The recently published Food Sustainability Index 2016, by The Economist Intelligence Unit reveals that of 25 countries studied, Nigerians are facing acute nutritional problems.
The study reveals that one-third of Nigerian children under five are “stunted”, meaning they suffer reduced physical growth due to inadequate nutrition. “Hidden hunger”—a deficiency of micronutrients—is also a problem.”
Of the 25 countries used in the survey, Nigeria was ranked 23rd for the nutritional health of its population, below Ethiopia and Indonesia.
In the survey for vitamin A deficiency, Nigeria had a 29.5 percent prevalence. Nutrient deficiencies delay mental development in infants, reducing their ability to learn in later life, with a knock-on-effect on school performance.
Nutritional problems are particularly acute in the North-east, where over three million Nigerians are in urgent food crisis due to the conflict between Boko Haram insurgents and the army.
However, Nigeria was scored more positively for its agricultural sector, with high scores for water management and for investment in transport infrastructure, which can reduce food losses.
France and Japan come first and second at the rankings respectively, majorly for their excellent nutritional health, sustainable agricultural practices and proactive policies for reducing food waste.
The index research manager, Maria-Luiza Apostolescu, said Nigeria has huge potential for improving health outcomes of its population through policies and nutritional programmes despite major nutrition challenges.
Apostolescu adds that there is also room for improvement in terms of agricultural sustainability, especially ensuring that land ownership for smallholders is respected and enforced, which would incentivise farmers to invest in more sustainable farming practices that would safeguard soil quality and preserve water resources.
Since nutrition and agriculture influence so many social, environmental and economic factors, addressing these challenges will make a major contribution to Nigeria’s efforts to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The 2016 Food Sustainability Index, is developed with the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) Foundation. It analyses agriculture, nutrition and food waste in 25 countries, who account for 87% of global GDP and 72% of the world’s population.