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ROLE OF AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY IN DEVELOPING ECONOMIES 2

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According to Wikipedia (2006) a developing society is one with relatively low standard of living, undeveloped industrial base and moderate to low human development index (HDI)

Chassy (2003) reported that 800 – 850 million people are malnourished, more than 200million of these are children, many of whom will never reach their full intellectual and physical potential, another 1-1.5 billion humans have only marginally better access to food and often do not consume balanced diet containing sufficient quantities of all required nutrients and majority of this nutritionally at risk population live in developing countries and this number will grow as human population growth is  ever on the increase. The question now is how will Agriculture carter for this pending problem of food shortage and the expected increase in nutritionally at risk people while maintaining a healthy environment and biodiversity? Will it be by expanding cultivated land area? Or by increasing the use of inputs? How friendly are these practices to the environment? It can only be achieved through crop and livestock improvements (Biotechnology) as stated by an international conference of experts convened World by the Bank, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the food and agriculture organization (FAO) in 1992.

Biotechnology has prospects to remedy the problem of food shortage as research in this field aims to develop plant varieties that provide reliable high yield, at the same or lower costs by breeding in qualities such as resistance to diseases, pest and stress factors which will contribute gainfully to food production while maintaining a healthy environment by reducing the amount of fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides used in farming. These shows clearly that biotechnology seeks to improve Agricultural practices by making it cost effective, increase productivity and bridging other gaps which pose serious challenges to Agriculture. These gains will lead to capacity building, create numerous jobs, and reduce poverty as well as ending malnutrition. Annon (2002) reported that the United Nations Economic and Social commission for western Asia Cooperation with International Labour Organization (ILO) sought to identify the best approach for regional capacity building in new  technology to improve employment rate, sustainable development and poverty alleviation in developing Arab Nations came to a conclusion that identifying new technologies, adopting, regulating and implementing them will serve the purpose for national economic and social development. In the report, it was emphasized that countries that adopt a better approach to the four novel technologies of biotechnology, genetic engineering, biomaterials and informatics will develop a better capacity for economic and social development than their counterparts.

It becomes very pertinent in this era of dwindling oil prices and mass unemployment that Nigeria incorporates biotechnology into its agricultural programme as the Present administration seeks to savor the economy by diversifying it to Agriculture which promises to be the best substitute. It should however be noted that for Agriculture to be worthwhile, appropriate technologies (Biotechnology) must be employed rather than relying on the very crude techniques that will not carter for the present day challenges posed to Agriculture e.g. Climate change, erosion and leaching of farm lands, arid and unfertile lands etc.

LIMITATIONS/PUBLIC PERCEPTION

It is obvious that to meet the food demand in a developing economy like ours using a novel technology like biotechnology requires meeting a number of social, political, economic and technical challenges.

We are thankful to the Nigerian Government for passing the biosafety bill into law, establishing the National Biosafety Management Agency; however we still experience a major problem of social acceptability, which I know is a misconception a majority of the Nigerian populace holds about biotechnology and GM products. In a survey carried out in my 4thyear in 2012, it showed that 85% of Nigerians don’t know what biotechnology entails but have their own personal philosophies in the best ways it appeals to their knowledge, and their knowledge is only associated with the negatives of biotechnology . It should however be stressed that biotechnology is a household name for everything  that has to do with manipulation of living things ranging from the very simple process of alcohol fermentation to cloning of plants and animals. It should also be known that genetic engineering; transgenic organisms are quite different from cloning and cloned organisms. It should also be known that they is no innovation that lacks disadvantages, just like cars, airplanes, electricity had  their advantages and disadvantages so also is biotechnology. Owing to the fact that the advantages of this innovations outweighs the disadvantages, policies, regulatory bodies are constituted to regulate this innovation within the confines of its advantages while on the other hand greatly reducing the disadvantages, this is no exception with biotechnology as the National Biotechnology Management Agency (NBMA) was constituted to regulate the activities of biotechnology, and they will deliver on this core objective. In criticizing biotechnology and its products, we should offer a hard-look rather than our personal philosophies as the problem of social acceptance is a major setback to the proliferation of this technology in Nigeria.

The economic and technical issues relate to funding of biotechnology researches, infrastructure for researches and manpower to put this technology into practice, since it is novel and the practice within the country is small scale. This however have discouraged individuals from venturing into this field of study as it is assumed to have very grim opportunities for its graduates and practitioners, but we have faith owing to the importance attached to this discipline that our well-meaning, experienced and exposed leaders will tap into the potentials of this discipline providing funding which will result in the training of personnel to adequately fit into this field.

