Due to various factors of which insecurity is the chiefest, Nigeria battles the crisis of food shortages. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), about 25.3 million people would face acute food insecurity during the June to August 2023 lean season. In 2022, the projection was 19.45 million. UNICEF also gives the same estimates. The reason for this increase in figure is that insecurity has heightened in the northern parts of Nigeria, especially in the Middle Belt region.
One of the states in this zone, Benue, is literally dubbed the “food basket of the nation.” It is not surprising that this is the state with the worst cases of banditry and farmer-herder clash since the administration of President Buhari. In some places, bandits hold farmers hostage and mandate them to pay “tax” before they can have access to their farms. Failure to acquiesce to their demands may result in kidnapping or physical harm. Also, this is in addition to the fact that there are seasons for planting. So, production slows down drastically during lean seasons.
Greenhouse farming can increase production.
This is why a team lead of Soilless Farm Lab in Ogun State, Mr. Samson Ogbole, has urged the Federal Government to provide support for greenhouse farming for all-year-round food production in the country. Greenhouse farming (also known as soilless farming) refers to primarily growing plants or crops in a structure with walls and a roof made essentially of transparent material. The interior of a greenhouse exposed to sunlight is significantly warmer than the external temperature. This protects its plants from extreme conditions and provides an opportunity to grow year-round in harsh conditions.
An optimal benefit of this agricultural practice is to increased crop production. This is because farmers can create optimal climate conditions for plant growth while also growing more plants per square foot than growing crops in an open field. Also, because it is an enclosed space, crops are prevented from suffering damage from extreme climate-related events such as sudden increase or decrease in temperature. The practice also keeps away birds and other animals that may harm crops.
Government must pay attention to ways of solving food problems.
On Thursday, August 10, 2023 in Lagos, Ogbole reportedly said that the government needs to pay attention to other tools within agriculture that can help boost food production. He added that soilless farming ensures that you annualize the seasonality of food production for farmers and farm all-year-round. He stated that the country lacks sufficient soilless farmers because of lack of support and policy guidelines from the government. According to him, the government must provide a unified platform for information and this information must be distilled in a way that not only the educated ones but also anybody regardless of status will be able to assess it.
There is a need to pay attention to other tools aside from the traditional ones within agriculture that can help. In his words, “As a soilless farmer, I don’t get support from the government and the reason is because the government at this point does not even know what soilless farming is, how much more to say they are supporting it.” He said that local farmers whose percentage dwarfs that of soilless farmers have not all been supported let alone them. He said that there are few of such farmers and the government needs to help local farmers before they can do the same to them.
Ogbole calls for policy guidelines and management.
Quite a number of people have started interest in greenhouse farming in the country. However, he called on the government to provide policy guidelines for proper management. He also urged farmers to always seek knowledge and information before venturing into any farming technique to avoid loss of revenue. Ogbole said that he had set up greenhouses across 26 states of the federation. But there is a need to understand it before venturing into it. According to the farmer, a lot of people come into the practice with false promises and they are made to believe it is magic.
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