Britain To Support Osun In Agriculture, Education, politics, tourism and infrastructure.

Paul Arkwright

The British Government has expressed its readiness to collaborate with and complement the efforts of the Osun State government in the areas of education, agriculture, politics, tourism and infrastructure.

The British High Commissioner, Mr Paul Arkwright, gave the assurance during a courtesy visit to Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, in Osogbo.

The envoy accompanied by the Political Adviser at the Deputy British High Commission in Lagos, Mr Wale Adebajo, said the British Government will do everything possible to support Osun’s economy by strengthening her potential for the betterment of her citizenry.

Arkwright noted that the commission would help to facilitate and attract investors to the state from his country in all aspects of the economy.

He acknowledged the tremendous achievements of the Aregbesola administration, saying the British Government will help to promote all the policies of the state.

“The present administration in the state has done so well and this has made the British government to deem it fit to render assistance to the state so as to strengthen her economy.

“The British government is interested in boosting the economic opportunities of Osun; we want to work with the state in order to galvanize her economic potentials for the betterment of all.

“Since Osun is rich in mining and mineral resources, our government is ready to do everything possible to revive the state’s potentials in this regard and ensure that the sector enjoys necessary attention from government.

‎”We are also ready to assist the state in the areas of tourism, agriculture, mining and human capacity development. Our keen interest to support the state in the area of agriculture is aimed at bringing back the lost glory of the sector and putting-in the required values to every aspect of the sectors.

“It is a pity that 90 per cent of cocoa production in the world comes from Africa but sadly to know that just 10 per cent of the benefit is what Africa gets, so we want this to change.‎

“Politics is another critical area we are planning to render support on. We want democracy to be entrenched in the land; we are not interested in whoever becomes what but our interest is to ensure politics is practiced in accordance with democratic tenets and principles.‎

“We are interested in a smooth transition, free, fair, credible and peaceful elections in the quest to deepen democracy in Nigeria.

“As part of efforts to accomplish this, the British Government has resolved to monitor and supervise both Ekiti and Osun states governorship elections”, he added.

‎In his remarks, the Governor of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola commended the British Government for extending the hands of economic support to the state.

He described Britain as the most accommodating, tolerant and diplomatic nation in the world, saying the country had demonstrated the hallmarks of diplomacy in the annals of governance in the world.

Aregbesola lauded the British Government for showing interest in the policies of his administration particularly in the areas of education, agriculture, tourism and mining, among others.

“As a state, we thank the British government for the prospect of economic development and the move to deepen the democratic process of our land.

“As a government, we are so passionate about human development to the extent that nothing will be spared to make life better for them. One of our strong point as a people is agriculture, especially cocoa production, which makes us the second largest producer of the product in the country.

“There is also mining; there is a huge deposit of gold in commercial quantity in our state and we would love you to assist us in attracting investment in this very lucrative area.

“Tourism is another significant area of interest for us; Osun is the historical centre of the Yorubas from all over the world. The state has the highest number of traditional towns with the longest history. We will also want you to assist us in our mid-region market under the O-hub project”, he added.

While reacting on the need for state police in Nigeria, Aregbesola called on necessary authorities to support the quest in the interest of internal security.

According to him, “We all need to work on decentralising policing in Nigeria as we are the only federation in the world where central policing system is still being operated.

“if we decentralise the police, it does not remove the authority of the Federal police, it only means that the state police will only be able to work more efficiently for the protection of lives and properties.

“Some people will argue against it based on funding, but the truth is that the fund has already been made available in the federation account, it is already included in the account.

“State policing will be funded out of the Federation Account on First Line Charge just as National Judicial Commission is being funded”, he posited.

 

Kenyan farmers embrace mobile applications to enhance productivity

Kenyan farmers are already benefiting from farmer mobile applications transmitting information from scientists, an official has revealed.

Boniface Akuku, the Director of ICT at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), said the mobile applications that are accessible on the Google playstore on smart phones and other internet-enabled devices are already helping bridge the gap between research and practice.

“Since the launch of the three applications, 6,000 farmers have been tracked as they seek information online through the applications,

He noted that 88 active subscriptions from individuals and groups that have seen the importance of the mobile applications have already registered with KALRO.

