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Agriculture vital to survival of human race

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 Nzamujo, Founder of Songhai Farms, Benin Republic

Nzamujo, Founder of Songhai Farms, Benin Republic

PREAMBLE

THE 16th Bassey Andah Lecture was held on 24 January 2015 at Transcorp Hotels, Calabar with the theme: ‘Agriculture and Food Security.’ The keynote speaker was Dr. Godfrey Nzamujo, Founder of Songhai Farms, Benin Republic; while the guest lecturer was Professor Patrick O. Erhabor of the University of Benin, Nigeria. The Chairman of the lecture was Professor Ekanem Ikpi Braide who is the Vice Chancellor of Federal University of Lafia, Nasarawa State, Nigeria.

A total of 409 persons attended the event including such distinguished guests as Professor Gabriel Ikpi, Deputy VC (Academic) CRUTECH; Professor Chris Nwamuo, UNICAL; Professor Zana Akpagu, Dean Faculty of Arts, UNICAL; Professor Francis Angrey, Former Dean, Faculty of Arts, UNICAL; Professor Olu Lawal, Past Bassey Andah Memorial Lecturer; Professor Offiong E. Offiong, Cross River State Commissioner for Education; Dr. Salisu Ingawa, Songhai Katsina Programme. Directors of the Bassey Andah Foundation were also in attendance.

The exhortation was delivered by Rev. Ubong E. Eyo of the Department of Religious and Cultural Studies, UNICAL. An announcement was made about the establishment of the Bassey Andah Institute of African and Asian Studies (BAIOAAS). The three winners of the 2014 Bassey Andah Essay Competition were each presented with a laptop and a certificate. Cash prizes would be awarded to the students in their various schools.

OBSERVATIONS
The following observations were made during the lecture:
Agriculture is vital to the survival of the human race. It produces food, prevents hunger, malnutrition and ill-health. It provides employment and contributes to the GDP of a nation.

Agriculture employs a large percentage of the labour force in Nigeria; yet the country does not produce enough food in adequate quantity and quality to feed its populace. This has created a food security crisis which is indicated by high import bills, rise in domestic food prices and growth in food demand. The budgetary allocation to agriculture is low in proportion to Nigeria’s annual budgets.

Food security reflects the existence of available and accessible food stocks, but poverty has denied many households access to food resulting in household food insecurity. The current level of Federal strategic grain reserves is insufficient to have a significant impact on markets.

Food insecurity is largely determined by the level of hunger in the land which is caused by a number of factors including (i) Population pressure (ii) Politics (iii) Use of arable crops for bio-fuels (iv) Inequality in income distribution (v) Climate change (vi) Wars (vii) Technical problems in production, storage and transportation.

Over the years, governments have taken bold initiatives to tackle food security issues. The present government through its Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) is committed to maximizing the full potential of the agricultural sector. Through its Agricultural Transformation Action Plan, agriculture would be transformed to a business endeavour with emphasis on partnership, value-chain development, investment and accountability.

In a bid to solve our existential problems, we have applied the logic of poverty in adopting other people’s experiences, products and values. We have gradually lost the spirit of hard work and resorted to passive consumerism with a tendency towards shallow and piecemeal solutions to problems.

The Songhai Farms present a novel approach to addressing farming issues. The farms employ a new paradigm towards tackling the food security problem through the regenerative agricultural method. The Songhai system is natural and integrative. It promotes the ecosystem approach and depends on the recycling of by-products and wastes through the deployment of micro-organisms. Crops are grown in super-soils which are made up of 30% sand + 30% clay + 30% compost + beneficial indigenous micro-organisms (IMOs). The Songhai Farms are able to produce more and better quality food with less hectares of land.

Youths are generally interested in agriculture but there are currently not enough mentors to guide aspiring young farmers.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The lecture therefore made the following recommendations:

There should be a redistribution of food from the excess supplies produced in the hinterland to areas of poverty and malnutrition in the cities at affordable prices.

Farming should be modernized through the channelling of money from the non-renewable oil sector to the agriculture sector.

The practice of food trade which involves the exchange of food for work or natural resources like oil should be promoted.

Non-arable crops should be used for bio-fuel production in the place of staple crops like cassava.

United Nations programmes and conventions on food security should be enforced.

There should be population control through the monitoring and controlling of the growth rate of the population.

There should be a move towards the promotion of the conserver society rather than the growth and greed society.

There should be a paradigm shift in dealing with the problem of food security in the nation. There should also be a move away from a spirit of passive consumerism to a culture of hard work.

There universities should take up the leadership role in building the foundation for the Third Industrial Revolution which relies on the application of a new energy regime and the harnessing of the biological capital of the universe to the benefit of all people.

The principles underlying the establishment and operation of the Songhai Farms should be studied and replicated in different parts of the country.

Mentoring of aspiring farmers should be encouraged and the interest of youths in agriculture should be sustained. Practical Agriculture should be emphasized in the school curriculum and Young Farmers Clubs should be formed in schools.

There should be more Federal strategic grain reserves established in the country.

The Agricultural Transformation Agenda of the present government should be intensified to realize the goals of the Agricultural Transformation Action Plan.

Small and medium scale farming should be better managed to produce better quality and large yielding agricultural products.



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