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Professor Lateef Sanni, a scientist with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, said this during the Food and Culture lecture organised by the Public Affairs Section of the United States Consulate General, Lagos, in conjunction with the IITA, in Ibadan, recently.
The lecture, which brought together experts in the food processing and agricultural sector, including a guest lecturer from Tufts University, United States (US), reviewed the US agricultural experience in achieving food sufficiency and brain-stormed on areas which Africa could tap from its experience.
In his presentation, entitled: Roots and Tubers: Food Security Crops in Nigeria, Professor Sanni stated that cassava was a food security crop in Nigeria and a major provider of employment and income for Africans.
He said the crop appealed to farmers because it was affordable, accessible and available and was able to achieve the purpose of poverty reduction and wealth creation.
Cassava, according to him, could be utilised as food products, adhesives, lubricants in oil drilling industry and could as well be useful in paper and textile manfucturing companies.
Apart from the stems, which before now were not sources of incomes, cassava roots and leaves are offering streams of incomes to farmers and helping in the fight against hunger and poverty.
“Every product of cassava is a profitable venture. Even now, cassava is now being fortified with vita-mins,” he said.
Despite cassava’s role in food web, Professor Sanni said more atten-tion, by way of support to research, was needed.
He said cutting down of post-harvest losses, through invest-ment in processing technologies and the creation of appropriate policy framework, were necessary to sustain cassava’s role in ensuring food security.
The expert further stated that food security meant access by all people at all time to the food needed for an active, healthy life, adding that everybody was a stake holder when it comes to the issue of food.
He, however, charged that food was too important to be left in the hand of agricultural agencies alone, while calling on government, agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and others to join hands and improve agriculture in Nigeria.
Speaking during the lecture, the guest speaker, Professor William Masters of Tufts University, USA, said the US government was reviewing its commitment to African agriculture, with plans to increase funding for the sector and to achieve growth in productivity which IITA had stood for since more than four decades.
Professor Masters, an agricultural economist, speaking on the topic: “How Americans are rethinking what they eat and what is in their food, how they grow, market and distribute them”, said consumers in wealthy societies no longer needed higher farm productivity for their own prosperity, but, instead, were seeking foods that embodied their cultural values.
Giving a scenario of killing the “golden goose that laid the golden eggs,” Masters expressed fears that consumer preferences for organic, local and traditional foods in the US might limit their support for the kind of agricultural innovations needed in Africa.
According to him, the agricultural revolution in America and Europe, which sustained industrialisation, was a product of technological improvement in agricul-ture. He said that campaigning against new advances that hold the key to cutting down hunger and poverty in Africa was synonymous to killing the golden goose that laid the golden eggs of new crop genetics and agronomic methods.
African experts at the session agreed that taking Africa’s agricultural sector out of the woods would require the adoption of new technological tools.
Paul Ilona, an IITA Senior Cassava Trials Manager, said farmers needed improved seeds, fertilisers and other farm inputs, such as pesticides, to boost productivity, adding that anything to the contrary was a disservice to farmers in Africa.
Some of the participants at the lecture lamented the situation in Africa where fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides were scarce. Some of them even said in other countries in Africa, it was difficult to come by these inputs which are helpful to boost agricultural production in the countries.
Recently, some agricultural experts have added their voices to the ongoing campaign for the adoption of organic agriculture, with the belief that this type of farming would boost food production and guarantee food security.
It was their opinions that organic agriculture was the current practice all over the world today, especially in countries like Israel, United States, Japan, Germany, Netherland, among others and they lamented the scarcity of fertilisers and its exhorbitant prices in different parts of the country, even when available.
Earlier, IITA’s Director-General, Dr Peter Hartmann, who was represented by Dr Mbaye Yade, said the institute was delighted to share its knowledge and experience in the area of agriculture with partners.
He said the fight against poverty and hunger in Africa required collaborative efforts among stakeholders working for Africa’s development.
In her closing remark, the representative of the United States Consulate General, Lagos, a cultural affairs specialist, Ms Bene Uche, lauded the IITA for its contribution to food security in Nigeria nd expressed the readiness of the United States to partner with the institute in the development of agriculture in Africa.Share