Akuku said the three applications namely, dryland crops, indigenous chicken and range pastures seed production, were introduced to help farmers acquire information that could enable them to get benefits from farming activity in the absence of extension officers.

“We launched the mobile applications to help transfer science and technologies that we have developed to help enhance agricultural productivity to farmers,” he added.

Akuku said the new technology is being introduced after the failure by the policy reforms that were introduced in the agriculture sector in last two decades.

The reforms, he said recommended the retrenchment of all agricultural extension officers who had been a pillar of agricultural productivity from the farms.

“Contrary to the government’s expectation, the performance of the sector nosedived at the time with annual growth in agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declining,” he added.

But having noted the dangers of operating without extension officers amidst the farmers and having realized poor harvests that has forced the government to import food after a couple of droughts that led to crop failures, the government has now resorted to reaching farmers through mobile phones.

Akuku revealed that one application, ASAL knowledge hub (under Dryland crops mobile application), received recognition during the Planet of the Apps at the Global Disaster Relief and Development Summit in September 2017 that was held in Washington, the United States for being visited by many farmers within Kenya.

The application was named amongst a few Apps that presented some of the latest mobile applications supporting humanitarian programs and disaster relief operations across the world.

“This shows that the uptake is good and that farmers have finally found an easier way of seeking assistance from agricultural experts,” said Akuku.

He said KALRO is developing a theory of mindset change to enable youthful farmers get first-hand information and help them adopt farming as a business and replace the elderly.

He noted that the digitalization of agricultural value chain in Kenya is also assisting farmers in accessing markets, accurate weather information and purchase quality seeds.

He observed that Kenya has embarked on transforming its agriculture as a paradigm shift towards replacing conventional farming systems to populations since they are fast becoming obsolete as new knowledge begin to transform societies globally.

Akuku added that the government is now investing in knowledge and information for overall agricultural and rural development with the maximum use of ICT.

“We are ushering in a new revolution that will lower prices for consumers, contribute to smart agriculture and motivate farmers to increase their production,” he added.

He said KALRO has moved from developing programs to solving problems through the advent of ICT.

He said farmers from Northern Kenya where livestock keeping is the lifeline are now asking for an app on dairy cattle, beef, goats and camels due to its popular milk.

“We are in the process of developing on goats, camel, camel milk value chains that will be launched soon,” Akuku noted.

He said the move follows request from pastoralists from northern Kenya who are the leading livestock keepers in the country.

“It has not been easy for us chicken farmers from the Coastal region when it comes to acquiring information on indigenous chicken that has been improved by KALRO scientists,” said Rehema Juma, a poultry farmer in Kilifi county.

Juma said chicken farmers from the coast region have raised complaints through the online application with success.

She noted that they had been inconvenienced as they were initially forced to travel to Naivasha, 600 kilometers to get information on the rearing of the chicken.

According to Simon Mulwa, an ICT Officer Datacenter Operations, the 500 farmers who visited their stand at the Nairobi Trade Fair last July show that the apps are already gaining ground amongst farmers.

Mulwa noted that there are plans to conduct several field days to help popularize the apps amongst farmers in rural Kenya.

He said a banana app has picked up in Kisii region, South Western Kenya where the crop is grown in plenty.

“The chicken app is growing popular as it has lots of readers from outside Africa,” he added

Mulwa revealed that the apps are also visited by farmers from South Africa, India, Uganda, Tanzania, Sri Lanka and Russia.

Turkish agency distributes seeds to farmers in Sudan

Turkey’s state-run aid agency will give tons of seeds and various agricultural tools to some 5,000 farmers in Sudan this year.

As part of an agriculture project, Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) will distribute 50 tons of seeds of some vegetables and fruits including tomato, onion, melon, carrot and ladyfinger.

The agency will also hand out 1,500 fruit scions along with various agricultural tools.

TIKA has been giving agricultural support to the country since 2010, according to Celalettin Gungenci, the agency’s Khartoum coordinator.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Gungenci said that the project launched in 2010 continues by developing every passing year.

“Our project gives hope to thousands of Sudanese farmers,” he added.

