By Emmanuel Elebeke
As Nigeria struggles to address the increasing food challenge by its citizens, the director general, National Biotechnology Development Agency, Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha says the only option left for the country is to adopt science and technology to overcoming the challenge.
Prof. Mustapha made the assertion in his remarks at the 5th edition of OFAB Awards held in Abuja.
He said that primitive agricultural practices are facing only science various challenges and from what we are seeing all over the world, it is only science and technology that could rescue the country with the adoption of mechanised form of agriculture.
He said agricultural biotechnology sector in the country is undergoing a rapid transformation with scientists and researchers working round the clock to improve various crops, adding that some had been made with three crops: Cotton, Cowpea and Maize.
According to him, Cotton and Cowpea are already with farmers, while Maize will get to the farmers in one and the half years’ time, and has already been de-regulated by the National Biosafety Management Agency, meaning the genes of insert have been certified safe by the agency.
The NABDA DG insisted that the next phase of commercialisation is very crucial to the successes already recorded because ‘‘if we fail to get the products to farmers then the many years of research and Advocacy will be in vain.’’
He said the event was of great importance because media is very strategic in national development, and without them, understanding the effort of government to enhance the living standard of the people through the use of emerging technologies like modern biotechnology practice will not be feasible.
According to him, no technology development has ever succeeded anywhere in the world without the media playing a vital role of leading its propagation and ensuring its acceptance.
‘‘As a country, we must encourage our scientists to continue to work for the good of the country and the people. We have over 16 research institutes all over the country with the mandate to improve various crops. These institutes must be encouraged to carry out their mandates in order to ensure that the country attains self-sufficiency in quality food production.’’
He urged the media not to relent but to continue to work with scientists to keep Nigerians inform of what is happening in the various research institute.
Earlier in her speech, the Country Coordinator, OFAB Dr. Rose Gidado noted that local scientists and researchers have broken new grounds, and making steady progress in the deployment of agricultural biotechnology in the country, despite the efforts of some armed-chair critics who see nothing good in the efforts of our scientists.
She however, regretted that some media have provided space to those ant-technologists who are interested in seeing Nigeria importing everything rather than support our scientists to produce such crops in the country.
According to her, OFAB had trained over 100 journalists in deepening their understanding of modern biotechnology and so far awarded over 15 journalists across the Nigerian media landscape and as well empowered them with grants of various sums to independently research on agricultural biotechnology.
The OFAB Media Award is an annual event instituted by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) for OFAB in Seven African countries (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania).
The award which is in its fifth year recognized and rewarded exemplary journalism that stimulates best practices in the adoption of agricultural technologies – particularly agricultural biotechnology for sustainable development, poverty eradication and food security.