Ogbeh identifies agric varsities as stimulus for economic diversification, food security
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, has identified universities of agriculture as stimuli for economic diversification, food and nutrition security that can bail the country out of its current food insecurity.
He noted that according to the new agenda, the universities need to be more innovative and enterprising, as every undergraduate must own a farm, from 200 level to graduation.
“We are not interested in theoreticians. We are looking for farmers: educated young men and women, who will leave the university to pursue a career in agriculture. Their examinations should dwell 60 per cent on the success on the farm and 40 per cent on academic work. We will support the universities, increasingly, in the area of nutrition.
“Those universities having existing schools of medical sciences may have to re-designate them as colleges of applied nutrition and medical sciences. This is because most of the ailments people suffer later in life have to do with what we eat or fail to eat. Some of the life expectancy issues we suffer here have to do with our diets; even the way we process the food, or grow them, the fertiliser we apply, the harvesting method, storage and packaging. All of them have very serious consequences on our life spans,” he said.
The minister said nobody is better placed than the university professors and teachers to teach the rest of Nigerians how to eat and how not to eat, noting that everywhere in the world, attention is turning to nutrition because western Europe has corrupted its food systems with hormones and the United States is having problems with obesity and in Nigeria, it is the problems of diabetes.
While stating that farmers are in desperate need of seeds and extension services, Ogbeh noted that if all of the universities of agriculture were to develop seed faculties, and train breeders, and market seeds, each of them would earn up to N5 billion per annum from seeds. “Farmers don’t have seeds. The little we have at our seed research council here is sold across West Africa. So, they have a big role to play. We will find the resources for them to achieve this. We need them. The universities of agriculture can produce them and there are farmers ready to buy them.
“We agree, however, that strategic as agriculture is, in this country, it is still very much in infancy, given that it is still essentially a smallholder-dominated enterprise. The constraints are many and all-encompassing. For instance, seed research and seed quality are hopelessly low. Agronomic practices are poor. Yields are very low. Post-harvest losses are heavy. Mechanisation is abysmally low and tractorisation is either scanty or almost non-existent in many parts of this country,” he said.
Ogbeh lamented that there are states in Nigeria with no tractor working, saying if Nigerians need to return to agriculture. “I am not sure we are inviting them to go back to the good old hoe and cutlasses days. Amazingly, the only instrument of agricultural production manufactured here is the hoe. The cutlass is actually imported from China. It is therefore expected of us to change gear, to create jobs, to welcome younger people into agriculture because the current generation of farmers is on the average, about 62 years. Their capacity for manual labour is definitely dwindling.
“If it continues this way in the next 10 years, who will feed us? Most of the young people are no longer interested in agriculture. They don’t like the drudgery. When the old ones are gone, who will feed the younger ones? Our population is galloping towards 450 million by the year 2050. That will make Nigeria the third most populated country on earth, after China and India.
“How much rice are we producing? How much yam, cassava, and soybeans, chicken and fish are we going to eat? If we can’t feed that population, where will we find peace? And if there is anarchy, where will Nigerian refugees run to? The truth is, we face serious threats. But the other truth is that we can avoid the threats and the dangers.”
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