By Chinyere Anyanwu [email protected]
Nigerian farmers have been urged to take advantage of the huge opportunities offered by agricultural biotechnology applications to enhance their productivity.
The call was made recently by the Deputy Governor of Kano State, Dr. Nasiru Gawuna, at a retreat on agricultural biotechnology and biosafety in Kano State, organised by the Nigerian chapter of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Africa.
Speaking at the programme organised in conjunction with the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) and the Programme for Biosafety Systems (PBS) Washington DC, Gawuna said agricultural biotechnology is key to ensuring a food secured Nigeria.
“For many decades, we have been experiencing a gradual decline in our farming population, static land size with an ever-increasing population that must be fed. Meeting this demand looks almost impossible when viewed against our degraded land, poor yield and the emergence of new crop diseases and pests.
“Over the past 20 years, value-added per capita in agriculture has risen by less than 1 per cent annually. According to FAO, Nigeria has lost $10 billion in annual export opportunities from groundnut, palm oil, cocoa and cotton alone due to a continuous decline in the production of those commodities. The main factors undermining production include reliance on rain-fed agriculture, smallholder land holding and low productivity due to poor planting material, low fertiliser application, a weak agricultural extension system, among others,” he noted.
He pointed out that agricultural biotechnology offers the potential to tackle pests, climate issues and enhance food productivity, saying, “our strength as a country lies in our ability to optimise our agricultural production to create jobs, create incomes and raise the standard of living of our people. For all this, agricultural biotechnology offers us a golden platform and I think we should grab it with both hands.”
Represented by his Special Adviser on Agriculture, Mr. Hafiz Muhammed, Gwauna highlighted the role of the media in sensitising and educating the public and farmers on the importance of embracing technology to improve agricultural productivity.
He emphasised the position of the media as strategic in national development, as, without it, understanding and buying into the use of modern and emerging technologies, as well as the efforts of the government to enhance the living standard of the people will be in vain.
He assured the organisers of the event of the state government’s support and buy-in for the technology to ensure farmers’ access to improved seeds.
Earlier in her remarks, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Kano State, Dr. Binta Umar Bala, applauded OFAB Nigeria for its relentless efforts in advocating for a food-secure Nigeria.
Bala said she was happy to see stakeholders coming together in collaboration for the betterment of the country and the advancement of the country’s agricultural system and food production. She further implored the media to gain useful knowledge and information that they can apply in their profession for the advancement and progress of the nation.
In her overview of the biotech programme in Nigeria, the Country Coordinator, OFAB Nigeria, Dr. Rose Gidado, gave a precise definition of biotechnology; how it encompasses all aspects of science and its impact on the nation, its application in agriculture (especially), health, industry and environment. She said the worry of feeding the nation’s ever-growing population and generating sustainable income and development in the country has become the crux of discussions.
Also, she outlined the impacts of biotech crops to include increase in crop productivity, alleviation of poverty and hunger, conservation of biodiversity and reduction of CO2 emissions.