By Bukola Olamona
Debilitating environmental factors and weak agricultural policies may soon engender acute food scarcity and hunger in the country.
To avoid the impending danger of hunger in Nigeria by 2020, government and other keys actors should immediately formulate and implement policies that will reduce weaknesses in the policies and practices of agriculture and put in place structures that will enhance the capacity of small holder’s farmers to effectively adapt to changing environmental conditions.
Professor of Crop Physiology at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Samuel Agele stated this while delivering the institution’s 102ndInaugural Lecture.
He titled his lecture “Neighbour in the Environment: Agriculture, Food Security and Climate”.
Agele, describing the inter-relationship between agriculture, food security and climate, said Agriculture and food security are inextricably linked with climate, just as human wellbeing and environment are closely tied.
He said these ties imply that climate change will further exacerbate the inherently low productivity of agriculture, food insecurity and ecosystem health challenges, thus it is expedient to develop innovations, practical and multi-disciplinary approach to achieve better balance between agriculture sustainability and environmental stability.
According to him, going by the reports of the Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO], Nigeria is listed among the nations that are technically unable to meet their food needs from rain fed production and low level of input usage.
He said the reports indicate that projected mean annual rainfall values may decline by 2.8 – 10.9 and -18.6% in year 2020, 2050 and 2080 respectively, meaning this projected climatic changes will exacerbate soil moisture and high temperature conditions during the dry season (November to March) and aggravate the vulnerability of crops to adverse climatic changes.
Agele said improving productivity (yield and quality) and sustainable environment is a task that must be accomplished in the wake of the growing urgency surrounding drought and warming climate. He added that crop performance is influenced by both total rainfall (amount) and its distribution during the season, saying that declining amount and variability of rainfall affect the productivity of crops. He said some crops in the early and late rainy seasons subject the pre and post floury development to variable temperature and soil moisture.
Professor Agele advised that the benefit from precise knowledge of the relation between plants and the weather can be realized if farmers can alter that relation to their advantage in order to attain increased productivity in agriculture. He said the ways to alter relation between plants and the weather are planting according to possible weather affecting the microclimate and affecting plant responses to weather. He disclosed that Nigeria is particularly blessed with resources for sustainable and adequate food production, and frowned at the situation of spending an estimate of 20 billion dollars on food import yearly.
Explaining the effect of climate change he said extreme weather would be significant on the different dimensions and determinants of food security, adding that an urgent global priority is grappling with the challenge of managing agriculture to reduce hunger and poverty and maintaining a healthy ecosystem in an increasingly constrained world.
On the way forward, Professor Agele proposed the development and deployment of smart climate friendly initiatives for addressing effects of climate change and other environmental challenges on agriculture and food security.
Agele also stressed the need to harness the “untapped potential” of agroecology-based practices in agriculture for climate mitigations and resilience building in order to build a food secured future dedicated to achieving a world free of poverty, hunger and environmental degradation. He also recommended re-defining, restructuring and strengthening research, especially growth-oriented research programmers in agriculture. He said research organization should become more involved in partnerships and collaborations to achieve these daunting tasks.
In his remarks at the occasion, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Joseph Fuwape described the Lecturer as erudite and hardworking don who has contributed significantly to research and academic development in his field of specialization. He said Agele has demonstrated his intellectual prowess as a product of FUTA by being a consistently productive scholar in addition to providing leadership both for his students and younger academics since he took up appointment in the University.