HarvestPlus’ Yellow Cassava… promoting nutrition through TV
DATELINE: Saturday, March 7, 2015. And it was a few minutes past 9pm local time; an important announcement was about to be made. Venue was Expo Hall, Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos. The event was the third edition of the AfricaMagic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA). The hall was packed to the brim with stakeholders in Africa’s Film/TV industry.
The tension in the air was thick enough to be sliced with a knife. Across Africa, in over 50 countries, over 100 million viewers stayed glued to their TV boxes awaiting the biggest news in the entertainment industry. Only five movies, out of over 2,000 entries received by the organizers of the AMVCA from filmmakers across Africa, made it to the final shortlist as Best Movie 2014.
Yellow Cassava, produced by Zeb Ejiro in partnership with HarvestPlus Nigeria, ran neck-to-neck with big budget movies of 2014: Kunle Afolayan’s October 1; Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen’s Invasion 1897, Steve Gukas’s A place in the stars and Frank Rajah Arase’s Iyore. When the final call was made, it was Afolayan’s October 1 that got the AMVCA’s gold statuette and acash prize of N1 million.
It appeared that Yellow Cassava had a very stiff competition in Kunle Afolayan’s October 1, as the latter won in the two categories: Best Movie 2014 and Best Script, for which Yellow Cassava was also nominated. The Yoruba title of Yellow Cassava movie, Dada Onipaki, by Fidelis Duker, was also nominated in the Best Indigenous Language category.
In retrospect, HarvestPlus is glad that its movies produced as info-edu-tainment tools to sensitize Nigerians on the benefits of Vitamin A Cassava, also known as yellow cassava, did very well a few months after their production.
The movies, when finally released to the general public, will not only create amusement among movie viewers, but will educate them on the need to choose and eat healthier and more nutritious foods rich in essential micronutrients required by body cells for optimum performance. Making it to the top five among over 2,000 entries from Africa is a great feat that has helped HarvestPlus get closer to one of its key objectives of reaching out to over 50 million Nigerians with information on Vitamin A Cassava in 2015. Available record shows that AfricaMagic channels on the platform of DStv and GOtv by MultiChoice Africa transmit to over 50 countries across Africa and are seen by over 100 million viewers.
The 2015 awards ceremony beamed live from the Lagos venue of the event has equally given Yellow Cassava a fair share of the word-of-mouth prominence it wouldn’t have got if it had not made it to that far.
AMVCA’s nomination is an endorsement for the movie’s credibility, excellent quality of production, thrilling content and the array of Nollywood stars it parades.
Yellow Cassava tells the story of a young and beautiful, agricultural extension worker, Vero, played by Nollywood star, Monalisa Chinda. Her posting to the rural village of Amuro to sensitize the populace on the bountiful yield of yellow cassava as well as its health benefits soon becomes the source of tension in her relationship with her fiancé, Dan (Chidi Mokeme). Other industry giants featured in the movie include: Segun Arinze and Emeka Ossai, among others. But beyond the love story of Vero and Dan, Yellow Cassava showcases the well-worn fact that people are usually slow to adopt new initiatives. In the end, it also points inevitably to a truism that “Better crops lead to better nutrients.”
Why HarvestPlus partnered Nollywood
“Partnering with Nollywood to make four movies in English and three major Nigerian languages – Ibo, Hausa, Yoruba – in 2014 was a strategic move by HarvestPlus to inform Nigerians on the need to produce and consume more nutritious crops,” said Paul Ilona, Country Manager, HarvestPlus Nigeria, who was also present at the awards ceremony. He thanked Nollywood and AfricaMagic for the honour and called on stakeholders in the country’s agricultural and health sectors to assist HarvestPlus in ensuring that every household in Nigeria gets access to more nutritious foods and a copy of the Yellow Cassava movies.