CONCLUSION

Agricultural biotechnology will be a major part of the solution to the problem of increasing food demand while at the same time conserving biodiversity. It has been shown to improve yield around the world especially in developing countries and this increased yield will spare land for natural ecosystems to co-exist with agro ecosystems, improve GDP, generate income, create employments and consequently greatly reduce poverty and malnutrition which is the bane of developing countries. We implore Nigeria to join other developing and developed nations who have resorted to biotechnology on the basis of their needs and empirical based reports on biotechnology products by open minded, well-meaning scientist rather than taking queues behind developed countries who don’t have the need we have, who don’t suffer what we suffer, who have adopted the technology with respect to their own needs and claim the entire technology is not safe. We therefore call on individuals, opinion leaders, students, policy makers, authorities in the agriculture sector, private sector, sister and supporting MDAs like the ministry of information, national orientation agency, ministry of science and technology, ministry of finance, ministry of environment to partner with the National Biotechnology development agency to achieve its objectives of promoting and implementing evidence based science and technology of which agricultural biotechnology is cardinal.

You can read the part one here

Written by Opuah Abiekwen(abeikwen@yahoo.com) Graduate of Biotechnology and Genetics, University of Calabar

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Agric Engineer uses ICT to provide support services to farmers

Yet again, BusinessDay Nigeria, sheds some light into my activities as a youth in Agriculture in the Wednesday 24th April 2014 edition of the newspaper. Spare a  few minutes and read below this piece by Yinka Alawode of Businessday

A young Chief Executive of Agropreneur Nigeria runs his family piggery farm and combines it with his knowledge of Agriculture and ICT to provide business support services to farmers.

Olawale Ojo has a degree in Agricultural Engineering from the Federal University of Technology Akure and a Diploma in Integrated Farming Systems from the Songhai Centre for Production, Training, and Research, Port Novo, Benin Republic.

His inspiration came after his course at the Songhai Centre, which served as an eye opener to him as he worked with other youths planning to launch agribusinesses.

He started Agropreneur Nigeria April 2012. The business provides business support services to farmers, especially young agriculturists. The firm also does advocacy and capacity building for young people. “We believe the future of the agricultural sector is in the hands of the youths when they take it as a business. So, we work on changing the mindset of young people and in turn provide information and business support to help them grow,” says Ojo.

To achieve this, Agropreneur Nigeria profiles successful young farmers called agropreneurs on the internet and share their stories so that others can learn. “That also serves as an incentive to these hardworking young people. We have also worked on agricultural research and share the information via social media to enable a proper understanding of what is happening in the sector,” Ojo says.

He explains that this business is targeted at the youths and it focuses on making agriculture attractive while at the same time introducing modern technology like ICT for agriculture and social media as a tool for knowledge and information sharing in agribusiness.

Agropreneur plans to have a considerable expanse of land separate from the family farm he runs, where youths can be trained in farming and can establish their own businesses. “We also want to engage rural areas by creating access to market for them and providing qualitative extension service for them, especially with the internet. I must say that a lot of youths are beginning to see that the agriculture sector is a gold mine,” according to Ojo.

 

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Youth entrepreneur using ICT to grow agribusinesses

Business

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has grown many businesses in several sectors, and young entrepreneurs are now using ICT to tap into the gold-mine inherent in agribusinesses. Olawale Ojo, chief executive, Agropreneur Nigeria, provides business support services for farmers and young agriculturists. Apart from advocacy and capacity building for aspiring agro-entrepreneurs, the business provides information and business support to help them grow.

“We do research and share the information via social media to enable a proper understanding of what is happening in the sector. We also profile successful young agropreneurs and share their story so that others can learn, and this serves as an incentive to these hardworking young people. I started the business April 30, last year,” according to Ojo.

Background

Ojo has a degree in Agricultural Engineering from the Federal University of Technology Akure and a diploma in Integrated Farming Systems from the Songhai Centre for Production, Training, and Research, Porto Novo, Benin Republic.

Inspiration

He says: “My inspiration came after my course at the Songhai Centre. It served as an eye opener for me as I worked with other youths from different parts of Africa exploring the agricultural value chain. So, using my knowledge of ICT, I provide capacity building services using social media as a tool for knowledge and information sharing to help young entrepreneurs boost their agribusinesses. Though the main target are youths, we also work with older farmers and investors in agribusiness generally.”

Challenges

The business no doubt has its own fair share of challenges. “Building a team and a structure for my business was a bit of a challenge. Financing was also challenging. I got help from older ones in the field and mentors I have met along the way such as the CEO of Centre for Urban Agricultural Development, the lady Olatoye, who was really helpful in my starting up. I also learned a lot from materials I read from research organisations.”

Future prospects

I have joined my parents in running a family farm. But I want Agropreneur Nigeria to have its own farm, a very big one, where we can give youths practical training in agricultural production/agribusiness so they can start their own businesses. We also want to do market facilitation for farmers in rural areas as well as provide qualitative extension services for them. Fortunately, more and more youths are willingly setting up agrobusinesses in Nigeria and in other countries. They are beginning to see that the agricultural sector is a gold-mine that needs tapping. And it is now time to act and start employing innovative ways to key into the sector, despite the challenges we have.”

