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Bio-fortification of selected staple foods in Southwest Nigeria with Selenium to mitigate diabetics and HIV/AIDs

Our food, our medicine

Photo of Idowu Babadele Famuwagun
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Researcher Institution

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Southwest States of Nigeria, covers an area of about 85,000 square kilometer of land mass consisting of six states.

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

I am a native of Ondo state, Southwest, Nigeria. I was born and breed in the land and have being living in the region for over 40 years. All my educational qualification were from institutions located in this region. I have traveled across the length and breath of the different states of the region for different assignment ranging from agricultural services, education, research, tourism, social relationship, religious activities among others. I have a proper understanding of the terrain of the selected region

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

The south west region of Nigeria offers a wide range of sights and experiences; from the beaches in Lagos to the natural springs in Osun state and from the historic city of Ibadan to the mountain caves of Ogun state. South West Nigeria has six states; Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo. It is mainly a Yoruba speaking area. The weather conditions vary between the two distinct seasons in Nigeria; the rainy season (March – November) and the dry season (November – February). Ekiti – Fountain of Knowledge, is a state in western Nigeria. The state has 16 local government areas, with its capital in Ado-Ekiti. The people of the state can trace its ancestry to Oduduwa, the father and ancestor of the Yoruba race. Ekiti people are predominantly farmers with more than 50% of the population in the practice. They speak English, Ekiti and other varying dialects. The common foods of ekiti are pounded yam, Garri, coco yam amd plantain. Lagos – Centre of Excellence was created on May 27th, 1967 and consists of four islands; Lagos Island, Victoria Island, Ikoyi and Iddo . It has 57 local government areas, and was the capital of Nigeria until 1976. It is known as the ‘centre of excellence’, as it is the commercial nerve-centre of Nigeria, having more than half of its industrial investments. The slogan ‘work all day, party all night’ cannot be truly experienced anywhere else. Victoria Island is the main nightlife district in Lagos Ogun – Gateway State was created in 1976 with Abeokuta as the capital. Abeokuta means ‘under the stone’. Its towns of importance Sagamu, Ijebu Ode and Ilaro served as markets during the mining industry’s better times and still do today. Ogun state comprises of varying dialects of the Yoruba language; the Egbas, the Egbados, the Ijebus, the Remos. Ogun deals in traditional arts, carving, sculpture, smithery amongst others. The state covers a landmass of 16,409sqkm, and the common food s are water yam, pounded yam, rice, amala, maize and Garri Ondo – Sunshine State, created on the 3rd of February 1976 the largest cocoa producing State in Nigeria. It has 18 local government areas with its capital in Akure. Ondo is blessed with resourceful, industrious and hospitable people. The state boasts subsistence farmers, fishermen and traders as well as a seasoned crop of educated. they love pounded yam, garri, plantain, cocoyam and maize. Osun – State of Living Spring, an inland state with Osogbo as its capital city. The people of Osun are hospitable and very industrious, involved in all sorts of trades. Osun has 30 local government areas. the common food are Amala, Garri, pounded yam, Maize and millet. Oyo – Pace Setter State, is in the south-west of Nigeria and it was among the 3 states carved out of the former Western State of Nigeria in 1976. The state has 33 local government areas. The climate is ideal for the cultivation of crops like maize, yam, cassava, millet, rice, plantain and cashew.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Food is defined as any nutritious substance that human or animals eat or drink or that plants absorb in order to maintain and sustain life for growth and development. The kind of food you eat can affect the efficiency of your body processes. Body function and the food that sustains it is infinitely complex. Food is in fact one of the most complicated sets of chemicals imaginable. Getting to know which nutrients are in which foods can help us to understand something of this complex relationship between our food and our body. The chemical composition of any food was traced mainly to the constituents of the soil on which it grows. It was a known fact that the healthier your food the better your health Soil with high nutrient status was found to yield healthy and nutritious food products. Geographical link exist between regions of selenium deficient soils and peak incidences of HIV/AIDS infection (Taylor et al., 1997; Muzenbo et al., 2019). Selenium up-regulates a major component of antioxidant defense mechanism by controlling the body’s glutathione (GSH) pool and its major Se-containing antioxidant enzyme, glutathione peroxidase (GPx) (Dong et al., 2018). Plant foods are the major dietary sources of selenium in most countries throughout the world.. The content of Selenium in food depends on the Se content of the soil where the plants were cultivated. In China, selenium deficient regions are known as the Chinese “disease belt” where the daily average intake of selenium is less than 10μg unlike parts of US and Canada where daily selenium, intake is 170μg (Taylor, 1997). In Southwest Nigeria, there is inadequate data on the selenium distribution across the soils of the six states. More so, the rate at which HIV/AIDs and diabetics are spreading presently (2020) in the region if not curtail may spell doom to the inhabitant of the region before 2050. The greatest issue of concern relating to this is the poverty level coupled with diminishing household income, poor social amenities development, high cost of quality healthcare services, which makes living hell for the people. This vision aims at solving HIV/AIDs and diabetics in the region by making selenium biofortified foods available at no extra cost to the people and also makes the farmers in the region grow crops on soils that have being enriched with selenium thereby reducing healthcare cost, reducing disease incidence, increasing productivity, increase income generation from sales of products and improved livelihood . the vision looks ahead for HIV/Aids and diabetics free region through dietary approach come 2050.   

