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Varsity don calls for climate-smart agric ed

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By Abraham Adekunle

Soil science lecturer emphasized the need for food security.

A lecturer in the department of soil science at the University of Abuja, Dr. Effiom Oku, has urged the governments in sub-Saharan Africa, including Nigeria, to address insecurity threatening crop production, and prioritize climate-smart agriculture education to boost food security. He stated this in his interview with AgroNigeria and also emphasized the importance of climate-smart agricultural education to enhance food security in the region. Most importantly, the challenges of insecurity affect crop production in sub-Saharan Africa, especially Nigeria.

According to him, governments across Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries including Nigeria need to combat and arrest insecurity that is preventing farming (crop production) in many communities across the continent. He said that climate information and low-input land restoration technologies for deforested and degraded land must reach every smallholder farmer. Action in the form of government policy and relevant support is needed to restore more land, better and faster. Local communities, entrepreneurs (including the private sector), young people, and graduates of agriculture are to be firmly in the lead.

Curriculum must incorporate climate smart education to tackle these issues.

He revealed that the National University Commission (NUC)’s curriculum of training agricultural graduates in Nigeria, in the past, the present and the new one under construction does not recognize climate change from 100 Level to 500 level. He said that this must change for Nigerian universities to train climate smart graduates to drive crop and animal production. Also, this is to be able to guide smallholder farmers as extension officers in a changing climate and under increasing extreme climate events.

Speaking further, he stated that agricultural research and funding in the past 30 years have been on increasing productivity with only five percent towards reducing post-harvest food losses and this must change in order to increase food productivity and post harvest losses. In Africa, smallholder farmers produce 80 percent of food consumed in Sub-Saharan Africa, SSA, and they suffer from the losses. The World Food Programme (WFP) of the United Nations recognized that post-harvest losses contribute significantly to food insecurity in Africa.

Millions of Africans were facing food insecurity.

In the United Nations’ October 2021 report entitled “Policy Brief: Africa and Food Security,” it was noted that the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to aim to eliminate hunger and achieve food security for all people, at all times, so that everyone has physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life. But African countries are not on track to meet this objective.

Before the pandemic, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reported that more than 250 million Africans were food insecure and that this figure was rising. The COVID-19 pandemic worsened the food security situation due to economic slowdowns, rising unemployment and loss of income, as well as disrupted global supply chains. One of the main outcomes of food insecurity is malnutrition, which can take the form of either undernutrition (such as stunting, wasting and underweight) or overnutrition (such as overweight and obesity).

Impact of food insecurity being felt every day in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, in Nigeria, the impact of food insecurity is being felt every day. According to October Cadre Harmonise, a government-led and United Nations supported food and nutrition analysis that is carried out twice a year, an estimated 25 million Nigerians were likely to be food insecure between June and August of 2023 (lean season). The situation has remained critical since then. Over the years, the food security situation has been impacted especially by violent conflicts. This includes the insurgency in the North East; armed banditry in the North West; farmer-herder conflicts in the North Central, South West, and increasingly across the country; and separatist agitation in the South East among others.

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