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Biotechnology can pull us out of poverty- Nigerian farmers

Nigerian farmers have said that the adoption of biotechnology in farming has the capacity to pull majority of them out of poverty following the advantages attached to Genetically Modified (GM) crops.
Nigeria currently has approved for commercialisation, two GM crops, namely; Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) Cowpea, and BT Cotton.
Since the approval of these crops for planting, Nigerian farmers has expressed optimism that these crops would be a game changer in farming.
The National of President of National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN), Mr Anibe Achimugu said cotton farmers would plant the BT cotton because of the benefits. 
He said crop is resistant to pests while on the farm, also has the capacity to yield far higher than the conventional seeds.

“Our farmers are willing to adopt it if the see it. The advantage of the seed should outweigh the cost.

“We are believing that we would spray less chemicals because of the quality of the seed, it will not attract much pest, that is one advantage.
“Then obviously, it is also drought resistant, coupled with that, the yield factor is supposed to be high. So when you put all those things together, it makes sense.
“A farmer is doing on average of 400kg to 500kg per hectare, but with the GM cotton, we are looking at a minimum of 2 tons to 2.5 tons per hectare”, he said.
The President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Arc Kabir Ibrahim said he believes that biotechnology can pull many farmers out of poverty.
He said farmers in Nigeria fully embrace science as a way to improve agricultural productivity and earn more money from farming.
“As farmers, we use the product of research and discoveries of science, we fully embrace biotechnology, unless science proves that there is a connection between GM crops and cancer.
“That is why we have the biosafety agency which ensures that whatever goes to the consumers is wholesome, that is what we rely on”, Ibrahim noted.
He said GM crop’s resistance to pests and weeds, drought and flood tolerant are the advantages the crop has over the conventional ones, which makes it more suitable for farmers to embrace.
“The problems that farmers face is pests and weeds, for example, maize is affected by striga which is a plant that affects the growth and productivity of crops.
“But these crops that are genetically modified are such that they will resist the infestation of this weed, therefore, they will produce optimally because they are not affected by that weed.
“Then those ones that are resistant to drought, whenever the rains are not enough, they would produce optimally.
“And there are those crops that resist too much water, so, wnen there is too much water, it doesn’t affect their productivity”, he noted.
He, therefore, said there are many advantages, “what we are saying is that biotechnology or GM crops are likely to take the peasant farmers out of poverty into prosperity, we embrace it because that is out pathway to prosperity”.
“Farmers in Nigeria are look upon like poor people because planting and farming are regarded as drudgery and has to be done for survival, but here, we have a situation that will make us produce more than what we need, then we can sell and do whatever thing we want to do, so it is the quickest way we can get out of poverty”, he added.
Salmanu Abdullahi, a cotton farmers in Kaduna State said his farm has been used as a demonstration plot for BT cotton for over 3 years, and the results from the yield has been impressive.
“I am pioneering the production of BT cotton, and we are going to breed, produce everything here in Nigeria, my farm is being used for over 3 years as a pioneering demonstration farm.
“So, with proper training and demonstration, we planted same seed on my farm, the outcome was beautiful.
“So, the following year, we started engaging farmers to plant on half hectare, also, the result was beautiful”, he said.
He said the Nigerian cotton hardly yield more than 800kg per hectare, but with the BT cotton, all the farmers that planted were able to achieve a minimum of 3.5 tons per hectare.
“So, if you do the calculation, the farmers that planted BT cotton will get about of N1 million or roughly N600,000 to N800,000 per hectare if you remove the cost of production.
“So, our interest is the farmer’s gain. The farmers are very poor, how do we encourage the farmers to be making profit from agriculture.
“Let our farmers not continue to be poor, that is what is causing these problems of insecurity because people cannot afford to eat”, he noted.
He further explained that if you plant the local seed and the BT cotton side by side, after 4 weeks, you will see the difference, the BT cotton doesn’t attract insects, but the local cotton is being attacked by insects,
“If the farmer cannot afford chemicals, then there will be problem. The BT cotton can get over 200 balls per plant, but the local cotton will hardly get over 20 balls per plant”, he added.
Source: Nigerian Tribune

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