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

This research aims to determine the effect of selenium-biofortified food crop-based diets on diabetics and HIV/AIDS patients. General Objectives: The main objective of this study is to determine the selenium levels in soils, water and selected common foods crop produced in the area of research (southwest Nigeria), and to establish the best vehicle for supplementing selenium in soil and foods as dietary means of preventing/ managing diabetics and HIV/AIDS. The specific objectives of the project are to: i.determine the selenium content of selected soils, water and foods in the six southwest states in Nigeria; ii.quantify the rate of bio-accumulation of selenium in selected food crops grown on selenium – fortified soils; iii.evaluate the safety of Selenium-biofortified food crops; and iv.assess the efficacy of Selenium-biofortified diets in the management of diabetics and HIV/AIDS patients using antioxidant status, reduction of CD-4 count, viral load and serum antioxidant marker enzymes as response indices. 

CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK Selenium up-regulates body’s glutathione (GSH) pool and its major Se-containing antioxidant enzyme, glutathione peroxidase (GPx) (Dong et al., 2018). Glutathione peroxidase (GPX) is a seleno-protein and an antioxidant component of the body, HIV encodes a seleno-protein with similarity to GPX , Decreased GPX activity can induce oxidative stress that promotes degenerative diseases, Adequate levels of Selenium are necessary for the immune system, and particularly T-cells, to function properly. Depletion in Se could lead to immune deficiencies characteristic of viral infections. Increased dietary sources of Se would go a long way at curbing selenium deficiencies and promote high immune and antioxidant response to viral diseases. Incorporating Se into soil that is deficient through fertilizer application will automatically make it available for crop uptake and also be stored in the food products which are consumed by all thereby improving the immune systems of the consumers against most viral infection as well as reducing the amount of money spent on health (drug and hospital bills), more people stays alive to produce more food and help the world systems. Selenium based fertilizer will be developed, produced and use to grow three most consumed vegetables, cereals and legumes in each states as a pilot farm where rate of absorption by plant will be monitored and the proximate analysis will also be carried out on the products to know the Se and other nutrient status of the food. Bio-assay experiment will be conducted on the food products using albino rat before conducting clinical trials on diabetics and HIV/Aids patient through the supply of the food products. Data will be collected on their health status for possible response.

The fertilizer formulation will later be made available for fertilizer companies for commercial production to ensure the adaptability of the research report indirectly.   

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

This project is expected to provide information on the selenium contents of soil, food and water in the different states of south west Nigeria thereby creating awareness ; 2. relationship between spread of HIV/AIDS and soil selenium contents in Nigeria; 3. selenium biofortified foods will be available for people consumption; 4. safety of selenium biofortified vegetables will be ascertained, and 5. ability of the foods/vegetables to prevent /manage HIV/AIDS will be established.

