Agricultural innovations are still relevant inÂ transforming livelihoods in Africa , a stakeholder lecture on â€œFood andÂ Cultureâ€ has heard.
Using a case study of the cassava revolution in Africa,Â researchers estimate that resource-poor farmers in Nigeria, alone,Â traded improved cassava stemsâ€”a part that is often neglected for havingÂ commercial valueâ€”worth more than US$1 million (about N150m) in fiveÂ years.
Professor Lateef Sanni, IITA Scientist, said that thisÂ increase in incomes of farmers came between 2003 and 2008.
Organized by the Public Affairs Section of the UnitedÂ States Consulate General, Lagos and IITA in Ibadan ; the â€œFood andÂ Cultureâ€ lectureÂ brought together experts in the food and agriculturalÂ sector including a guest lecturer from Tufts University .
Stakeholders reviewed the US agricultural experience andÂ brainstormed on areas that Africa could tap into.
In his presentation titled: â€œRoots and Tubers: FoodÂ Security Crops in Nigeria ,â€ Sanni said cassava was a food security cropÂ in Nigeria and a major provider of employment and income.
He said the crop appeals to farmers because of itsÂ affordability, ease of cultivation, and high return on investment.
Apart from the stems, cassava roots and leaves are nowÂ offering additional income streams to farmers.
Despite cassavaâ€™s role in the food web, Sanni said moreÂ attention by way of support to research was needed.
More importantly,Â cutting down postharvest losses through investment in processingÂ technologies and the creation of an appropriate policy framework wereÂ necessary to sustain cassavaâ€™s role in ensuring food security in theÂ future.
Prof. William Masters of Tufts University said that theÂ US government was reviewing its commitment to African agriculture withÂ plans to increase funding for the sector and to achieve productivityÂ growth which IITA has stood for in the last more than four decades.
Masters, an agricultural economist, shared his thoughtsÂ on â€œHow Americans are rethinking what they eat and what is in theirÂ food, how they grow, market and distribute them.â€
He explained that consumers in wealthy societies noÂ longer need higher farm productivity for their own prosperity, butÂ instead are seeking foods that embody their cultural values. Giving aÂ scenario of killing the â€˜golden goose that laid the golden eggs,â€™Â Masters expressed fears that consumer preferences for organic, local andÂ traditional foods in the US might limit their support for the kind ofÂ agricultural innovations that are needed in Africa .
According to him, the agricultural revolution in AmericaÂ and Europe which sustained industrialization was a product ofÂ technological improvement in agriculture and that campaigning againstÂ new advances that hold the key to cutting down hunger and poverty inÂ Africa was synonymous to killing the golden goose that laid the goldenÂ eggs of new crop genetics and agronomic methods.
African experts at the session agreed that taking AfricaÂ â€™s agricultural sector out of the woods would require the adoption ofÂ new technological tools.
For Paul Ilona, IITA Senior Cassava Trials Manager,Â farmers needed improved seeds, fertilizer and other farm inputs such asÂ pesticides to boost productivity. He said anything to the contrary was aÂ disservice to farmers in Africa .
Earlier, IITAâ€™s Director-General, Dr. Peter Hartmann ,Â who was represented by Dr Mbaye Yade, said the Institute was delightedÂ to share its knowledge and experience in the area of agriculture withÂ partners.
He said the fight against poverty and hunger in AfricaÂ required collaborative efforts among the many stakeholders working forÂ Africa â€™s development.