With two-thirds of Africans dependent on farming for their livelihoods, boosting agriculture can create opportunities, reduce malnutrition/poverty and generate faster and fairer growth. To achieve this, African universities are building capacities in innovation and agriculture, DANIEL ESSIET reports.
Feeding 1.5 billion people by 2030 and two billion by 2050 is a daunting challenge for Africa. Therefore, transforming agriculture into a competitive, inclusive and business-oriented sector that creates wealth, generates gainful employment and improves quality of life is critical, analysts have said.
They said universities have the mandate to produce the next generation of the workforce needed for the agri-food value chain.
To achieve the transformation, experts stressed that there was an urgency to institutionalise approaches that have been tested and are workable into the university system.
Addressing the Farm Management Association of Nigeria (FAMAN) 33rd National Conference with the theme “Revitalisation of Nigerian Agriculture to Meet the Sustainable Development Goals”, held at the Federal University of Agriculture (FUNAAB), in Abeokuta, Ogun State, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Felix Salako, noted that as a specialised university, FUNAAB had always advocated for innovations that could transform agriculture.
Salako, who was represented by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Prof. Morenike Dipeolu, disclosed that FUNAAB had developed the first indigenous chicken known as FUNAAB Alpha, which is comparable to chickens in develop countries in terms of egg and meat production.
He said the university had developed and popularised the table dry odourless fufu for Nigeria, perfected the production of high quality cassava flour (HQCF) for inclusion into wheat flour for bread and confectioneries, as well as mechanised its agricultural farming system.
Delivering the lead paper titled “Revitalisation of the Nigerian Agriculture to Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”, a renowned agricultural economist, Prof. Peter Okuneye, said functional agriculture was key to achieving food security, employment generation, farm income, import substitution, foreign exchange earnings, and raw materials generation, among others.
To enable this, he said there must be measures to boost productivity, value chain expansion, investment in infrastructural and rural development.
The other things are improved efforts to address post-harvest food losses and wastes, building and enhancing resilience to weather shocks and reducing negative externalities, research, development and extension services as well as credit and financing.
FAMAN President, Dr. Damian Agom said the association, had over the time, maintained a link with stakeholders and practitioners in farm management and production.
He said the association has been networking with stakeholders, including farmers, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in an attempt to reposition the industry.
In a related development, the Faculty Director, School of Agricultural Science, Fertiliser and Environment, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P), Morocco, Prof. Abdelaziz Yasri, said the future of large-scale agriculture lay in the adoption and integration of modern technology to boost food production.
Consequently, there is a need for more skilled and qualified workforce to adopt and use budding tech innovations.
He told The Nation that post-graduate students at the UM6P were exposed to world-class education to equip them to pursue careers in agriculture.
He said they are exposed to several agricultural and food industry technologies e.g. fertigation (when nutrients are incorporated into irrigation water) and precision agriculture (the use of technology to obtain environmental and crop data so as to deliver the right dose of nutrients to plants to increase productivity.
According to him, the school brings international academics and industry experts to take participants through various aspects of tech innovation in the agric sector.