Bio-fortified training , key to economic empowerment – beneficiaries

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Beneficiaries of the Harvestplus training programme on the production and marketing of Vitamin A Cassava and Maize have described the training as a saving grace.

Two of the beneficiaries, Mr Pelumi Aribisala and a widow from Borno State, Mrs Nancy Wakama, told the newsmen in Ibadan that they had built successful careers from bio-fortified crops.

Harvestplus and partners, an international agricultural organisation, is providing youths with new opportunities for self-employment, particularly with its more than 25 food products developed from bio-fortified crops.

Aribisala, who graduated from Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife in 2009, but was unemployed, told newsmen that he hailed from a poor family and the first among three children of his parents.

“Not having a job meant I had to bear a heavy burden of taking care of my siblings, but hope came my way when I learnt about bio-fortified crops from which I have built an enterprise that now employs and trains graduates.

Harvestplus trained me on processing, packaging and marketing of vitamin A garri, fufu, combobites, custard and cassmoi.

“It also equipped me with skills in book-keeping, market intelligence and linkages.

“My fulltime employees grew from 2 to 6, in addition to 21 part-time employees in four years.

“I have trained over 2,000 youths and women with my monthly output growing from 1,378 to 15,000 packs of products.

“Working with a network of wholesalers and retailers, CATO foods, which is my brand, is now in major urban and rural markets across the south-west,”.

Also, Wakawa expressed overflowing joy that her life was positively impacted through the production and marketing of vitamin A cassava and maize seeds.

“In 2014, when I received seeds of vitamin A maize from Harvestplus and partners, I knew I had struck gold as this was the first time such variety would be available to farmers in the North-East.

“My experience during the first year of producing vitamin A maize was discouraging, as over 75 per cent of my farm was damaged by herdsmen and Boko Haram insurgents.

“However, my passion to reach farmers with nutritious varieties of maize kept me going; now farmers report that the taste of vitamin A maize is better than the conventional types and this has created a huge market for me.

“I produced 4 tonnes of quality seeds in 2014; 7 in 2015; more than 11 in 2016 and 38 tonnes in 2017. I have also introduced the seed to some seed companies in Bauchi,” .

According to her, four children had graduated from university; two others would graduate soon, from my high income presently compared with my status few years ago.

“I am very grateful to Harvestplus and partners for their work.

“I urge them to develop more nutritious seeds and help to create markets that benefit my family and community,” the widow said.

Harvestplus and partners improve nutrition and public health by developing and promoting bio-fortified food crops that are rich in vitamins and minerals.

The organisation provides global leadership on bio-fortification evidence and technology; the staple crops are naturally bio-fortified and not genetically modified.

 

Arinze A/NAN