Dr Issoufou Kollo Abdourhamane, Regional Director, African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), has encouraged African countries to embrace technologies capable of solving the food crisis confronting the continent.
Dr Abdourhamane, in a keynote address at the 4th edition of the South West Agroecological Biosafety Awareness workshop hosted by the Ife Biotechnological Group, Obafemi Awolowo University said that the numerous challenges facing Africa’s agriculture could be effectively tackled with the deployment of appropriate technologies.
“With the deployment of appropriate technologies, the creation of conducive environments and translation of political will into action, Africa will be able to comfortably feed its self and overcome all the challenges brought about by hunger,” he said.
He listed the food and nutritional challenges facing Africa to include threats by contaminants such as aflatoxins, chemical contaminants, microbiological hazards, adulteration and pesticide residues.
“Sub-Saharan Africa is home to some of the most nutritionally insecure people in the world. According to WHO, approximately 9.8 Million children in Africa were underweight, representing a 48% growth since the turn of the century,” he added.
He said that the need to deploy technologies in addressing these challenges was the main objective of establishing the AATF – to transform livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa through innovative agricultural technologies.
According to him, the AATF since its establishment has carried out some laudable programmes in Nigeria including the cassava mechanization and processing programme which has helped farmers achieve an unprecedented harvest of over 32 tonnes per hectare in the last few years, the NEWEST Rice project which aims to assist Nigeria overcome its current rising rice imports and the Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea project which has just produced Nigeria’s first GM food crop.
Dr Abdourhamane noted that the series of interventions undertaken by AATF is to transform livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa through innovative agricultural technologies.
Professor Eyitope Ogungbenro Ogunbodede, Vice Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in his opening speech said the workshop was timely as government was articulating strategies to diversify the economy and re-position agriculture as the mainstay of our national development.
“Low crop yield, reduced soil fertility, rapid environmental degradation, drought, invasive pests, aggressive weed and diseases are problems facing conventional agriculture which has led to food insecurity, hunger, malnutrition and poverty but all this can be handled with the introduction of technologies.”
Professor Ogunbodede said that with the current population of over 170 million people and the need to guarantee food security in the country, conventional agricultural practices must give way to modern tools such as biotechnology to boost agricultural productivity.
The Vice Chancellor said that the workshop would also serve as a platform to disseminate credible information as the federal government prepares to release the PBR Cowpea which is resistant to insect attacks for commercial production by farmers in the 2020 growing season.
“This workshop will address public concerns on the safety of consuming GMO products and adoption of biotechnology in Nigeria and also promote safe and responsible applications of biotechnology by stakeholders in the southwest.
“No doubt, Obafemi Awolowo University is prominent in agricultural research with landmark achievements in crop and animal breeding and production with large experimental fields. To sustain this legacy and improve on it, application of modern biotechnology is highly desirable,” he said.