By Foster Obi
CGIAR-IITA Deputy Director General, Partnerships for Delivery, Kenton Dashiell, has encouraged Nigerians to take up sustainable and profitable opportunities in the country’s agriculture sector. He made this appeal recently, during his keynote address at the National Conference on Agricultural Innovations for Food Security in the Post COVID-19 Era.
In his presentation, Dashiell highlighted multiple technologies and solutions that could help sustainably achieve food security. He emphasized that farmers and other actors in the different agricultural value chains must use proven technologies appropriately and precisely to succeed. Adhering to excellent farm practices and standards will guarantee high levels of productivity, including increased crop yields.
IITA DDG-P4D, Dr Kenton Dashiell spoke extensively about opportunities in the Nigerian agriculture sector. Dashiell also advocated the use of location-specific advice and reviews to optimize the knowledge of local experts. “If you are working to improve your production practices and you are in Kano State, you need to find experts and advice from people in Kano because they know the right way to do it. If you are in Oyo State, go to your experts in Oyo State,” he said. He encouraged people to work with State Agriculture Development Programs or other local experts such as seed companies, agro-dealers, and universities.
Many still think of the old manual methods of farming as representative of the agriculture sector today. However, Dashiell debunked this view and cited several professional opportunities in the different value chains, which he insists people should approach as a business. He spoke of the importance of a business plan, a theme on which other speakers at the conference also focused.
Dashiell outlined some of the innovations that the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) initiative is deploying at scale to strengthen the cassava, maize, rice, aquaculture, and poultry value chains.
Earlier, the Assistant Director of Agricultural Biotechnology at the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Dr Rose Gidado, spoke about the need to diversify the economy to attain economic growth and food security. Representing the NABDA Acting Director-General Prof. Alex Akpa, she commended the Nigerian government for implementing policies that have strengthened the agriculture sector. Still, she called for more action to help achieve optimum food production levels.
“Nigeria cannot attain food security with the current way agriculture is practiced,” said Gidado. For this to change, she continued, “the nation’s economic growth must be accompanied by diversification of the economy by adopting sustainable and innovative technologies that advance food production.”
The virtual conference, organized by the AgroBusiness Times, focused on aggregating sustainable innovations for food security during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria and globally.