Established in 1992, Turkey’s government-run aid agency is responsible for implementing Turkey’s developmental cooperation policies overseas.

The agency carries out development cooperation activities in 170 countries via its 58 program coordination offices in 56 countries across five continents.

Oyo state and 15 other states to receive $200m World Bank grant to improve livestock production

Oyo State has been listed among sixteen states of the federation that would benefit from a $200 million World Bank grant to improve livestock production in the country.

The state Commissioner for Agriculture, Water Resources and Rural Development, Barrister Oyewole Oyewunmi stated this yesterday during a press conference with representative of the World Bank team on Agriculture held at the conference room of the ministry.

Barrister Oyewunmi pointed out that the grant when accessed, would assist in boosting the various sectors of livestock production some of which include Poultry, Piggery, cattle and goat rearing, bee keeping, among others.

“World Bank and Federal Ministry of Agriculture are determined to intervene in rejuvenating the livestock industry in Oyo State and some others.” “

The livestock covers some value chain, namely poultry, piggery, sheeps and goats, cattle and honey. So also, we have some byproducts such as hides and skin as well as dairy.”

He stated that the World Bank would support the states through grants and soft loans from the listed focus areas.

The commissioner said that youths and women would benefit from the programme, adding they constituted 70 percent of the population. Fielding questions from newsmen on whether the state would consider the Federal Government initiative to establish cattle colonies in twelve states of the country which Oyo State is one, to end the perennial farmers and herdsmen crises in the country, the commissioner said details and modalities of the Federal Government planned cattle colony were still being looked into.

Oyewunmi, however, allayed the fears of the people on the issue of ranching, saying the programme was aimed at livestock productivity and development of value chain. “We heard that the Federal Government is considering building ranches as a way of solving the perennial crisis between herders and farmers in other to curtail the social and political crisis it was leading to

. “That idea has been proposed on the face of it, it would be the right move for government that ranching is a modern way of breeding cattle. “Oyo State has not taken any position on the issue of ranching, we have to see the modalities and methods to be used by the Federal Government.” He, however, said: “Ranching for herders will be treated as a private venture.

The Land Use Act of the Federal Government has neither been amended nor repealed as the Act still vested on the state governor ownership of land to hold in trust for its citizens.” Earlier, the World Bank Senior Economist, Mr Samuel Taffesse, said areas of intervention on the program were being examined in other to ensure its success. “The demand for livestock in Nigeria is higher than the supply.

Federal Government of Nigeria sought the assistance of World Bank in developing the livestock.” “About sixteen states, including Oyo State has signified interest as requested by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture,” he said. Taffesse said that the objective of the programme was to improve livestock productivity, develop resilience and strong value chain.

FAO,NECSOB Organize Validation Workshop On Agric Based Livelihoods Activities in Borno LGAs

The Network of Civil Society Organizations Borno State, NECSOB in partnership with Food and Agricultural Organization of The United Nations (FAO) has organized a one day Validation Workshop on Rapid Need Assessment of Agricultural Based Livelihood Activities in LGAs of Borno State for criticisms and observations.

The Chairman of CSO, Borno State Chapter, Ambassador Ahmed Shehu noted that the assessment of the rapid need of the rural was a very crucial and important issue to be assessed towards empowering the rural actors especially, the farmers and strategize for the comfort and convenience of the returnee IDPs across the state.

Speaking at the opening ceremony,y held at the Banquet Hall of Borno State Hotels, GRA Maiduguri Friday, the Chairman said FAO entered into understanding with the Network of Borno Sate Civil Society Organizations with a view to make proper findings of the agric rural needs of the rural people for subsequent support ad assistance for FAO and other collaborating partners.

He urged every participant to avail him or herself of the findings and make meaningful contributions and observations for the purpose of reliability and viability of the final reports or findings of the project.

The Representative of the FAO Country Representative, MrJona Makino said FAO has been i n Borno sate since 2016 and in Nigeria 40 years ago supporting or intervening in four areas of seeds, seedlings, fertilizer, cash support, livestock and farming tools among others to rural farmers and IDPs since 2016.

Tech start-up Aerobotics could save South-Africa agriculture millions, and boost the Agriculture sector at large.

