By SALIMAT GARBA
Leading agriculture experts have attributed hunger and poverty tin Africa to the decline in agriculture , adding that growth in agriculture equates to a reduction in hunger and poverty.
According to them, the tremendous decline in Africa’s agricultural sector in the past three decades is because of lack of investment, inadequate research and development, pest infestation, poor agronomic practices, climate change and lackadaisical attitude towards biotechnology in agriculture.
Sir Brian Heap, Project Leader, Biosciences for Farming in Agriculture (B4FA) in his words says “just by applying existing and available agricultural advice and technologies, the productivity of African agriculture could double or treble. But new agricultural technologies are being developed and trailed which could achieve even more.”
More so, Lord Ewen Cameron, while speaking at the B4FA book launch event at the House of Lords, London, stresses the need for Africa and the world’s continuous promotion of improved modern technology because of its ability to enhance food security that no other way can.
Cameron expresses regrets that the financial opportunities in agriculture are not maximally harnessed in Africa, adding that Africans are faced with challenges which are supposed to be opportunities.
“There is a lot of water in Africa but there is little infrastructure for getting the water. There are many hectares of arable lands in Africa but there is land insecurity.
Identifying investment in research and training farmers as the biggest investment a government can make, he points that democracy is very important in the future of agriculture.
“What are the right seeds? How do you get hold of the right seeds? Market Information, mobile phones, technology and internet are very important in democracy,” Cameron adds.
For Lord Paul Boateng, the significance of local agriculture should never be forgotten. According to Boateng, while building on local agriculture, there should be adequate investment in Research and Development (R&D) as it is critical to agricultural development in Africa.
He observes that the world is presently witnessing resurgent of R&D in agriculture and that all individual countries are beginning to make headway in the Maputo Declaration.
The lord, however, urges Africa to set its own agenda through the UK parliament and all other friends in Science and Technology.
Furthermore, Hon Owen Peterson, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, UK, during the visit of some B4FA fellows to his office discloses that the problem the world will encounter in feeding itself in the next 40 years are very real and something to be prepared for.
“At this very moment, there are one billion people on this planet who are chronically hungry. Are we really going to look them in the eye and say we have proven technology to help, but the issue is just too difficult to deal with, it is too controversial?”
Peterson explains that the world population will soon move from seven billion to nine billion and there will be even fewer resources to feed on.
“It is our duty to explore technologies like Genetic Modification (GM) because they may hold answers to the very serious challenges ahead.”
Positing that GM is not necessarily about making life easier for farmers or making their businesses more profitable, he says it is about finding non-chemical solutions to pests and diseases and fortifying food with Vitamin A so that children in the poorest country will not go blind or die.
“It is about making crops durable enough to survive sustained drought. It is about developing new medicines. It is about feeding families in some of the poorest parts of the world.
“We cannot expect to feed tomorrow’s population with yesterday’s agriculture, we have to use every tool at our disposal.”
The secretary of state, however, expresses dissatisfaction over the discontinued golden rice paddy trial in the Philippines, stating that it is an act initiated by some well-fed men to deny children in developing countries the right to see and live.
“The golden rice was designed to reduce the rate of children’s death and blindness in the world. GM only proffers solution and adds value but some people have seen it as multinational companies who make poisons.”
“With conventional breeding, 500,000 children die yearly while others go blind due to deficiencies,” Peterson concluded.
A hungry man, they say, is an angry man and if the problem of hunger is removed from a man’s wants, his entire problems are almost solved. The need to comprehensively solve the challenge of hunger globally cannot therefore, be over-emphasised, observers say.