When authors deliberated on food security

Dr Lalekan Are, Professor Niyi Osundare and Professor Femi Osofisan

FOOD is just so important to human beings, and it is, therefore, not a surprise that the University Press Plc decided to deliberate on Nigeria’s food security in this year’s Authors’ Forum.

Now in its ninth year, Authors’ Forum brings together authors on the publishing firm’s platform to deliberate on issues of national importance.

In his opening remarks at this year’s event, Chief Lalekan Are, chairman of UP Plc, decried the situation whereby Nigeria relied solely on food importation when it had all the resources to produce enough for its citizens.

“Today, we important a huge percentage of the food we consume, and this is not good enough when, with adequate planning, we can produce enough for our citizens, while also reducing unemployment.

“We also have good weather to aid our agricultural sector, so we should look at why we are not doing the necessary things to develop our agriculture,” Dr Are said.

In his lecture, Professor Charles Asadu of the Department of Soil Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), explained that food scarcity arises as a result of shortage of production.

“We need to set goals; look at how much time will be taken to achieve the set goals; look at the planting and harvesting periods, as well as processing of the agricultural produce and storage,” Professor Asadu said.

Reeling the country’s agricultural statistics, the UNN don said, “In Nigeria today, 70 per cent of the population are farmers, while 80 per cent are small holder farmers.

“Seventy per cent of the farmers practice mix-cropping, while the small holder farmer supply 80 per cent of food consumed in urban areas.

“Agriculture contributes to 24 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while only two per cent of the Federal allocation goes to this important sector.

“It is necessary to note that Nigeria has all it takes to feed its citizens and replace oil as the country’s major source of revenue. However, due to certain issues, we have neglected the agricultural sector.

“This neglect came during the period of the oil boom, and it became agriculture doom for the sector. It is unfortunate that we have agricultural policies on paper, but implementation is our major problem.

“Our policies don’t also take into consideration the existing system in the grass roots, where the majority of Nigeria’s foods are produced. In fact, 80 per cent of the foods eaten by our citizens are produced by small holder farmers.

“As a result, the government must encourage those into agriculture; our youths, in particular, must be made to go into agriculture, and they must be supported with mechanisation.

“We have all it takes to surmount food insecurity, but we just need the right support from government,” Professor Asadu said.

Supporting Professor Asadu’s position, Professor Niyi Osundare agreed that the country had good policies on paper, but implementation remained the problem.

“Our youths also don’t want to work any longer; they believe in working less and earning more, and this boils down to our value system, which we need to get right again,” Professor Osundare said.

However, Professor Femi Osofisan wondered how mechanisation of the agricultural sector would not lead to job losses in the sector, since mechanisation reduces manpower.

The professor of Theatre Arts was, however, reminded by Dr Are that the small holder farmer would be would to expand given the right support, particularly through agricultural equipment like tractors, mowers,  among others.

“Mechanisation will not lead to job losses in the agricultural sector, rather, it will help us produce more, while the farmer will make more money,” Dr Are said, while recommending to the government to look at coming up with the land use map, which will focus on what could be planted in particular areas of the country.

Dr Are also lamented the way government is supporting agriculture in the country by giving out loans to farmers.

“If government is serious about agriculture, it should not give out loans to farmers; rather, it should provide implement for use by farmers, as this will make them do the work required of them, instead of the money which can be diverted for other purposes.”

Professor Chukwuemeka Ike, in his remarks, said the Anambra State government was doing something in agriculture where it is supplying farmers with cassava stems, seedlings, tractors and other implements to make the work easier.

“With this, the farmer has no choice than to plant the cassava stems and other seedlings he has been given instead of loans. We hope this policy will be a success in the state,” Professor Ike said.

In his brief remarks, the managing director of UP Plc, Mr Samuel Kolawole, thanked the authors for their support over the years, while hoping the relevant agencies of government would look into the recommendations in order to develop the nation’s agricultural sector.

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