Using satellite imagery and drone technology, a Cape Town-based start-up is able to potentially save the agricultural sector millions of rands in crop losses due to pests and disease, boosting the sector and contributing to increased food security.

Nedbank Corporate Investment Banking’s (CIB’s) Venture Capital Fund has just bought a stake in it.

Aerobotics, which was started in early 2015 by James Paterson and Benji Meltzer, focuses on analysing data for tree crops such as citrus, fruits and nuts.

The company employs about 30 people.

They have developed software that uses layers of data from satellite and drone imagery to map individual trees in order to determine their health and identify those suffering from pests or disease, or from a lack of irrigation or nutrition.

On top of this is an app, which acts a bit like a Google map to direct the farmer to the specific trees which are below optimum health, saving time and fuel in large orchards.

Speaking at their Woodstock, Cape Town offices this week, Paterson said their basic service, which uses satellite data updated every five days dependent on cloud cover, together with their scouting app, costs farmers R10 per hectare per month.

The addition of drone fly overs to increase the accuracy of data costs R100 per hectare per flight, with three to four flights per season offering the best results.

While there are many drone image services offered to farmers to give them an aerial overview of their crop health, Aerobotics claims to be ahead of the game globally in developing unique software that uses the aerial data to individually identify and analyse every tree on the farm.

The resultant early detection of stressed trees saves farmers about R10 000 per hectare in lost yields per year, said Paterson.

He said their first test client, who has been working with them since the beginning, has saved R51 000 per year on a 4-hectare orchard.

With four drone flights per season and a basic subscription, the cost of the full service at approximately R1 600 per hectare over a year still equalled an R8 400 per hectare saving due to early intervention.

This was about 5% to 10% of nett value per hectare, said Ockie Geldenhuys, chair of the Ceres Fruit Farmers Association.

Paterson, who is the son of a citrus farmer in Clanwilliam, said they currently have about 500 clients representing 60 000 hectares on their platform. About 90% of these are in South Africa, but they also have clients in Australia, Spain, France and the US.

With 100 million hectares of tree crops in South Africa, the company has massive growth potential, currently servicing only 0.06% of its local market and barely touching the international market as yet.

This potential has been recognised by Nedbank CIB, which used its newly established venture fund to buy an undisclosed equity stake in the company.

Nedbank CIB head of disruption and innovation, Stuart van der Veen, said the new division was established a year ago to “experiment in frontier technology” to the benefit of their clients, and Aerobotics was the new division’s first investment from its R100 million fund, an amount which was just “a toe in the water”.

Van der Veen said the type of “granular equity allocation” in a tech company such as Aerobotics “hasn’t necessarily made sense for very large balance sheets in the past”.

However, the ability to scale up for the biggest industry on the continent has Nedbank introducing the technology to “a couple of significant clients” and “forward-looking clients”, including agricultural co-operatives and farmers, within their business banking sector.

The bank’s disruption portfolio, Van der Veen said, was looking at how to “create alternative futures” for its clients, and there was “a massive rise in agritech” with food security and farming becoming increasingly important.

The investment in Aerobotics was part of validating technology in this sphere, finding value propositions and scaling it up.

Van der Veen said the agricultural industry was very complex and there were massive amounts of data that had not yet been measured.

“So if we draw from that, there’s a lot of optimization we can add to the farm.”

Paterson said farming was moving from the age of mechanization into the age of digitization, in which existing data was analysed to optimize yields.

He said while the Aerobotics software had been developed to identify and analyse individual trees by feeding countless images into the algorithm, the next step was to enable work at leaf level so that pests and diseases could be identified before they affected the entire tree.

At this level, it would also be useful to field crop farmers, opening a potential market of an additional one billion hectares for data analysis in South Africa alone

Scientists say updated climate modeling necessary to predict East Africa weather temperature,

 State-funded research institutions across East Africa should invest in modern climate modeling tools to enhance their capacity to predict future rainfall patterns in the era of global warming, international scientists said in a study launched in Nairobi on Saturday.

The study that has been published in the acclaimed Journal of Climate stated that timely prediction will enhance the capacity of local communities in the eastern African region to cope with torrential rains linked to climate change.

