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Food crisis: Otti urges leaders to embrace technology

Gov. Alex Otti of Abia has advised Nigerian leaders to urgently devise strategies to migrate from food deficit to food sufficiency to avert impending food crisis in the country

Otti advised on Thursday at the National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, Umuahia, during the 2024 edition of the institute’s Annual Research Review and Planning Workshop.

Otti was represented at the event by his Special Adviser on Agriculture, Dr. Cliff Agbeze.

He said that the increasing social unrest in Nigeria arising from hunger could result in a much wider dimension of insecurity, “hence the need to attack hunger in multiple ways.”.

According to the governor, the current situation in the country demands an enduring strategy because quick fixes are bound to fail.

He said that such strategies are now available through the articulation of research-driven innovation, adaptation, and replication of proven agricultural practices.

Otti, who described the 2024 topic, “Advancing Sustainable Root and Tuber Crop-based Farming Systems in Nigeria: A Pathway to Agro-Food Systems,”  as appropriate, said it showed the institute’s desire to solve the nation’s current social problems.

The governor, therefore, called for “reinforcement of agro-food systems to imbue them with value additions, phytosanitary stipulations, and the expansion of the supply chain of high-value food.”.

The Executive Director of NRCRI, Prof. Chiedozie Egesi, said the institution had, since its 101 years of existence, undergone very heartwarming developments.

He said NRCRI’s annual review was a time for reviewing research results and new technologies developed by the institute that tackle hitches in national food security processes, alleviate poverty, and increase youth empowerment.

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“The workshop is an avenue for solving the problems of farmers and other end users of root and tuber crop technologies.

“In June 2023, the institution, in collaboration with the International Potato Centre (CIP) in Nairobi and a German institution, officially registered and released four new varieties of potato resistant to late blight and heat tolerance.

“In January 2024, in collaboration with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, and Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki, NRCRI officially registered and released an early maturing yam known as “Sharp Sharp,”  Egesi said.

He disclosed that the institute had funded about 140 research and development projects across different areas of root and tuber crop enterprise in Nigeria, “even in the face of paucity of funds.”.

According to him, if the institute has adequate funding, it will do more than it has already done in the past few years.

He, therefore, enjoined governments to assist the institute’s programmes.

The Director-General of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Agnes Asagbra, said in her goodwill message that the event marked a milestone in Nigerian researchers’ efforts to advance sustainable root and tuber crop farming systems.

She said that this year’s topic underscored the critical role root and tuber crops played in ensuring food security, improving livelihoods, and enhancing agri-food systems resilience.

According to Asagbra, NBMA is committed to fostering a regulatory environment that promotes the safe development and deployment of biotechnology in agriculture.

She, therefore, reminded the participants of the need for their deliberations to recognise the interconnectedness of agriculture, the environment, and biosafety.

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Prof. Hamidu Sharubutu, a Professor of Veterinary Medicine and the Executive Secretary, Agricultural Council of Nigeria, said that agriculture residing on the concurrent list meant that every tier of government must contribute to increasing food production.

He said that, as a stakeholder, he was aware that NRCRI had many researchers who visited but who experienced the challenge of lodging in hotels outside their research environment, which impacted their activities negatively.

Sharubutu, who described NRCRI as the only one of its kind in Africa, called on Otti to leave his footprints on the sands of time in NRCRI by building them a dormitory for visiting researchers to ease their workload. (NAN)

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