A university don has identified factors militating against the economy of Nigeria and increased food production by farmers in the country.
A former deputy vice chancellor, University of Uyo (UNIUYO), Professor Okon Ansa, while presenting a paper in Uyo on the theme of this year’s World Food Day celebration,“Leave No One Behind,” blamed the nation’s economy and low food production on land tenure system which, he said, does not promote investment in the country.
Ansa also listed climate change leading to flooding, drought and other climate factors, land degradation, low technology application, high cost of inputs, inadequate distribution of inputs, limited financing, high-harvest losses, poor access to markets and off-take facilities as well as low irrigation as major impediments to the nation’s economy and rapid food production by farmers in the country.
Land tenure system, the university don said, deprives many people and private investors access to large acres of land for agricultural production and investments, calling for the review of the system by the government to guarantee a better future.
The professor of agriculture noted with regrets that this year’s flooding in Nigeria has affected food production in several states, noting with regret that over 4,500 hectares of Olam rice production farms and facilities in Nasarawa State have been submerged by flood.
Policy makers, he said, have over the years initiated and implemented a number of initiatives to address the identified problems, pointing out that the country, with about 70.8 million acres of land, engaged in the cultivation of maize,cassava, guinea corn, yam, beans, millet, and rice, amongst others.
Ansa posited that Nigeria, which consumes 6.7 million metric tons of rice, only succeeded in producing 57 percent of the commodity locally, noting that the ban on importation of rice was aimed at stimulating local production of the food crop.
He noted that Nigeria’s forest ecosystem was negatively impacted by economic activities and rapid population growth resulting in annual deforestation in the areas of timber extraction, reliance on firewood and charcoal as a source of energy, urbanization, grazing, bush burning and infrastructural development.
Ansa noted with delight that the climatic condition of Akwa Ibom was favourable for all year round cultivation of a number of crops such as oil palm, cassava, plantain, rice, maize, rubber, and cocoa by farmers for the realisation of food sufficiency.
The state, he said, has a total of 129 kilometers of coastline, being the longest in Nigeria, and is blessed with a large artisanal fishing population.
Ansa maintained that the Akwa Ibom farming population areinvolved in various livestock enterprises with the production of poultry, pigs, goats and snails and attributed the current high food prices to poor access to credit facilities by farmers and what he called low non- farm income as the major constraints to the attainment of food security.
On food and climate change, the former commissioner for agriculture also blamed severe weather, drought, bush burning, flooding in large parts of the country, pests and diseases as major threats to food production.
He lamented that flooding in many parts of Nigeria was threatening agricultural production in several states this year where over 4,500 hectares of Olam rice production farm and facilities in Nasarawa State have been submerged by flood water, in addition to the destruction of an estimated $15 million worth of crops in farmlands in the same state.
Ansa recommended the empowerment of women through the provision of credit facilities for increased agricultural production, diversification into the production of vegetable crops like tomatoes, cucumber, onion, by farmers for consumption by the public, emphasising the need for improved processing and storage of agricultural produce.
He stressed the need for the state government to set a standard for consumption of food and nutrition that woulddiscourage people from only filling their stomachs with carbohydrates instead of balanced diets, advising that vulnerable people in rural and urban centres should be targeted by government to ensure a better future.
The state chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Prince Bassey Inwang, while presenting goodwill message, assured that farmers in the state would close ranks with government for the commercial production of agricultural produce as their contributions towards the attainment of food sufficiency in the state.
Inwang noted that the theme “Let No One Be Left Behind,”was a clarion call for his members to close ranks with the state government in the production of food for public consumption.
He declared the collective resolve of farmers to cooperate with the administration of Gov Udom Emmanuel’s completion agenda and succession plan for the best to be achieved in agricultural production.
A food and nutrition processing expert, Reverend Sister Matilda Inyang, in her goodwill message, said that she decided to venture into the processing of agricultural produce to protect Nigerian children from malnutrition.
Inyang thanked Governor Emmanuel for encouraging farmers in the state with interest-free loans, essential farm inputs and for supporting the celebration of the World Food Day to sensitise the masses on the need to grow crops for food sufficiency to be achieved in the state.
She called on Keke and Okada riders as well the Akwa Ibom people to go back to farm for the purpose of achieving food security.
During the march past competition, the leadership and membership of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN),Akwa Ibom Chapter, took the first position, while the Child Food Initiative and Women In Agriculture came second, with Fish Farmers Association emerging third, respectively, at the ceremony where food items were freely distributed to participants by the state government.
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