“Extremes of tropical rainfall like the one experienced in Kenya recently can be devastating to developing economies,” said Dave Rowell, a co-author of the study that is supported by the East African Community (EAC) and bilateral partners.

He stressed that researchers should tackle disagreements over climate modeling to boost rainfall prediction in a region already grappling with devastating impacts of floods.

The latest study on the future of rainfall in East Africa in the light of global warming will enable governments and industry to come up with improved coping mechanisms tailor-made for local communities.

Researchers noted that the existing climate models point to a future of heavy rainfall accompanied by flash-floods in most parts of East Africa due to rising temperatures.

“Over the coming decades, climate models predict that uncontrolled green house gas emissions will lead to significant changes in the frequency, intensity and distribution of rainfall in the eastern African region,” noted the study.

It warned that poor infrastructure and over-reliance on agriculture will worsen the vulnerability of local communities in the event of floods.

John Marsham, a co-author of the study, said that updated climate modeling is key to giving accurate predictions of future rainfall patterns in the East African region.

“Understanding and predicting future changes in tropical rainfall is one of the greatest and most important challenges facing climate science today,” said Marsham.

He noted that evidence-based research will enable policymakers and communities to prepare adequately for extreme weather events linked to climate change.

Auto-Mobil giant aims to grow agriculture mechanization, farm-tech, mobility power solutions for Nigeria

Mahindra & Mahindra Limited with its channel partners in Nigeria, Springfield Agro Ltd. and VIP Merchandise Enterprise Ltd. Have unveiled its plans for scaling up and expanding operations in Nigeria; offering customized and focused solutions in the areas of agriculture and farm-tech prosperity, mobility and power generation.

For years, Mahindra has been partnering in the growth story of Africa, offering its range of products across automotive and farm equipment sectors. In line with the organization’s focus on developing operations in Africa, Mahindra West Africa Ltd was created in Nigeria in 2016.

The idea behind setting up local operations is to partner and collaborate in the growth opportunity that the market presents and empower the communities with robust and global business insights and solutions.

Speaking at a media rountable in Lagos, Chief of International Operations, Mahindra & Mahindra Limited, Arvind Mathew, said, the company has made humanity’s innate desire to rise its driving purpose. “We challenge conventional thinking and innovatively use all our resources to drive positive change in the lives of our stakeholders and communities across the world.”

Mathew further said: “Nigeria is among the largest markets and economies on the African continent and presents very strong growth prospects. We have been working steadfastly with our channel partners to ensure that we deliver innovative solutions to meet the needs of the community here.He said the Farm-To-Folk initiative is one such solution that empowers farmers from every region and capacity, driving farm-tech prosperity.

“We will continue to up the ante on technology and innovation to offer solutions in Nigeria that will drive positive change,” Mathew added. Managing Director, Springfield Agro, Tarun Kumar Das, said, “Springfield Agro and Mahindra have established a strong presence in Nigeria over the last decade to provide solutions in the agriculture and farming space.

“We have recently commissioned a Mahindra tractor assembly plant in Kaduna State, with a manufacturing capacity of 5,000 tractors and associated agricultural implements.According to him, the plant can produce various ranges of tractors from 25Hp to 80Hp to cater to a wide spectrum of customer needs”.In his remarks Chairman, VIP Merchandise Enterprise Ltd, Prakash Vaswani, said boosting local employment is crucial to the economic development and prosperity of the country. Vaswani said: “We have setup assembly plants in Sango Ota and Kano where we assemble Mahindra two-wheelers, three-wheelers and Generator sets, in turn providing employment opportunities to the local manpower in the regions.

Also, with our products, Arro and Alfa, we have not only been offering customized and unique mobility solutions for the market, but also delivering employment and entrepreneurial platforms to empower the community to Rise,” he said. However, Mahindra plans to scale up operations and offerings in Nigeria in the agriculture, passenger vehicle and commercial vehicle segments and has indicated that it will soon be launching products and offerings in these categories.

lack of vibrant seed industry undermines potentials of agricultural sector in Nigeria,

One of the major issues that worry stakeholders in Nigeria’s agricultural sector is the lack of vibrant seed industry, which is the backbone of any productive agriculture economy.