This, in his opinion, will enable them get adequate information on nutrition as well as tips on how to practice agriculture as a business. This will in turn yield maximum gains for the country when the socio-economic impact of the movie comes to play in their day-to-day life. People’s health will improve, jobs will be created and the economy will gradually stabilize, adequately diversified from oil.
Ademola Olanrewaju of Style Mania, in his remarks, says “the mass media (newspapers, magazines, radio, television and movies) are very powerful socializing agents despite their being impersonal sources because they reach large, heterogeneous and widely dispersed audiences. Their exact role in socialization is controversial but as disseminators of news and entertainment, they are extremely influential.” He states further that the mass media, especially television and movies, have been linked by several studies with having great influence on children, adolescents and even adults. Olanrewaju’s position provides adequate explanation to why HarvestPlus Nigeria chose Nollywood and movies to propagate the message of healthier nutrition.
Nollywood, Nigeria’s film and television industry is rated third biggest in terms of gross earnings and quality of movies produced in a year behind America’s Hollywood and India’s Bollywood. Nollywood is further rated second behind Bollywood when volume of movies produced per year is taken into consideration, condemning America’s Hollywood to third place.
Its revenue in the last four years is estimated between $500m and $1b, providing steady jobs to a teeming population of Nigerian youths.
A 2012 report released in London by Euromonitor International and Reed Exhibitions Limited, organizers of World Travel Market (WTM), predicted a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in Africa as a result of the boom in the local film industry dubbed ‘Nollywood’. Nigeria’s Nollywood is reported to have made a huge leap to about N9trn in size, with analysts confirming that the segment made about N1.72 trn in 2013 alone. In 2014, Nollywood accounted for about 1.2 percent of Nigeria’s rebased GDP of $510b.
AMVCA 2015 has further shown that Nollywood occupies the front-row position in the Films/TV sector in Africa. Nollywood movies accounted for over 80 percent of the nominations. It was therefore a wise decision to leverage on Nollywood to project HarvestPlus’s Yellow Cassava initiative, not only in Nigeria but across Africa.
AMVCA as Africa’s Oscars
There is no gainsaying the fact that AMVCA, which debuted in 2013, has overtaken all other laurels that celebrate Africa’s creativity in the movie and TV industry. After three consecutive years, AMVCAs have become the most coveted trophy in the entertainment, TV and movie industry in Africa. Rated as Africa’s Oscars, AMVCAs command a continental respect due to the pedigree of the organizers, AfricaMagic, its parent bodies, MultiChoice and M-Net Africa.
With only one channel in 2003, AfricaMagic now has eight channels that transmit 24/7 throughout the year on all MultiChoice platforms – DStv, GOtv, mobile and online. AfricaMagic was born out of the need to create an African platform for African stories, an objective the franchise has consistently fulfilled. The channels connect Africans across many divides and give everyone a true sense of belonging. Filmmakers understand the huge impact of AfricaMagic on movies made in Africa, hence their avowed support for AMVCAs.
AMVCA remains the only entertainment show that pulls together the crème de la crème of the creative industry; from fashion to make-up, to music, the list is inexhaustible. The glitz and glamour of an AMVCA night remain evergreen in one’s memory for years to come. “Getting close to clinching one of the 33 gold statuettes on display on March 7, 2015, was an experience HarvestPlus and its Nollywood partners will not forget in a hurry,” Ilona said.
After AMVCA, what’s next for Yellow Cassava?
The AMVCAs of 2014 have been won and lost. But much remains to be done, especially with the Yellow Cassava movies. “For HarvestPlus, we will not rest on our oars until the movies have been seen and successes are recorded in reducing Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD), which according to the World Health Organization (WHO) affects about 20 per cent of pregnant women and 30 per cent of children under-five in Nigeria,” Ilona said. He called on government, the private sector and well-meaning Nigerians to support HarvestPlus to achieve its objectives of fighting hidden hunger (micronutrient deficiency), poverty, and other social menace resulting from micronutrient malnutrition, and at times death using the vitamin A cassava initiative.
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