Strengthening Nigeria’s nutrition value amidst climate change

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By Abujah Racheal, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

Mrs Amina Halidu, a widow and rural farmer in Abaji Area Council in Federal Capital Territory, says she struggles to feed her family of three though she works very hard daily to support them.

Halidu said that erratic weather has made it difficult for her to meet her expectations during harvest times. She said it was usually worse when the rain is late in coming.

She is not alone in this situation as many rural farmers, particularly peasant farmers are increasingly finding it difficult to reap enough from their farms to meet their household feeding needs.

This has left many children in the rural areas malnourished.

According to Global Hunger Index (GHI), 12.7 per cent of Nigeria’s population is malnourished, while 6.5 per cent of under-five children in the country are wasted, and 31.5 per cent are stunted.

The data also shows that 11.4 per cent of Nigerian children die before reaching the age of five with malnutrition being one of the causes.

Experts have established a relationship between climate change and malnutrition.

“Climate affects malnutrition through an agro-ecosystems pathway with an adverse impact on food production; for instance, by affecting crop output, crop growth, diseases, and pests

“As a result, climate change could affect food security and diet diversity by changing the availability and quality of food sources, says a team of researchers led by Eduard van der Merwe in a study published in the Food Policy.

It is heartwarming that Nigeria is taking steps to address climate change and mitigate its impacts such as child malnutrition.

Some of such steps is the signing of the Climate Change Act; and the establishment of the National Policy on Climate Change.

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Passed in November 2021, the Act that seeks to achieve low greenhouse gas emissions, green and sustainable growth by providing the framework to set a target to reach net zero between 2050 and 2070.

While the government and the international community chisel out appropriate response to climate change, families such as Halidu’s have to take measures to protect their young members from malnutrition and the health danger it poses.

It is for this reason that she felt elated she had the chance to work with Media Advocacy/Empowerment Strategy for the Prevention and Management of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) of International Society for Media in Public Health (ISMPH).

It is a group that encourages critical reporting of health-related topics.

“I was excited to join the program to learn how to grow nutritious vegetables for my family.

“With the help of the programme I was able to grow a variety of vegetables including kale, spinach, and carrots.

“I learnt how to use compost to improve the soil and how to conserve water during dry spells. My children were thrilled to have fresh, healthy vegetables to eat every day,” she said.

She said that she became a leader of her community, adding that she shared her knowledge and skills with other families, and together they worked to adapt to the changing climate”, she said.

Halidu’s story is a reminder that determination and support can make a difference in the lives of communities affected by environmental or other challenges.

However, stakeholders insist that the administration of President Bola Tinubu must act decisively on the matter and prioritise food security.

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Stakeholders at the 2023 Nutrition Policy Dialogue, called for a comprehensive approach to strengthen nutrition outcomes in the face of climate change in the country.

The event was jointly organised by Nigeria Health Watch in collaboration with Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Action Against Hunger Nigeria (ACF), Save the Children International and Helen Killer International (HKI).

It had as its theme: “Strengthening Nutrition Outcomes in the Face of Climate Change”.

Dr Michael Ojo, Country Director, GAIN, said the event that climate change could affect food systems in multiple ways, which in turn could impact the nutritional quality and availability of food.

Ojo said climate change could lead to reduced crop yields, which could affect the availability and affordability of food, adding that this could lead to food shortages and malnutrition.

“Climate change can also affect the quality of food. For example, rising temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns can lead to changes in the nutrient content of crops, making them less nutritious.

“Climate change can also affect food prices, making it more difficult for people to access nutritious food.

He added that climate change could also affect dietary patterns.

“Changes in the availability and affordability of certain foods may lead people to consume more or less of certain types of foods, which can affect their nutritional status,” he said.

He said that it was, therefore important for Tinubu administration to take actions to mitigate these impacts and promote sustainable food systems that could help ensure access to nutritious food for not just but all Nigerians.

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“This may involve promoting sustainable agriculture practices, investing in food storage and distribution systems, and promoting healthy and sustainable dietary patterns.

“This requires a concerted effort from governments, businesses, and all Nigerians to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote sustainable agriculture, and ensure that vulnerable populations have access to diverse, nutrient-dense foods,” he said.

Mr Uruakpa John, Head, Prevention and Control of Micronutrient Deficiency, Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) said that governance and leadership played a critical role in addressing the challenges of food security and nutrition in the face of climate change.

John said that it was important to ensure that nutrition was addressed in national climate change processes, plans, and programmes.

“Policy coherence and multidisciplinary collaboration at all levels are essential to enhancing food chain sustainability and local access to adequate nutrition.

“Promoting the rights of vulnerable people to essential livelihood resources, including land rights and access to or protection of fishing grounds, is also crucial,” he told participants at the event..

He said that the national commitment to shifting towards healthy, sustainable diets is necessary to achieve viable food systems.

Dr Jane Bevan, Chief Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Section, UNICEF, said that Climate change can have significant impacts on water availability and consequently the quality and quantity of farm produce.

Bevan said that it was important that the government took action to mitigate these impacts and adapt to the changing water landscape.

“This may involve investing in new water infrastructure, improving water management practices, and promoting sustainable water use and conservation,” she said. (NANFeatures)

**If used please credit the writer and News Agency of Nigeria.

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