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Nestlé Joins forces with IITA to improve the livelihoods of African farmers

By Godwin Atser
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Nestlé, the leading nutrition, health and wellness company has joined forces with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, (IITA) Ibadan, the biggest agricultural research institute in Africa, to increase crops' productivity, guarantee food security and improve the incomes of resource-poor farmers.

Speaking during a courtesy visit to the IITA, the Executive Vice President (Operations and GLOBE) for Nestlé S. A. of Switzerland, Mr. José Lopez said the collaboration with IITA was in tandem with Nestlé principle of Creating Shared Value for business and society. He said that “the company invests in those areas where the potential for joint value creation is the greatest and seeks collaborative action with relevant stakeholders such as IITA.”

According to Mr. Lopez, the wellbeing of the communities from which Nestlé draws her raw materials and local labour is vital to the company's success.

He said that Nestlé spends approximately CHF 20.4 billion (about N3 trillion) on raw materials and works directly with approximately 540,000 farmers to help them increase their productivity, protect the environment and climb out of poverty. The Nestlé boss said that about 3.4 million people in developing countries earned their livelihood from Nestlé supply chain.

The Director-General of IITA, Peter Hartmann welcomed the interest shown by Nestlé in IITA's research and promised that the institute was willing to partner with the private sector in increasing yields and ensuring food security in Africa. In his words: “Our scientists have been working with Nestlé for a long time and we see this as another opportunity to forge ties ahead. We have a lot to work in common whether in the area of biological risk control, crop improvement and/or nutrition.”

Currently sourcing all of its maize locally, Nestlé Nigeria says it welcomes IITA's technology in the control of aflatoxins in grains.

Aflatoxins, which are produced mainly by the fungus Aspergillus flavus in maize, groundnuts, cassava, and yam chips, are potent causes of cancer and they also suppress the immune system causing humans and animals (through feeds) to be more susceptible to diseases.

Economically, high levels of aflatoxins contamination in agricultural products act as international trade barriers with global trade losses estimated at US$1.2 billion annually.

The good news, however, is that IITA has developed maize varieties and a product—aflasafe™-- that can reduce aflatoxin contamination to internationally acceptable levels.

Dr. Ranajit Bandyopadhyay, IITA Pathologist, says combating the effect of aflatoxins will not only benefit IITA/Nestle but also the farmers and consumers of Nestlé products.