 Nigeria has an estimated national demand of over 350,000 metric tons of certified seeds every year, according to the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) but produces less than quarter of that national demand.

Majority of smallholder farmers-in their millions, do not have access to quality seeds in most of the grains and legumes- a situation many experts said has made the country’s average yield far below global standard.

Only a significant fraction of rice farmers has access to Faro 44, 52, 60, which are good seed varieties in the country.

Ms Chika Okoh, Federal Partnership Facilitator of the DFID Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn – Engaged Citizens (PERL-ECP) said after a critical analysis of the country’s agriculture, came to the conclusion that seed, which is very important to good yield, was being overshadowed by fertilizer.

To this end, the program organized a two-day strategy session for partners advocating for farmers’ increased access to quality seeds at the federal and state levels in Kaduna recently.

The program brought together different farmers’ group that expressed serious concern regarding the many challenges facing the seed subsector in the country.

Some experts like Aghan Daniel of the African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA) believes that at the end of the 2018 rain-fed planting season, less than 20% of smallholder farmers in Africa would have planted clean certified seeds. Mr. Daniel stressed that seed companies must show commitment to end food insecurity in Africa.

He also opined that the “Bottlenecks that bedevil the sector, could, for example, be slayed if political leaders kept their word sprouting from their meeting in June last year where there was renewed commitment to allocate at least 10 percent of their national budgets to agriculture. The initial commitment was born in what is fondly referred to as the Maputo Declaration of 2003 where African presidents declared they will each allocate at least 10% of their total national budget towards agriculture. Fifteen years on, Africa still reports that the average expenditure on Agriculture is 4.5%.”

Over 157 seed companies but fewer clean certified seeds

Despite the fact that the numbers of seed companies rose from 11 in 2011 to about 157 in 2018 according to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Nigeria Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), producing or trading seeds in the country, availability of pure certified seeds is still very limited in the country.

For decades, Nigerian farmers use grains from the market to plant, making progress in terms of yield low-something Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, Acknowledged.

Chief Ogbeh admits that “the seed system of many food and industrial crops are collapsing due to inadequate quantities and poorly coordinated systems.”

The Minister stressed that “addressing the challenges of making available quality early generation seeds in the seed value chain is critical to achieving the goals of the Green Alternative Agenda of this administration to attain self-sufficiency in our local staples.”

Low productivity in some grains, legumes very worrisome

The 2017 National Report for the country’s agricultural performance survey by the Federal Department of Agriculture and National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria shows how poor the nation is doing in some of these crops compare to global average.

Take Sorghum for instance, the total estimated hectare of land cultivated in the 2017 season was 5.6 million, producing 6.7 million metric tons- an average yield of 1.19 tons per hectare.

Maize, however, did better from a cultivated land area of 5.9 million hectares in the 2017 season, producing an output of 9.1 million metric tons with an average yield of 1.6 to 2.5 tons per hectare.

Millet was cultivated in an estimated land area of 1.8 million hectares, which produced 1.4 million tons. The yield was 0.8 ton per hectare.

For soybeans, the total area used for the cultivation of the crop was estimated at 493,950 hectares producing about 494,000 tonnes with an average of 1 ton per hectare.

These crops yield performance ranges in between 4 to 7 tons per hectare in Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The IITA 2016 report on Transforming African agriculture through research noted that “Although access to quality seed of improved maize varieties has been of the upswing in recent years, the production and supply of sufficient quantities of early generation seeds (breeder and foundation seeds) still pose a challenge particularly to emerging and small-scale seed companies in West Africa that rely heavily on varieties bred by national agricultural research systems (NARS) and international agricultural research centers. Until such time that policies and scales of production allow for improved efficiencies to address this constraint, public organizations must shoulder part of the responsibility of providing early generation seeds.

“Maize is cultivated by approximately 55 million smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Farmers’ current maize yields are 50% to 75% lower than attainable yields. The persisting yield gap has been attributed to many biophysical and socioeconomic factors and is exacerbated by extant weak support systems for wide technology adoption among farmers.”

