From Abdullahi Jalaluddeen
National Biotechnology Development Agency has reiterated the need for media to play a crucial role in Nigeria’s efforts to boost food production especially the deployment of modern biotechnological tools in addressing agricultural productivity challenges.
Director General of the Agency, Professor Abdullahi Mustapha stated this while delivering his address during the opening of a 2-day retreat for journalists, farmers and extension workers in Kano
The Director General cautioned the media against giving space and airtime to anti-technology critics that are disrupting Nigeria’s progress in agriculture by advising farmers against using technology in enhancing their production.
He said that over the years, arm-chair critics had taken advantages of the media to propagate unscientific views and opinion that not only stalled our agricultural progress but also instill fear in our farming communities.
“Northern Nigeria is one of the leading producers of agricultural products in the country hence, the just commercialized products of biotechnology (Cotton Bt. and PBR Cowpea) will go a long way in helping our farmers profit from their efforts, this means the media must be prepared to support them in their efforts to ensure a food secured Nigeria,”
Professor Abdullahi Mustapha maintaied that Nigeria made history as the first country in Africa and the world at large to develop and release a cowpea variety that is resistant to the notorious Pod Borer, which had the capacity of destroying a whole beans farm and leaving the farmer helpless.
He said the National Biotechnology Development Agency as a Federal Government Agency who is responsible for promoting biotechnology activities had been doing so positively in response to the government’s aspirations of ensuring national food security, job/wealth creation, affordable healthcare delivery, and sustainable environment.
“It is also the duty of the agency to make Biotechnology an engine of growth for socio-economic development of Nigeria by promoting, coordinating, and deploying cutting-edge biotechnology research & development, processes, and products for the socio-economic well-being of the nation,”
In a remark the Kano State Deputy Governor, Dr Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna,who was Represented by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Agriculture Alhaji Hafiz Mohammad said Nigeria’s agricultural prowess is being consistently weakened by some age-long practices and factors like over reliance on rain fed agriculture, smallholder land holding, poor planting material, low fertilizer application, and the weak agricultural extension system in the country.
He said Nigeria could by-pass these challenges with effective use of emerging technologies and the media.
The Deputy Governor explained that Nigeria could leapfrog other countries to become major supplier of agricultural products with timely deployment and adoption of biotechnology and getting the media to communicate it rightly.
“Even though agriculture remains the largest sector of the Nigerian economy and employs two-thirds of the entire labour force, the production hurdles have significantly stifled the performance of the sector.”
“Over the past 20 years, value-added per capita in agriculture has risen by less than 1 percent annually. According to FAO, Nigeria has lost USD 10 billion in annual export opportunity from groundnut, palm oil, cocoa and cotton alone due to continuous decline in the production of those commodities,”
He noted that while other countries are getting almost 10 tons of maize per hectare, in Nigeria, the highest variety is giving about 4 tons.
“when we are getting 13 tons for cassava, others are getting 40 tons; bean which is popularly called, “Naman Talaka”, and one of the most important legumes in the country leaves us with farmers producing 0.75 tons per hectare”
Dr Nasir Yusif Gawuna therefore challenged the media to promote activities that would increase agricultural productivity noting that for many decades, the nation had experienced a gradual decline in the farming population, static land size with an ever-increasing population that must be fed.
Earlier the Country Coordinator, Open Forum On Agricultural Biotechnology Dr Rose Gidado, appealed to media practioners and other stakeholders to utilize the Opportunity they have in enlightening the General populace on the importance of adopting the biotechnology methods in boosting agricultural production.