, unlike other types of animal foods are sold and bought in little quantities, and are accessible to consumers.

One of the series of dialogues that fostered transformation pathways for Nigeria’s food systems include the National Dialogue on Transformation and Future of Aquatic Food Systems in Nigeria which happened on July 18, 2021 at the UN Food Systems Summit. Leading professionals and experts from Nigeria were in attendance at the event, providing ideas and innovations for the purpose of catalyzing and energizing the fisheries and Aquaculture sector. The policy brief that was being launched proved the workability of the ideas presented at the event.

Regulation of the climate happens through the aquatic environment.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mahmood Abubakar, noted that the aquatic environment is essential to the survival of humans and the ecosystem. Besides the fact that it provides food for mankind, it is also responsible for regulation of the climate. He stated that upon his appointment as Minister of Agriculture, he drilled his team on means of ensuring that agricultural products are sustainably available to the average Nigerian for improvement of nutrition and creation of job opportunities.

Apparently, as was stressed by the Minister, aquaculture is the most rapidly growing sector which can also boost fish production. Owing to this fact, Abubakar has made it compulsory for the department to keep working towards an increment in aquaculture production by an additional of 250,000MT since his administration began. He said this increase is to contribute to the creation of an additional 1.1 million job opportunities in the sector. The ministry has not ceased to work towards achievement of this goal and as such, Abubakar urges Nigerians to contribute their quota by protecting the environment from pollution, overfishing and climate change.

New policy document to address challenges in aquaculture sector.

Represented by the Director of Special Duties in the Ministry, Fausat Lawal, the minister stated that the new policy document is designed to serve as a guide to tackling the many difficulties and challenges that confront the fisheries and aquaculture sector in a well coordinated and comprehensive manner. To achieve this objective, collective participation is required at multinational, national and sub-national, development partners and non-state actors. The fishing industry is a major source of livelihood for many communities, therefore, collaboration is needed for development and implementation of sustainable fishing practices that safeguard marine biodiversity.

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