Sam Oluwalana; Ibadan.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo , yesterday advised the management of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to ensure that the output of their researches are not always confined to their shelves, accessible to the poor farmers in the country.
Obasanjo, made the remark while addressing an international panel that discussed on a theme; ” Conference on Food and Nutrition security Futures”.
His words; “I want you to let your research output be useful more to the poor farmers rather than keeping them to yourselves.”
The former President, was at the IITA headquarters, Ibadan as the Chairman of the occasion for the Conference on Food and Nutrition Security Futures which was part of the activities celebrating the 50 years anniversary of IITA’s existence.
While speaking at the occassion, the chairman of the 50th anniversary committee Dr. Kwesi Attah Krah said ” Food and Nutrition security for the next half century” is being organized as the concluding part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of IITA.
”The conference provides opportunity to exchange ideas among experts on food and security futures research and delivery for IITA and its partners.”
Dr. Krah also highlighted that Agriculture which has been a central part to the development of the African continent, currently contributing 40% – 80% to the Gross Domestic Product in several countries.
While using Nigeria as a case study, Dr. Krahi said ” the agricultural policy document of the current government, builds on the Agricultural Transformation Agenda of the previous government which was tagged “The Green Alternative”.
” This signify the importance of agriculture (green) as an alternative drive for economic development in the country.
Continuing, Krah said;”Agriculture therefore has the potential to drive economic development and wealth creation and IITA positions itself as a key partner in the realization of this vision for African Agriculture”. He said.
In his contribution, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Food Security in Sierra Leone, Prof. Monty Jones who talks on the future prospects for rice cultivation in food security over the next 50 years said “Majority of West Africans which accounts for about 240M people rely deeply on rice as their primary source of food energy and protein in their diet, which as a result leads to the importation of about $1billioin dollars rice annually.”
“Rice is important to African countries because of its position as the 3rd largest staple food crop, particularly in West Africa where the rice sector is the most important”. Jones stated.
Still on rice cultivation, Prof. Jones said ” while rice production in Africa is at the rate of 6% per annum, the consumption level is at the rate of 8% per annum, thus creating the need for importing rice as a supplement.”
“Self -sufficiency in rice production would improve food security and economic development in West African growth.” Prof. Jones stressed.
In his own view, one of the speakers, Dr. Ousmane Badiane, Director of Africa, International food Policy Research institute (IFPRI), Washington, DC. said that ” the most fundamental changes in the African Agricultural sector today are not taking place within high value export products, but rather within the last traditional staples such as Millet, Sorghum, Cassava, and white maize”.
In his contribution, Dr. Bruce Campbell, Director of International Center For Tropical Agriculture, Denmark, who spoke on; ”Transforming African Agriculture in the face of climate change”, said that ” Climate change in Africa is likely to have far-reaching impacts, such as warm temperature, and extreme increase in weather strength and frequency
“While new and improved technologies are parts of the solution, also important if not more so, will be financial, market information and governance solutions, because adaptation is largely about improving the capacity to deal with change, not shifting to a new state”, Campbell said.
On his own, speaking on the renaissance of food farming system in Africa, Prof. Ken Giller Prof. of Plant Production Systems, Wageningen Center for Agro-ecology and system Analysis, Wageningen University said; ” Agricultural research in Africa suffers from trends and fashions that distract from central goal of enhancing the livelihood of smallholder farmers.
“Farming systems research in Africa played important role in the late 1980s in revealing the constraints faced by farmers in implementing technologies such as alley cropping.”Ken said.
The Chief host of the event Dr. Nterenya Sangigan, who is the Director General of IITA, said the institution will continue in its drive toward ensuring a better agricultural research output for Africa and also promised a robust partnership with African farmers to achieve a food security chain for the future.
”IITA will always be involved in efforts towards better agricultural research output in Africa, through a robust partnership with African farmers”.