A Swiss-based Foundation, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) on Thursday awarded N4 million equity-free micro grants to two nutritious food vendors in Kaduna.
The grants were presented to the beneficiaries, Med Grains and Numical Industries, at an Agribusiness Innovation Clinic, a stakeholder dialogue session with the government, development, and private sector stakeholders organised by GAIN.
GAIN’s Project Manager, Business Support, Mercy Olorunfemi, said the initiative was launched under the
Business Support workstream of the Strengthening Nutrition in Priority Staples Project (SNiPS).
She said it aimed at empowering women and youths-led agribusinesses, farmer’s associations, and cooperatives in Nigeria to
foster innovation and promote nutritious food products in the region.
Olorunfemi said that agribusinesses played a critical role in Nigeria’s economy, where it generates employment, ensures food security and contributes to the overall economic development.
She, however, said that access to finance has consistently challenged agribusinesses in the country, where it hinders growth and potential impact.
According to Olorunfemi, one primary obstacle faced by Nigerian agribusinesses is securing financing for innovative solutions.
“High-interest rates offered by banks and financial institutions further compound the challenges for agribusinesses seeking loans,” she lamented.
The project manager added that GAIN’s micro grant funding was established to bridge the gap, provide equity-free grants to entrepreneurs operating in vitamin ‘A’ maize and cassava, and orange-fleshed sweet potato sectors.
Olorunfemi said the support aimed to commercialise nutrient-enriched food products in Kaduna, Benue,Nasarawa, and Oyo States.
“The GAIN micro grant funding opportunity not only supports entrepreneurs but also contributes to the broader mission of addressing malnutrition in Nigeria.
“By investing in innovative solutions and nutritious food businesses, GAIN seeks to make a lasting impact on the nutrition and well-being of communities throughout the nation,”she said.
Also, Mr Godwin Ehiabhi, GAIN’s Senior Project Manager, Supply Chain for Commercialisatio, said the SNiPS project in Nigeria was in partnership with GIZ and the Green Innovation Centre for the Agricultural and Food Sector in Nigeria.
He said it was supported by the German Government through the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
According to Ehiabhi, ensuring food and nutrition security is one of the most pressing challenges for sustainable social and economic development in Nigeria.
He said, “Meeting this need presents an important opportunity for tackling malnutrition. Diets rural Nigerians are particularly poor.
”Many Nigerians currently experience vitamin and mineral deficiencies leading to severe health outcomes including premature and preventable death especially in under 5-year-olds.
“According to NDHS 2018, approximately 66% of Nigerian children are at risk of vitamin ‘A’ deficiency due to a lack of diversity in their diets as a consequence of poverty”.
Speaking further, the senior project manager lamented that food safety was also a problem in informal markets where Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) operate.
According to him, poor food safety regulations, policies, poor food safety knowledge and practices mean that consumers are exposed to unsafe foods.
“SMEs, who handle most of the food that is produced, transported, marketed, and consumed in low-income countries such as Nigeria are hindered by a lack of business knowledge and skills, and often lack resources for innovation.
“GAIN will leverage on its existing work and partnerships in the selected implementation states to achieve the set objectives of this project, ultimately impacting positively on the nutrition indices of Nigerians who live and work in these states and beyond.
“We are thrilled to celebrate the winners of the GAIN microgrant funding for nutritious food Businesses in Kaduna State “Nutritious food entrepreneurs are at the forefront of promoting nutrition and food security in their communities.
We are confident that these grants will help them expand their reach and make a meaningful difference in the lives of many,” Ehiabhi said.
Earlier, the Kaduna State Commissioner for Agriculture, Malam Murtala Dabo, commended GAIN for the gesture.
Represented by the ministry’s Director of Agricultural Services, Mr Bege Bungwon, he said the ministry was compiling all the actors in agricultural space.
He said the essence was to know what all the stakeholders were doing in order to track all the investments in the agricultural sector in the state, including GAIN’s SNiPS project.
Dabo, therefore, said both beneficiaries would scale their operations with the grant, ensure food security and nutrition through access to vitamin A-fortified foods for the benefit of the state.
He urged other businesses in the state to ensure proper registration of their businesses with all the necessary bodies in order for them to stand chances of benefiting from such grants in the future.
One of the beneficiaries, Mr Ahmed Oyewale, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Med grains, said he would use the grant in the procurement of bio-fortified maize and also expand his business.
Oyewale said that Med grains process and package vitamin ‘A’ maize into value-added products such as flour.
He said that the grant would enable him to also procure more water filters for his industry, adding,” it forms a major component in their production.”
He thanked GAIN for the gesture, while pledging to use the grant judiciously.
Also, Mr Harry Gaiya, the CEO of Numical Industries, said they produce various vitamin ‘A’ maize-derived products, including gruel (Tom brown).
He said that many people were aware of the concept of tom brown, adding, ”but not everybody knows the right proportion of grains and pulses that would give the needed nutrients for children.”
Gaiya said that they would use part of the grant for promoting and sensitising the public about the product.
“We designed our products with the help of some nutritionists and we are now able to brown according to the right portion to give the effective needed nutrients for children,”he said.
He also thanked GAIN for finding him worthy of the grant, while pledging to make judicious use of it for the growth of his business and improving nutritional statuses of children.
NAN reports that GAIN was launched at the UN in 2002 to address human suffering caused by malnutrition.
It is working with governments, businesses and CSOs aimed at transforming food systems to deliver more nutritious foods for all people, especially the most vulnerable.