There is urgent need to embrace modern agriculture to produce sufficient food for Nigeria’s growing population, some former leaders have said.
They said agriculture is the major sector that would ensure the nation does not fall into a looming food crisis.
Two ex-Heads of State – Generals Yakubu Gowon and Abdulsalami Abubakar – as well as former Governors Babangida Aliyu (Niger) and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa) urged Nigerians to expand the agricultural space to produce more food to feed the swelling population.
The eminent Nigerians spoke yesterday in Kaduna at the sixth annual lecture of Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation in honour of the late Premier of Northern Nigeria.
Integrated Agriculture for Food Security and Sustainable Economic Regeneration in Northern Nigeria was the theme of the lecture.
Aliyu stressed the need to improve the nation’s food production by 70 per cent, in view of the population projection, which is expected to double by 2050, General Abdulsalami said the solution to food shortage lies in mechanised farming.
“We need to pay serious attention to agriculture and other agriculture value chains, because there is nothing more important than food.
“Without agriculture and all these value chains, we are nowhere and the population is increasing. So, it is a good thing that the foundation is reminding us and I commend their efforts,” Aliyu said.
Aliyu, who is the chairman of the foundation’s Board of Trustees (BoT), said food requirements in the world would astronomically increase by about 70 per cent over the current demand level.
The former governor said the North must plan ahead to increase food production by embracing integrated agriculture and practices to feed its population or live in hunger.
He explained that the theme was chosen to reawaken the region on the need for food security and the grim picture of the country’s future.
Aliyu said the North – and indeed Nigeria – should redouble the current food production level but need to change the strategies and approaches to achieve more yields and profitability to farmers and other end users.
The former governor cautioned that to avert hunger and imminent food shortage in the country and other parts of the world in the next 30 years, Nigerian farmers must key into new and more result-oriented agricultural productivities.
He regretted that northern farmers were being hamstrung by lack of modern tools, such as fertilisers, improved seeds and seedlings, financial support, new evolving knowledge, machines and technology, increased desertification, decrease in arable land for farming and land tenure system.
According to him, it is necessary for farmers in the North and other parts of the country to adopt modern trends in agricultural practices.
General Gowon, who was represented by former Minister of Interior, Lt-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazzau (retd.), hailed the organisers for choosing the topic.
He said: “It is very important because by 2050, our population will double to 410 million and what we will require in terms of food will be 10 times or more than what we require today.
“We have quite a number of challenges, and one of such challenges has to do with population growth and loopholes; also, the issue of the girl-child. These are very key issues that the North needs to look at with a view to surmounting the already established challenges.”
Nyako, who was the guest speaker, said man must continually evolve improvement strategies to stem hunger or be doomed by starvation.
He said food production had moved to science and technology to meet man’s ever increasing need to stay alive.
The former governor urged northern farmers to increase their yields, adopt new breed technology to increase crops, cereals, legumes, grains and tubers as well animal husbandry.
Nyako said a farmer would be wasting his life if he continued to hold on to traditional approaches to food production.
He alluded to countries in Europe, Latin America and even Africa, where farmers have achieved food sufficiency in dairy products and meat from livestock, including fish production by adopting new, evolving techniques to increase yields.
Nyako warned that the country’s farmers cannot attain the level of food demands in the country with the present manual and analogue methods.
“It is not possible,” he said.
The former governor added: “We cannot do agriculture without efficient extension delivery systems. Our farmers must be trained and retrained seasonally, do soil editing, good transportation system, have sufficient water supply sources, good pricing and markets.”
He said education is necessary for Nigerian farmers to get it right.
“Our farmers must be educated beyond all traditional approaches to farming and food production,” Nyako said.
Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the foundation, Abubakar Gambo Umar, extolled the selflessness and good leadership qualities of the late Bello.
He said the late politician stood for the development of the North.
Shehu Malami, an elder statesman and associate of the late Sardaunan Sokoto, recalled that the late Bello made agriculture a cornerstone of his administration.