A professor of Agricultural Processing and Storage Engineering has said that the current food security challenge in Nigeria is as a result of the oil boom in the 70s and 80s. Unfortunately, Nigerians saw it then as a blessing, now it has turned a curse.
In a lecture titled: “Leveraging Food Security Challenges in Nigeria: Through agricultural production, processing and storage for mitigating recession,” Engr. Prof Sabbas Nwabueze Asoegwu said that Juan Perez Pablo Alfonso, Vennezuela’s Oil Minister was correct when he called petroleum the “devils excrement,” for it brings trouble, waste, corruption and makes public service to fall apart”.
Prof. Asoegwu said “for Nigeria to shake off the “oil curse” there is need to increase economic diversification thereby providing alternatives to the oil-related economic activities through revitalizing the agricultural sector.
In the light of these, he said our agriculture needs the application and control of power in several forms, the use of growing variety of materials and the improvement in the technical processes required to raise agricultural productivity and efficiency and to reduce its requirement of human labor.
This is the main thrust of agricultural mechanization which he noted has been saddled with many constraints. Some of the constraints include; many small fragmented farm holdings which hinder efficient use of equipment and machinery; abundance of primitive agronornic/cultural practices (e.g. multiple cropping, crop rotation, mixed cropping) which limit the scope and efficiency of machinery to be adapted for use; lack of technical know-how on machine-soil fertility relationships and suitability as well as machine-crop adaptility and performance, little financial muscle (in terms of credit) to enable the illiterate and conservative farmers purchase agro-technological inputs; absence of incentives for indigenous design and manufacture of equipment; unstable, uncoordinated agricultural and industrial policies of government e.t.c. “The above problems are too complex and too sophisticated for the armament and arsenals of hand hoes, machete and similar tools which form the only weapons available to the army of traditional, aged and ageing peasant farmers”, he regretted.
“The farmers need simple, cheap, modified and user-friendly designs of these traditional implements.
Nigeria must reposition her economy to be productive through agricultural development and solid minerals exploration”, he advised.
He expressed optimism that the “oil curse” or “dutch disease” or “devil’s excrement” can be abrogated or cured by encouraging the needed development in the agricultural sector.
The Vice Chancellor of FUTO, Prof Francis C. Eze, who was the chairman of the occasion, in his reaction commended the inaugural lecturer for the lecture, which he believed was well understood by everyone.
The Vice Chancellor appreciated the theme of the lecture, saying:
“As a school of technology we intend to use technology to improve the standard of processing and storage because most of our produced agric products are lost due to lack of technical know-how of processing and storage.”
The Prof. Eze wondered why Nigeria could not be self-sufficient in food production going by the huge sums of money usually allocated to the sector every year. He said if the funds were popularly directed to empower and support small holder farmers as well as other areas in the agric sector that need improvement, things will definitely turn around for good, especially now we are in recession.