Shettima, Agric Experts Recommend Ways To Address Food Insecurity

At the maiden edition of the agricultural summit of the Al-Hikmah University Ilọrin, which focused on “Meeting the Challenges of Food Insecurity in Nigeria: Agricultural Technology to the Rescue,” experts have suggested various ways for achieving food security.

Vice President Kashim Shettima during the summit said Nigerian universities should take full advantage of “the growing influence of technology” to improve the sector.

“In 25 years, we will have a population of about 450 million people with only about 100 million actively involved in economic activities who will have to be prepared to be optimally productive through a visionary and sustained marriage between technology and raw assets.

“The nation must begin to focus on a future where its universities “lead the world in research and innovation, from where they will graduate students who will move directly into the agricultural industry as competent entrepreneurs,” the VP had said, adding that over 90 percent of Nigerian farmers still practice subsistence farming.

But against this backdrop, the Executive Director of Nigeria Stored Product Research Institute (NSPRI), Prof Lateef Sanni, said during the conference, that despite its potentials, Nigeria is still lagging behind in the deployment of technology to improve agriculture and food production.

According to him, Al-Hikmah and most Nigerian universities are blessed with large expanses of agricultural space which can generate huge money mixed with the technology.

“Food security is the availability, affordability and accessibility of food. Our population is increasing exponentially which means we have to double our production and having the land for the opportunity of mechanised farming is a plus. Youth involvement in business and agriculture with its value chain is becoming more important. Our universities should ensure their graduates are job creators rather than job seekers through agriculture technology.

“Nigeria is the highest producer of cassava and ginger globally with 63 million metric tons of the former and close to 25 metric tons of Yam. Yet, we are not available at the international market. The implication is that we kept all our powers at the production level.

“So while Nigeria is the best production nation, it is not producing the best quality of the needed seeds because of subsistence farming. Today, how many universities have tractors for farming?” he noted.

While stressing that “Nigeria must do away with the love for imported food,” the NSPRI boss said the country must overcome the issue of low yield, inputs and post-harvest waste, among others.

The Vice Chancellor, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Prof Olusola Kehinde, said the problem of food insecurity in the country has reached a disturbing rate.

He said the challenge of drought and lack of adequate or too much rain has worsened the situation, adding that the issue of predicting and deploying technologies to get the correct precision of the climate must be encouraged.

“This is a challenge for our government to get these precision and drone technologies among others, especially for the bulk of farmers who are scattered across the villages and rural areas.

“Behind every technological advancement lies the sweat and blood of farmers and as we embrace agricultural technology, we must not lose sight of the human aspect of farming,” the VC who was represented by Prof Adebayo Oni noted.

He said “Looking at the farming landscape, Nigeria’s projected population explosion will exert a lot of pressure on our food system. But the majority of our farmers are still practising subsistence farming and due to urbanisation, farmers are having limited access to fertile lands. Smallholder farmers who constitute the backbone of the agriculture sectors lacked access to agricultural technologies and knowledge. This must change.”

He posited that most farmers are idle during the dry season except in some riverine areas that have enough water bodies to sustain dry season farming.

“Sadly, bodies like river basin authorities who are supposed to deploy water for dry season farming by providing irrigation are now into pure water factories.

“So, we are expecting that when universities, research institutes, and government agencies develop this innovation, our government should be able to fund and commercialise it. Unfortunately, some of these discoveries end up on the shelf.

He said there must be a meeting point between herding and ranching with the right and appropriate technologies to support the farmers, and called the government at both federal and state levels to resuscitate abandoned farm settlements across the country, which have become hideouts for bandits and kidnappers, to improve food and animal production in the country.

“Our livestock production like fura and cheese are not at the commercial level because of the issue of storage. But the government, both federal and states, can solve this through technology with the establishment of processing centres through NSPRI and other relevant agencies,” he noted.

The Chief Operating Officer of the N600 million poultry GGMax, Gawaji Dayo, owned by University of Ilọrin, who revealed that he had spent over three decades farming said “farmers have to look inward for very good alternatives when the prices of feed get out of hand just like we did. It was difficult surviving that period of feed hike but today, we have scaled up production to over 70 percent because of our domesticated solutions.”

He said processing is the way to go because “Even while not planting, you can fold your hands at home and relax, allow the farmers to plant and buy the harvested crops for processing because that is where the real money is in agriculture. But unfortunately, that is where we are getting it wrong as a country. During mango season, you see a lot of rotten ones infested by flies but in other climes, a mango harvest after three years is still fresh and available to eat because they have added value.”

The Head, Planning Research Statistics of Forest Reserve Institute of Nigeria (FRIN), Dr Osikabor Benson, while speaking on how to use forest to boost food security, stressed on the need for tree planting to boost the carbon in the environment and urged universities to adopt the course.

For Mr Alabi Olaitan of the Kwara State Agricultural Development Programme (KWADP), there is a need for more funding to bridge the widening gap between the research centres/extension workers and the smallholder farmers scattered across the rural areas who are the bulk producers.


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