Poor Ugandans living in rural and urban areas suffering from chronic under-nutrition will have access to two bio-fortified banana cultivars – matooke and sweet bananas by 2016.
Prof. Wilberforce Tushemereirwe, the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) national banana research programme leader said this.
“For a long time, the Ministry of Health identified the most critical nutritional micronutrients as Vitamin A and iron,” he recalled.
Iron deficiency anaemia is at about 73% of children under five years, 50% of pregnant women and accounts for about 30% of maternal deaths.
Children below the age of five are stunted due to malnutrition.
The recent Uganda Demographic and Health Survey shows the consequences of long-term nutritional deprivation can culminate in ill health and death.
“Iodine was one of the nutritional problems but was wiped out after the ministry made sure that all imported salt is iodized,” said Tushemereirwe.
A similar programme has been successfully done in Australia on Cavendish bananas where they have bio-fortified rice with pro-vitamin A using a gene from maize.
“The soybean gene ‘Ferritin’ has been inserted in the banana cells to make protein that enhances the stores iron in banana fruit pulp,” said Dr. Geofrey Arinaitwe, the banana biofortification project co-principle investigator.
“Other genes inserted are from yellow maize and ‘Asupina’ banana cultivar from South East Asian Islands, all very rich in pro-vitamin A carotenoid content that is converted into vitamin A by our body,” he added.
Already, 132 different transgenic banana lines put out in the confined field trial have each been inserted with the gene independently.
Arinaitwe said this is the first time for Ugandans and Africa to develop genetically modified crops (Banana 21) to reach the stage of confined field trial.
After the bio-fortification research, pro-vitamin A and iron-rich bananas will go through food and environment safety assessments before they are released to farmers.
Uganda produces 10 million tonnes of banana annually, making her the world’s second largest banana producer after India.
Fred Arnold, Sulabha Parasuraman, P. Arokiasamy, and Monica Kothari. 2009. Nutrition in India. National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3), India, 2005-06. Mumbai: International Institute for Population Sciences; Calverton, Maryland, USA: ICF Macro.
This report provides clear evidence of the poor state of nutrition among young children, women, and men in India and the lack of progress over time, based on measurements of height and weight, anaemia testing, testing for the iodization of household cooking salt, utilization of nutrition programmes, and information on child feeding practices and vitamin A supplementation. Young children in India suffer from some of the highest
levels of stunting, underweight, and wasting observed in any country in the world, and 7 out of every 10 young children are anaemic. The percentage of children under age five years who are underweight is almost 20 times as high in India as would be expected in a healthy, well-nourished population and is almost twice as high as the average percentage of underweight children in sub-Saharan African countries. Although poverty is an important factor in the poor nutrition situation, nutritional deficiencies are widespread even in households that are economically well off. Inadequate feeding practices for children make it difficult to achieve the needed improvements in children’s nutritional status, and nutrition programmes have been unable to make much headway in dealing with these serious nutritional problems.
Adults in India suffer from a dual burden of malnutrition (abnormal thinness and overweight or obesity). Almost half of Indian women age 15-49 (48 percent) and 43 percent of Indian men age 15-49 have one of these two nutritional problems. Although the percentage of women and men who are overweight or obese is not nearly as high as it is in many developed countries, this is an emerging problem in India that especially
affects women and men in urban areas, those with higher educational attainment, and those living in households in the highest wealth quintile.
‘We don’t know if it’s good to eat moles… ‘ – January 03 2009 at 12:23PM
Hunting for moles and other small animals to eat has become something of an art for the poor residents of White House Village informal settlement in Belhar, especially among the young boys.
When a Weekend Argus team visited the settlement this week, most of the young boys in the area were out hunting animals for their next meal. They use a combination of sticks with nails, knives, traps and fast reflexes to catch moles, pigeons and even snakes.
And the younger residents of the Belhar informal settlement are not alone in this – residents in many other Cape Flats informal settlements also hunt for food.
‘… as long as there is something in the stomach’
Jonathan Jacobs, 32, of White House Village, said hunting for animals, especially moles, was “normal” to him as he had often eaten them. He is unemployed and collects copper from old radios, television sets and microwaves for cash. But hunting is an easier option for food.
Jacobs said he and his girlfriend and four children all ate moles and were not worried about whether they would make them sick. “We don’t know if it is good to eat moles but as long as there is something in the stomach. It tastes like chicken, it just takes time to prepare.”
According to Jacobs, his children have never been sick from eating moles.
Jerome van der Westhuizen, a leader in the informal settlement, said life was very hard at White House Village. He added that they did not have a problem with the young boys hunting and actually encouraged them to hunt instead of turning to crime.
Another resident, George du Preez, described moles as “very clean animals” because they ate plants. He said he often caught them in his little garden.
‘… who knows what could happen to them?’
Dr Rafiq Khan, a well known Cape Town paediatrician, called the shortage of food and the need to hunt to survive a “social emergency”. “I am extremely shocked to hear that this is the kind of thing these kids have to resort to.
“It is not part of the human diet and the consequences of protein from the wild in the diet are dangerous – who knows what could happen to them?”
“If they are being exposed to this kind of food we will end up with casualties of all kinds from weird diseases because we don’t know what these animals eat.”
Khan said because children were the most vulnerable to diseases such as malnutrition, eating wild animals could have a negative impact on their growth and development. He added that the government needed to step in urgently.
Allan Perrins, CEO of the SPCA in the Western Cape, said they had not heard of this kind of “survival crime”. “We need to remind the public that they could find themselves on the wrong side of the law by hunting wildlife without proper permission and by means of cruel methods, especially in protected wild areas.
“The law does not differentiate between species and we will react to any acts of cruelty towards any animal, even a mole or a snake, some of which are in fact a protected and threatened species.
“We would also caution against ‘eating anything that moves’ for a variety of reasons, not least the spread of disease.”
He said they would now investigate the matter and embark on a preventative educational campaign.
Perrins said they had heard of a similar matter a few months ago when builders working on a construction site near the airport were braaiing what looked like a wild animal. They discovered that the men had eaten road kill.
Meanwhile, Anneke Brits, spokeswoman for the organisation Cat Pals in Gauteng, has reported a noticeable increase in the number of cats caught in traps set by homeless people who slaughter and eat them.