NASC and the way forward

The Director General, NASC, Dr. Phillip Ojo, in work of the workshop on seeds stated that “it is in a bid to find solution to the multifarious challenges bedeviling the production and delivery of Early Generation Seeds (EGS) in the National Seed System” that NASC has taken a number of steps.

The agency stressed that the problem in the sector, that requires urgent attention, include low improved seed adoption rate, low yield per hectare, adulterated and fake seeds in the seed markets, knowledge gap of improved seed benefits as to where and how to where and how to identify quality seeds, and lack of connectivity with agro-industries.

To deal with the situation, NASC sought a special intervention fund from the Federal Government to scale up Early Generation Seeds production to make sure that seed system growth in Nigeria.

The four-year intervention sought last year was N7.6billion covering 2017 to 2020, which expected to add 10,355 tons of EGS and 918,743 metric tons of certified seeds within the period.

If granted such intervention would dramatically help to preposition the industry.

Strengthening research institutes, others is important

Almost all the 16 research institutes and colleges of agriculture and the three universities of agriculture are doing very little regarding seed development due to poor funding and budgetary allocation.

A source in one of the research institutes who sought anonymity said some PhD holders in some of the institutes are returning to the universities because of lack of funds and facilities to do demand-driven research-something that government needs to seriously look into.

Government most also provide the enabling environment for the seed companies; entrepreneurs to do sustainable seed business in the country.

A number of them and the global leaders like Monsanto and Syngenta, in collaboration with National Agricultural Research Institutes have so far released some seed varieties in some of the grains, legumes and tubers but most lack capacity to widen their reach to millions of smallholder farmers in the country.

OLAM Nigeria, for instance, has made a significant investment in the soybeans value-chain. The company partnered with IITA and invested into bringing the highest quality of Soybean seeds into the country. It has the best team of breeder scientists, seed scientists as well as $150m factory plant that creates breeder seeds, foundation seeds, and certified seeds on an average 1000 hectares of land.

The company recognizes the scarcity of good seeds in the country and resolves to double production to over two million metric tons soybean production in the next five to seven years.

No matter the efforts, however, there is need for immediate government intervention just as interventions from private participants, donor agencies as well as research institutes are needed. Time for action is now; tomorrow will leave us behind in sub-Saharan Africa as Kenya, South Africa and Ethiopia are going faster.

Urban agriculture could transform food security in Africa – Experts

Using science, technology and innovation (STI) could help promote the use of urban agriculture to sustain food and nutrition security in African cities, experts say.

The experts who specialize in agriculture, geography and urban planning say that urban agriculture has been neglected in urban planning and development agenda.

Agricultural activities such as crop farming and livestock keeping are deemed as activities of rural dwellers by African urbanites, according to the experts.

They explain that the continent needs to increase the adoption of modern technology and innovations in farming such as using agricultural data monitoring sensors that transmit timely data on amount of nutrients in the soil, rainfall and temperatures to mobile phone devices for action.

The experts made these comments during the Sustainable African Cities Conference in Ghana last week (3-6 July).

The conference that brought together 200 experts from many countries including Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Canada and Germany, had delegates discuss current challenges and exploring future pathways for sustainable cities in Africa.

The conference was organised by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS) in collaboration with the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the Network of African Academy of Sciences and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany.

“Hunger levels are on the rise in Africa but we haven’t found sustainable solutions,” says Sheryl Hendricks, director, Institute for Food, Nutrition and Well-being at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Hendricks explains that urban agriculture could help increase agricultural diversity, especially in producing vegetables to enhance nutrition security.

According to Hendricks science, technology and innovation research could help find innovations to aid food safety and reduce post-harvest losses and food waste.

George Ofori, a fellow of the GAAS, says that Africa should reduce over-reliance on modern technologies developed outside of the continent to increase sustainability. “We need to find localised solutions to food and nutrition security issues in our urban settings,” Ofori explains.

Axel Drescher, a research fellow at the Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Freiberg, Germany, says that urban agriculture is practised in some African cities such as Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, Lusaka in Zambia and Bamako in Mali, adding that urban agriculture could produce eggs, milk, poultry, fruits and vegetables that are highly nutritious.

But Drescher explains that there is a need for more research to examine the potential of urban agriculture in addressing food and nutrition security and increasing sustainability of African cities.