By Deborah Oladejo, Osogbo
The chairman of Mutual Benefits Assurance, Dr Akin Ogunbiyi has warned that the poor performance in Agriculture could lead to famine if the constraints militating against the sector are not speedily addressed.
He gave the warning on Thursday in his keynote address at the 2nd edition of Ife Agric Conference (iACe) 2019 with the theme: “the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Future of Agriculture in Africa”, held at Oduduwa Hall, the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State.
In the address titled, “Agriculture: Feeding and Funding Africa’s Green Revolution”, Ogunbiyi chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Osun State, declared that the development of agriculture marked a major turning point in human history and evolution.
According to him, “the development of agriculture is extremely important to the country based on its size, potential and prospects. In Nigeria, because 70% of the population is employed in the agricultural sector, economic growth will be almost impossible to achieve without developing the sector.
“The sector has several untapped potentials for growth and development. Statistics show that about 84 million hectares of Nigeria’s land area has potential for agriculture; however, only about 40% of this is under cultivation.
“In spite of this huge potential, the state of agriculture in Nigeria remains poor and largely underdeveloped. The sector continues to rely on small farm holdings and traditional farming methods to sustain a growing population without major efforts to add value. This has reflected negatively on the productivity of the sector, its contributions to economic growth as well as its ability to perform its traditional role of food production among others.
“Among other constraints, low productivity has been identified as a major contribution to the declining growth rate in Nigerian agricultural sector. Slow growth in capital per workers and not slow Total Factor Productivity (TFP) is responsible for slow growth in the sector. Others include lack of interest in agricultural sector by majority of the populace, absence of necessary infrastructure, marketing problems, wastages, unstable prices among others.
“In the last few years, the North-East of Nigeria has been challenged with food crisis because of Boko Haram. There is also farmers-herders crisis in most of the crops producing regions of Nigeria. All these and other challenges, if not addressed speedily, could lead to famine in Nigeria.
“To feed over 7.3 billion people today would be impossible without advances in agricultural technology. Over 795 million people in the world today may go to bed hungry. To decrease this number, and to meet the challenge of feeding an expected 9 billion population in 2050, we need to keep up with agricultural revolution by increasing yields on less land and adapt crops to changing weather patterns.
“Africa is of particular interest because agricultural productivity is about half of the global average despite harbouring 60% of global uncultivated arable land. Therefore, Africa needs to close its productivity gap so that it could feed itself and export the surplus to the rest of the world.
“Increased agricultural productivity would not only feed people but also create much-needed jobs and help in reducing poverty levels. Transforming the sector from subsistence-based agriculture to commercial agriculture for smallholder farmers presents huge economic opportunities.”
Setting agenda for the conference, Dr. Akin Ogunbiyi stressed further, “farmers must have access to and adopt locally relevant high-yield, drought-resistant seeds, they must use irrigation systems as weather patterns change and access affordable fertilizers. These inputs have proved to drastically improve productivity, but they require more investment in agricultural research.
“These are difficult tasks to accomplish, given that smallholder farmers in rural areas have low purchasing power and even lower use of technology. It may take years, if not decades, to put these things in place but to feed tomorrow’s population, it is highly imperative and critical to put these things in place.”
After the technical session, Dr Akin Ogunbiyi was given a heartwarming reception at the senate building of the Ivorian tower. The University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Eyitope Ogunbodede through the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Administration; Professor Christopher Ajila commended the former students’ leader, describing him as a “good alumnus, pride and worthy ambassador” of the prestigious institution.
He had earlier launched “The Seed” magazine; a publication of the Nigerian Association of Agricultural Students, OAU chapter with an undisclosed amount of money and reaffirmed his pledge to continue to support the university, was profoundly thanked for his contributions to the growth of the university by the Vice-Chancellor and members of the management including the university registrar, Mrs Margaret Omosule.