From Charles Coffie Gyamfi, Abeokuta and Fabian Odum, Lagos

 


Say nine billion face hunger worldwide

TWO hundred scientists from 33 countries yesterday gathered in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital to share experiences and develop strategies that would contribute to sustainable root and tuber crops development.

The forum was the 16th Triennial Symposium of the International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC). The five-day conference is holding at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB).

Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina who opened the conference assured that the Federal Government had put adequate measures in place to transform the agricultural sector.

“The goal of the Federal Government is to add 20m metric tonnes of food to our domestic food supply by 2015,” he said.

The President of the International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC), Prof. Andrew Westby, a Briton, in his address said : “Food security is no longer a term associated with the developing world – the United Kingdom’s Research Councils now have a food security programme.

“Still in 2012 we have major food and nutrition concerns with up to a billion people in the world hungry, a global population set to increase to nine billion by 2050 and increasing challenges in coping with climate change.”

Westby challenged the conference to “provide the space to reflect on what has been achieved and also provide the intellectual stimulus to inspire you to generate the vital knowledge that the world needs to solve some of our pressing problems associated with climate change, hunger, nutrition, economic growth and poverty reduction.”

The minister lamented that Nigeria, despite its rich soil, is spending N1 billion daily to import food items, stressing that with the Federal Government’s transformation agenda in the agricultural sector, the situation would soon change positively.

“The current situation in the country is not acceptable.  Nigeria is spending $10 billion annually to import basic things”, he said.

He pointed out that Nigeria, with a population of 167 million could not continue to use that population to “grow the wealth of other nations, because the more of food of other countries you buy, you make the farmers of those countries very rich and make the local farmers of this country very poor.

“Therefore, the time has come for Nigerians to grow local, buy local and eat local and if we do this, we grow the size of our own economy; we create jobs and that is what I intend to do,” he added.

The Vice-Chancellor of FUNAAB, Prof. Olusola Bandele Oyewole in his address stated that there was evidence to indicate that climate change was going to have  either a positive or negative impact  on the development of tropical crops in the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions in the nearest future.

He told the participants that included Britons, Americans, Germans and Australians, “Indeed the major issue about the climate will be rainfall variability, seasonality and rise in sea level in these regions.”

Oyewole said there was therefore the need for quality research data on the influence of climate change at the local level in these regions.

The don challenged the conference to find ways of getting latest information from scientists all over the world on the impact of climate changes on tropical root crops.

He disclosed that to assist in rural development, create job, income and sustainable economy, FUNAAB had invested heavily in “result oriented pro-poor impact oriented market approach through information gathering, dissemination and provision of basic technological infrastructure to small holder farmers and processors.”

He said he was convinced that root and tuber crops producing countries had all that were needed to solve food crisis.

“We must therefore inculcate the idea of using our local commodities to diversify our traditional and new products for the emerging urban and global demand,” he affirmed.

The President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Ogun State chapter , Chief Kola Jamadu stated that with Nigeria’s abundant fertile land it was regrettable that the country still spends trillions of naira to import food items annually.

He charged the participants at the conference to exchange ideas towards mapping out strategies that would ensure food sufficiency.

The Ogun State Deputy Governor, Segun Adesegun who represented Governor Ibikunle Amosun stated that the government recognised the need for food sufficiency in any society, hence the government had embarked on aggressive mechanised farming, assuring that the government, within the next 10 years would not only export food items but also export cocoa to earn foreign exchange.

 

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