By Doris Obinna
In order to curb the rate of malnutrition in the country, nutrition and agricultural experts have called on Nigerians to begin to produce soybeans, a nutritious food source, as a matter of priority.
Speaking during the recent protein challenge Webinar with the theme “The Nigerian Protein Deficiency Report 2020: Unpacking the numbers, exploring the issues,” provost, College of Agriculture, Osun State University, Professor Adetunji Kehinde, said the Nigerian Protein Deficiency Report 2020 indicates that the poor status of protein consumption in Nigeria remains the leading cause of protein deficiency in the country.
According to Kehinde, “Widespread and aggressive production of soybeans across the country will contribute to efforts to curb the incidence of protein deficiency in the country.”
Soybeans, he explained, is a rich source of protein and other valuable nutrients. It promotes growth, repairs worn-out cells in the body and improves general health.
He noted that the report revealed that affordability and availability were key factors that determine the quantity of dietary proteins consumed by Nigerians.
He added that, if more people planted soybeans, not just farmers alone, it would directly boost the availability of high-protein foods for the citizenry: “Increased production of soybeans will not only alleviate protein deficiency, but it will also aid the agricultural and livestock industries as well.”
Kehinde pointed out that the recent scarcity of soybeans in Nigeria has led to the increase in price of animal protein foods like poultry, beef and fish, which are important food sources for a balanced diet.
He said increasing the productivity of small-scale farmers would enhance soybean production in different communities and states in the country. He also urged the agro-allied industry to actively assist farmers in planting soybeans by providing quality seedlings and fertilizers.
Nutritionist and chief lecturer at the Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Lagos, Dr. Beatrice Oganah-Ikujenyo, contended that continued reliance on a diet of staple foodstuffs that lack protein would undoubtedly result in protein deficiency.
Oganah-Ikujenyo, therefore, called on government to work to increase awareness on various sources of protein available and affordable to the people and also pay attention to the growing of protein sources such as soya beans, beans, and animal production.
Also, a public health expert and national co-chairperson, Women in Global Health, Nigeria, Dr. Adepeju Adeniran, maintained that increasing the amount of plant protein-rich foods was imperative to reducing the level of protein deficiency in the nation.
She said eating soybeans, groundnuts, and other legumes would be largely beneficial to low-income earners who cannot afford animal protein food sources.
She disclosed that the Nigerian Protein Deficiency Report 2020 was a follow-up research on a previous survey carried out in 2019 to assess and gather empirical data on the level of protein deficiency in Nigeria.