Adopting the outcome of this research vision, will automatically upscale the selenium content of the soil in the area thereby increasing the intake of the micro-nutrient. It will also reduce viral diseases index in the area thereby improving their health status. Income generation goes up as a result of more people in production, more opportunity to export their food products as a result of increase selenium content and ability increase savings since money for drugs are now diverted to other uses.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

The vision shall be for a regenerative and nourishing food future for the southwest states of Nigeria as the following shall be addressed. The environment: the vision shall be environmentally friendly as the intended minerals (selenium) is soil based and a micro nutrient required of plant. fortifying the soil with the required quantity of selenium in form of fertilizer will ensure long term effects thereby making available the right quantity of the mineral required of crop per growing season. More so, the diet of the consumers shall be affected positively as the availability of selenium in the right quantity in their meal will enhance proper hormonal coordination, normalcy in digestion and absorption processes, organ regulation and healthy living. The economic and cultural life of the people shall also be positively influenced as less money will be spent on drugs, and fertilizer. Fortified organo-mineral fertilizer will ensure safety of the environment and the crop products. Chemical Compositional Studies shall be carried out to ensure the safety of the products to both man and the environment. Determination of the antioxidant properties of the selenium-biofortified foods, bioassay on selenium bio-fortified food diets. Safety evaluation of selenium bio-fortified food diets, effect of selenium bio-fortified food diets on serum antioxidant status, clinical trials on selenium bio-fortified food diets shall be conducted. The stakeholders in the agricultural sector of the region, ministries of agriculture, agriculture development programs, NGOs, Institutions, farmers group and cooperatives societies, youth in agriculture, and women in agriculture, medical personnel, hospitals and caregivers will be involved in execution of the research findings. Method •The current intervention strategies against HIV/AIDS in Nigeria including: •social campaign for safe sex/abstinence •the use of antiretroviral drugs •Have limited impact due to: • inability to enforce the social change • high cost and non-availability of antiretroviral. •Therefore, this study presents an opportunity nation-wide, affordable and acceptable means of managing/preventing HIV/AIDS via selenium biofortified vegetables Short-term goal •The immediate goal of this research is to create awareness on the potentials of selenium-rich foods as dietary intervention for HIV/AIDS prevention and management, •and to improve soil selenium content and ultimately food selenium content in six geopolitical zones of Nigeria. Long-term goal •The main goal of this project is to develop a sustainable selenium fortification programme in the six geopolitical (North-east, North-west, North-central, South-south, South-east and South-west) zones of Nigeria as dietary intervention in the prevention and/or management of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. This project will be carried in seven interrelated phases Phase I: Samples and Data collection on HIV/AIDS status Activity 1: Study location and Sample collection •Preliminary Investigation •Field Studies Activity 2: Data collection on HIV/AIDS status in the zones Phase II: Determination of Selenium content of soil, water and food Activity 3: Determination of Selenium content of soil Activity 4: Determination of Selenium content of water Activity 5: Determination of Selenium content of food Phase III: Bioaccumulation of Selenium in Plant food Activity 6: Cultivation of commonly consumed vegetables in selenium fortified soil Phase IV: Chemical composition and antioxidant properties of Selenium Bio-fortified Vegetables Activity 7: Chemical Compositional Studies Activity 8: Determination of the antioxidant properties of the selenium-biofortified vegetables Phase V: Bioassay on Selenium Bio-fortified Vegetable Diets Activity 9: Safety evaluation of Selenium Bio-fortified Vegetable Diets Activity 10: Effect of Selenium Bio-fortified Vegetable Diets on Serum Antioxidant Status Phase VI: Clinical trials on Selenium Bio-fortified Vegetable Diets Activity 11: HIV-AIDS clinical trial Phase VII: Data analysis and project write-up Activity 12: Data analysis & project write-up


Digital maps of the area showing the selenium contents in the soil, the HIV/Aids and diabetics Data before and after the treatment will be produced. 

Selenium based Organo-mineral fertilizer will be developed

Actual vegetables and food crops that best accumulate selenium will be identified and recommended in each trial location.

Conducting of bio-assay on the food products

Tocicity test under invivo and invitro conditions

Inpacts of the products on diabetics and HIV/Aids patients.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Conference/event

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Mat Jones

Well done, your application shows how nutritional research can inform priorities for the mineral composition of foods. It is interesting to think how by 2050 data sciences will be able to focus efforts on key priorities for action with regard to disease management and prevention.