Scientists advance food security, invent ‘giant rice’
*FAO, Nestle, UI adopt climate smart agricultural programmes
As part of efforts to boost food security and mark this year’s World Food Day on October 16, a new kind of rice that can grow as tall as 2.2 metres (7ft 2in) has been introduced.
The so-called ‘giant rice’ is expected to feed more people as scientists claimed its yield could be 50 per cent higher than ordinary rice, according to a report on China’s People’s Daily Online Tuesday.
Experts from the China said they had spent 10 years cultivating the new grain, which was unveiled on October 16. The theme of 2017 World Food Day is “Changing the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development.”
Also, the University of Ibadan (UI) and the food company, Nestle Plc. have collaborated in a project set to provide reliable data in the nutrition composition of all Nigeria foods.
The partnership translates into the gathering of reliable data on the nutrients contents of the foods consumed by Nigerians, especially, but not limited to the staple foods in each locality of the country.
Also, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), in a statement, on Tuesday, said it is addressing the root causes of migration by helping people build or rebuild livelihoods. FAO said it does this in many ways: giving farmers the right tools, teaching them techniques to produce more with what they have, helping rural people access money to start profitable activities and providing rural youth with other income-generating opportunities.
FAO also said it helps protect people and their livelihoods by working with partners to set up early warning systems. However, when natural disasters or conflicts cannot be avoided, FAO said it helps farmers get back on their feet by supplying the tools and seeds to start planting again. “This is also true in helping farmers respond to climate change impacts, like unforeseen droughts or floods. In the long term, FAO also helps farmers adopt climate smart agricultural techniques, like drought resistant crops and stormproof ponds, that help them both adapt to climate change and reduce the causes of climate change.”
Meanwhile, a team of researchers from the Institute of Subtropical Agriculture, Chinese Academy of Sciences, have planted and harvested the ‘giant rice’ on an experimental field, according to the People’s Daily Online report, citing Xinhua News Agency.
The experimental field is located in Jinjing Township of Changsha County, central China’s Hunan Province. The new type of rice is said to be 1.8 metres tall on average (5ft 10in), with the greatest ones reaching 2.2 metres.
Xia Xinjie, a researching involved in the project, expected the yield of the ‘giant rice’ to surpass 11.5 tonnes per hectare. Mr. Xia said the per-hectare yield is 50 per cent higher than the ordinary rice.
Xia added that experts had harvested more than 500 grains from a single ‘giant rice’ stalk. The Chinese scientists are said to have used a series of new technologies to cultivate the new rice, including mutation induction and hybridisation between different kinds of wild rice.
The ‘giant rice’ is due to greatly benefit China that is facing a shortage of farmers and a growing population.
“It is expected that 60 per cent more rice will need to be produced in 2030 compared to 1995,’ Yuan Longping, a renowned agricultural scientist, told People’s Daily Online, in an interview last month.
Yuan added: “Currently, one hectare for rice production provides food for 27 people. By 2050, one hectare will have to support 43 people.”
Nestlé Central & West Africa Region in a statement noted: “As we source more than 70 per cent of raw materials in Central and West Africa, farmers are critical to the sustainability of our business. By understanding and managing where and how our ingredients are produced and the issues farmers and communities face, we can help develop thriving communities and support better livelihoods for those with whom we live and work.
“In Central and West Africa, Nestlé is helping to boost food security by building strong agricultural value chains and supporting farmers to enhance their livelihoods. Through our purpose of “enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future”, one of our ambitions is to develop thriving, resilient communities by improving the lives of 30 million people living in communities directly connected to our business activities by 2030.
“We encourage you to access this link to read more about Nestlé’s efforts, in helping to build strong agricultural value chains in Central and West Africa. “We thank you for helping to create awareness about World Food Day and for sharing our stories.”
Prof. Tola Atimo, the chairman of a plenary session at the recent 47th annual general meeting and scientific conference of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, with the theme: “Controversies in Nutrition: Separating facts from fads and fallacies”, stated that some African Countries are serious about the scientific collation and reviewing of their food contents.
He added that as at 2016, there was no reliable comprehensive Nigerian food composition table or date base.
Dr. R. S. Sanusi, who is the Chief Investigator of the scheme, explained that in 1985, the Department of Human Nutrition of the University, in a bid to underscore the importance of the data scheme, wrote a proposal to Nestle to help fund the project.
His words: Technical meetings were held to do justice to data collected using a tool provided by the FAO in order to measure the veracity and accuracy of the data collected.”
While acknowledging the contribution of the food company, he advised that for archival and referencing sake, users and others should join the network to provide data for the project to work effectively in the country.
On the project itself, he expanded its scope to include the food composition table and database review and relevance.
He added that they are compositions of the components in foods and that they are relevant, reliable and up-to-date food composition data that are of fundamental importance in nutrition, dietetics and health.
The Ogun State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Babatunde Ipaye, told the august audience that graced the occasion that the nutritious messages will be spread across his state.
“On getting back to my state, I shall ensure that the nutritious messages shall be spread across the whole of Ogun State,” he said.
Mrs. Chioma Emma-Nwachukwu of Nestle Plc, who also doubles as the Nestle Nutrition Foundation’s Coordinator for the Sub-Saharan Africa, also spoke about the partnership between her company and U.I.
She expressed gratitude to Professor Akinyele of the University’s Department of Human Nutrition, who she said, started the laudable project.
“At a point, it was as if the project was going to be swept under the carpet, but today it has come to fruition.
“These were due to hard work and commitment. I saw the scientists at work during a session and I saw that a lot went into it.”