Raising Domestic food Production for the growing population by Dr Rose Maxwell Gidado
According to UN Report, in 3 to 4 years’ time, our population in Nigeria will be 200 million. By 2050, we are expected to reach 390 million, making us the third largest in the world. This UN report is scary and our food security situation in Nigeria is not where it should be. Agriculture, which is supposed to be the mainstay of the economy, has been neglected and Nigeria imports more food more than she produces. The question then is how will Nigeria handle this population explosion?
When a population increases more rapidly than the food supply, population is checked by war, diseases, famine, etc. Rapid population growth is detrimental to economic and social development. There will be little or no time to adjust economy to developmental efforts. Population will continue to eat up any gain in economic development and these may lead to adverse effects on the people.
For Nigeria to turn the tide of its economic misfortunes and mismanagement, it will have to take steps to raise domestic food production, labour, productivity, reduction of absolute poverty, lower population growth among many other things.
Raising domestic food production
President Mohammed Buhari in a nationwide broadcast on the occasion of Nigeria’s 56th Independence Anniversary in Abuja said Nigeria would be self-sufficient in the production of rice, millet, sorghum, maize and soybean by 2019. This, he promised to make possible through producing our food locally. However, 2019 is around the corner and strategies put in place do not suggest this promise will come true any time soon.
Some efforts being made by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural development to boost food production include boosting irrigation and increasing the use of Fertilizer. This strategy is key to ensure that farmers are no longer dependent on rain-fed agriculture for national food requirement, however more strategies like development of high yielding crops, improving access to market, making use of information technology, and adoption of genetically modified crops should be highly looked into as a matter of urgency.
The time is right for Nigeria to prioritize and strengthen her Agricultural research system. Taking into account the unique soil types of Nigeria, if research is improved to develop high yielding crops, productivity will be improved. Lack of investment in research has a negative impact on agricultural production on the continent. It is our responsibility to deliver Africa out of starvation, hunger and poverty. It will pay us more as a continent to encourage, adopt, invest in and value science.
Improving rural infrastructure such as roads is also crucial to raising productivity through reductions in shipping costs and the loss of perishable produce. Information technology can support better crop, fertilizer and pesticide selection. Similarly, improvement of land and water management, provides access to weather information, and connects farmers to sources of credit. Simply giving farmers information about crop prices in different markets can increase their bargaining power.
Adoption of GM crops
Statistics from developed countries like the United States, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, etc who have adopted Genetically Modified crops established its ability to increase yields, and reduce the use of pesticides. As of 2012, GM crops were being grown in 20 developing countries and 8 industrial countries conferring beneficial traits such as herbicide tolerance, insect resistance and nutritional enhancement, etc. GM crops will solve a handful of Nigeria’s agricultural problems such as diseases, insect, drought, and with the rapid population growth, high-yield GM crops that are resistant to weather shocks provide an opportunity for Nigeria to address food insecurity.
A Meta-analysis of more than one hundred studies by Wilhelm Klümper and MatinQaim in 2014 found that GM crops reduced pesticide use by 37%, increased yields by 22%, and farmer profits by 68%. With such an amount of evidence, adopting GM crops in addition to the aforementioned strategies will increase Nigeria’s food production for its growing population.
Dr. Rose M. Gidado is the Assistant Director, NABDA and Country Coordinator, OFAB Nigeria Chapter.