ProVeg International recently opened an office in Nigeria with the intention of replacing consumption of animal by products by 50 percent with alternative proteins by 2040. Although many Nigerians already adopted a diet rich in plant and the country itself has low greenhouse gas emissions when compared to first world countries, questions have been raised regarding ProVeg’s move. The company is focused on improving health and tasty products that are climate and animal-friendly, across Nigeria. The Nigerian office is led by the Country Director Hakeem Jimo, co-founder of VeggieVictory, the first plant-based food tech company in Nigeria.
In Nigeria and West Africa there are various challenges linked with the food systems. They include malnutrition, water scarcity, food security, and the need to boost crops’ resilience. Therefore, ProVeg focuses on creating awareness on the significance of balanced, sustainable and healthy diets and reasons to avoid consumption of unhealthy Western diets that are filled with unsaturated fats, salt and sugar. Jimo stated that Nigeria is projected to be the third most populous country globally by 2050 after India and China. Consequently, consumption of meat in the country is likely to grow by over 300 percent within the same period.
Africa is mostly affected by climate change despite low emissions.
Globally, Africa holds the record of the continent with the highest protein deficiency with an increasing rate of child malnutrition. It was therefore asked whether a transition to plant-based diets would address these challenges. However, the United Nations (UN) recently cautioned that plant-based diets might be unable to aid in the provision of sufficient nutrition for achievement of public health targets at a global level. A properly balanced and varied plant-based diet is capable of providing all the nutrients people require wherever they are. Also, local availability and combinations of fruit, whole grains, pulses, vegetables, legumes and protein-rich products are essential in all countries.
The goal of ProVeg Africa is to strengthen the connection between agriculture, the environment and food security. Regardless of the low emissions in Africa, the continent remains the most affected by climate change. Jimo added that Africans tend to focus on the wrong cause of these problems. Food security, for instance, should not be an issue if managed appropriately. Also, the land is useful as the land capable of being ploughed and used to grow crops. Nigeria has lots of infrastructural problems. Farmers find it difficult to transport their produce to consumers in cities. This results to high quantities of waste and in some cases approximately 50 percent of some crops.
Poor infrastructure affects food security and production.
Furthermore, despite the increasing consumption of meat, Nigerians still practice crude livestock methods, known as open grazing. Northern herdsmen are unable to find adequate grass for their cattle due to desert advancement. Their diversion to the south causes regular clashes with farmers, causing more insecurity. Consequently, farmers quit farming, thereby attracting more food security challenges. Cattle ranching has been suggested so as to stop the clashes but it would drastically skyrocket the costs of livestock for consumers.
Manufacturing industries in Nigeria face the challenge of poor infrastructure, particularly erratic power supply. Demand for affordable food is not decreasing but manufacturers are stuck with high infrastructure costs like provision of electricity with their generators which attracts a much higher cost. Western industrial farming then come into the country with the argument it satisfies the best interest of consumers. However, they promote dependence importation of animal feed which decreases the security and increases the volatility of the food system.
Through plant-based diets, ProVeg will promote food security.
Additionally, ProVeg Nigeria is designed to ensure promotion of many opportunities for food security with crop farming, especially with crop types that are resilient. It will also promote the use of precision farming techniques through minimization of water use by application of irrigation in a targeted way. This will drastically reduce land and water use, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste. The Nigerian head argued that plant-based agriculture is done on less land and with less energy, while plant-based foods emit only 50 percent the amount of greenhouse gas emissions than animal-based foods.