COCOYAM AND THE FIGHT AGAINST CORONAVIRUS

By Kayode Ojewale

WHEN one of the federal agencies, few days ago, announced that a tuber crop, cocoyam is effective in fighting the coronavirus, many were shocked because no one expected that old, long-abandoned and uncommon root crop could have immune-boosting nutrients that make it protect the body. Nobody pays attention to those extra nutritional values that cocoyam provides when compared with other tuber and root crops until it was made known by the agency. Cocoyam has minerals and materials that are very good for the body and can reduce instances of disease.

According to research, cocoyam is good for controlling high blood pressure and it also protects the heart due to its richness in Vitamin B6. The Federal Government agency, under the supervision of the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry, revealed that cocoyam is rich in nutrients that can combat infections of COVID-19.The Director-General of the Raw Materials Research and Development Council, RMRDC, Prof. Hussaini Ibrahim, hinted that cocoyam has high nutritional values.

According to Professor Hussaini, cocoyam is rich in nutrients like digestible starch, quality protein, varieties of essential vitamins and amino acids. The RMRDC boss stated clearly that cocoyam has long been neglected as a tuber crop, yet it has more nutritional benefits than cassava and yam.

In his explanation on how cocoyam can be used to fight COVID-19 infections, Prof. Hussaini said: “Some of the issues of those who fall to COVID-19 are those with diabetes, high blood pressure and some other opportunistic diseases that attack the immune system and when such people are exposed to COVID-19, they easily fall victims. So, what we are saying is that if you can take care of diabetes, then your immune system will be much higher. If you consume cocoyam, your body tends to have higher immune level that can combat the incidents of COVID-19, so cocoyam is very important because you will not fall easily to COVID-19, which is why we say it is a crop of choice to those who have the illness that can make one vulnerable to COVID-19.”

The RMRDC director general further added that “cocoyam is a veritable raw material with a lot of nutrients…has what we call low glycemic index. Sugar is converted to glycogen, which can be stored in the body so that when you have emergencies, glycogen will be pumped into the system and the body will process it. Consuming cocoyam will help because it has two carbohydrates, one fibre and the other we call resistant carbohydrate or starch.” The RMRDC chief also advised that those whose bodies are not functioning to full capacity in terms of production of insulin should consume cocoyam.

The science and technology industry in any country ought to be the driver of development and discovery in every other industry given the fact that it evolves with time and global changes. The industry affects every other industry because it is expected to come with something new and contrary to established customs or manners in which things are done. Nigeria’s Ministry of Science and Technology was recently changed to Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, STI, making it clearer to the citizens what they should expect in terms of delivery.

Minister of the newly changed ministry, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, said the change is to facilitate economic growth and global competitiveness as well as to make Nigeria a nation of innovators. This will, no doubt put the ministry on its toes to ensure economic growth and development in all other ministries. Most challenges facing the country can be solved using the various innovation-based methods. Dr. Onu further said that the development will help the ministry to bring a shift in research and development which is industry and service demand-driven, resulting in rapid commercialization and improved global competitiveness.

In the words of Dr. Onu: “Immediately we are able to commercialise research and development breakthroughs, the nation’s global competitiveness ranking will improve tremendously with varying degrees of development that are sustainable. These include a robust STI ecosystem that will accommodate continuous system improvement, product quality enhancement and guaranteed standardisation of Made-in-Nigeria goods and services. Nigeria would experience irreversible indigenous industrialisation with adequate platform for higher productivity.” The Minister further assured of continuous improvement in value added components of the economy, with quality employment generation in the economy, among others.

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