The Nigerian Protein Deficiency Report 2020, unveiled in Lagos recently, has identified poverty, unemployment and poor dietary practices as major barriers to the alleviation of protein deficiency in Nigeria.
The report was presented at the Protein Challenge Webinar Series 8 themed The Nigerian Protein Deficiency Report: Unpacking the Numbers, Exploring the Issues, which took place on Thursday, March 18, 2020.
The report was presented by Mr. Obaro Agalabri, leading research analyst and Service Line Lead at IPSOS, the research firm that conducted the survey. Members of the webinar panel included the eminent Professor Adetunji Kehinde, Provost, College of Agriculture, Osun State University; Dr. Beatrice Oganah-Ikujenyo, chief lecturer, Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Lagos.
In presenting the report, Mr. Agalabri stated that the unemployment issue is a contributory factor to protein deficiency in Nigeria today. According to him, “The rising cost of food items and low household income levels remain the major deterrents to adequate protein intake in Nigeria. It is therefore no surprise that incidence of low protein intake is more prevalent in the Northern states and lower SEC’s (socio-economic classes).”
He added that the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has confirmed that more than half of the labour force in Nigeria is unemployed, which reduces the purchasing power of households.
The reduction in purchasing power inherently leads to a lack of funds to buy nutritious foods, as families resort to consuming cheap foods with low nutritional values.
Professor Kehinde noted that the report reflected the high rate of poverty, which is a barrier to healthy nutrition and pointed out that agriculture can help to overcome this barrier.
He stated: “The barrier of poverty prevents families from eating a healthy diet. However, with proper agricultural infrastructure, farmlands can be established in different regions of the nation.” The establishment of farmlands where arable crops can be grown will not only provide employment but will tackle protein deficiency from the grassroots, he added.
Prof. Kehinde argued that Nigeria has a lot of arable lands, which can be used to cultivate protein-rich food crops like soybeans, beans, groundnuts and other legumes. The farms will also create employment across regions thus helping to significantly lower the unemployment rate.
He said that the Nigerian Protein Report 2020 indicated that there is a shortage of soybeans in the country. Soybeans are an important protein food source, both to humans and livestock, and are especially important in poultry and aquatic feeds.
Dr. Oganah–Ikujenyo praised the report for highlighting the specific obstacles and barriers hindering the reduction of protein deficiency in Nigeria. She cited data from the report concerning the meal consumption patterns of Nigerians, which show that carbohydrates like rice and pasta are the most consumed foods.
According to her, to effectively tackle protein deficiency, individuals must eat a protein-rich diet, daily, especially children, pregnant and lactating mothers.
She noted that the lower socio-economic classes are the most vulnerable to protein deficiency, stating that there is a need for more collective efforts to drive more awareness and affordability for daily protein intake among households.
She stated that individuals need to embrace positive food cultures, as cultures and superstitions hinder the growth and development of children, with children rarely given large meat and fish portions.
She urged Nigerians to consume protein-rich foods like soybeans, fish, eggs, and groundnuts regularly to mitigate the impact of protein deficiency in the country.
The session was moderated by Dr. Adepeju Adeniran, a public health expert, co-founder and National Chair of the Nigerian chapter of Women in Global Health, a multi-national movement of women in health care devoted to global health improvement.