This article about me was published the Business Day Newspaper Edition of July 22 2013

GRADUATE SCHOLARSHIPS ANNOUNCEMENT -MSC IN RESEARCH METHODS

 

REGIONAL UNIVERSITIES FORUM FOR CAPACITY BUILDING IN AGRICULTURE
GRADUATE SCHOLARSHIPS ANNOUNCEMENT (CALL ID: RM/GF/M/14)
MSC IN RESEARCH METHODS

Scholarship Background
Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) is a consortium of 32 Universities in Eastern Central and Southern Africa (ECSA) with a goal to strengthen graduate training and agricultural related research. This is achieved by providing resources and peer support to generate knowledge, research products and human resources to support agricultural development. RUFORUM has been involved in Regional graduate programmes that are responsive to stakeholder needs and national development goals. RUFORUM has received funding from Bill and Melinda Gates to support training of students on Master’s Degree Program in Research Methods hosted at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Kenya for the academic year 2014/2015. Accordingly, applications are being invited for these scholarships.

Scholarship Eligibility and requirements
RUFORUM is offering a limited number of scholarships. Applicants MUST first apply to JKUAT for admission/acceptance to the university programme. A proof of admission to the programme will be need before the scholarship award. Priority will be given to applicants who are already staff members and research scientists from RUFORUM Universities and National Research Institutes in the RUFORUM countries, respectively. Special consideration will be given to applicants from outside Kenya. Women are highly encouraged to apply.

What the Scholarship Covers
The scholarship will cover application fees, tuition fees, research costs, economy class return ticket (for foreign students only), medical cover and living expenses. Full details will be given on admission. It is important to note that the scholarship will not cater for family members/dependents of students

Application process

The application submission will be online through the RUFORUM Website (www.ruforum .org) and will open from 24th – 30st March 2014. Please DO NOT send your application packages by email or post. The package to upload (in English) shall include the following;

  1. Duly filled fellowship/scholarship application form
  2. Two Letters from the applicant’s referees, including one from previous academic institution

For any urgent inquiries please email the Training Officer at the RUFORUM Secretariat:  s.chindime@ruforum.org and a copy to secretariat@ruforum.org.

Scholarship Application Deadline
All applications must be received by end of day on 30th March 2014.

 

Source- Ruform website

Photo Credit – www.fau.edu via google

Food Security in Africa, What The Future Holds

A woman with a basket on her head, with a malnourished child at her side with obvious internal bone structure displayed, due to lack of proper feeding, suffering, poverty, hunger and food insecurity. This is a typical picture of what many go through in Sub-Saharan Africa. One might say to him or herself, “I don’t look that bad, I feed well and look good.” The sad truth is that billions all over the world are hungry and we should all be concerned for our future and for that of generations to come.

WHAT THE STATS SAY

Let’s take a brief journey into what reports, researches and findings have to say about food security in Africa and the world in general. A 2012 FAO report, State of Food Insecurity in the World, revealed that about 870 million people are estimated to have been undernourished from 2010 to 2012. This represents 12.5 percent of the global population or, in other words, one in eight people. Moreover, out of this 870 million, 852 million live in developing countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the report, 216 million people suffer from food insecurity.

These figures are alarming and show how glooming the future is and can be, if nothing is done. It is the responsibility of every man and woman in Africa to begin to see the role they play, regardless of their capacity, to ensure food security in Africa, now and in the future.

Before we go on to examine some actions to be taken, let us consider what food security entails and why we need to give it attention. The World Bank, after much deliberation, in 1986 defines food security as “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active healthy life’’. Merely reading these words in plain English shows that all of us in Africa are far from been food-secure. Africa has an ever growing population with more and more children and youth, alongside a growing aging farming population, averaging 65 years. The question is, who would grow our food in the next 10 years? The adverse effect of climate change and the danger that comes along with it, all are good reasons for us to attend to ensuring food security from all quarters.

WHAT DO WE DO TO ENSURE A FOOD-SECURE FUTURE?

First of all, we all need to recognise that ensuring food security is a task for not only a selected few, but everyone. We all need to put our hands on deck, be you a father, a mother, a child, a youngster, government representative, scientist, farmer or activist. We all have a role to play in ensuring that food security is achieved in the long run. Let us examine a few points:

  • Agriculture is big business: it is important that we no longer look at agriculture as a developmental aid, but as a business. Agriculture has the ability to provide not only food, but also income and materials to improve life. It is thus important that from all quarters there should be an increased investment in agriculture. The government, private sector players, NGOs, donor organisations and others, all have to increase investment in agriculture.
  • Investment in youth: Africa is blessed with an energetic and passionate youth who are beginning to understand that they all have a role in shaping a future they want for themselves and generations to come. There is, however, an image problem towards agriculture, food production and it related fields. Many youngsters see it as punishment, others as a career for the poor. For these reasons there are a need for investment in advocacy, training, capacity building, incentives and commendation. This is to enable us to have an energetic, innovative and dynamic youth who would apply whatever education or training they have, to contribute to improved food production, nutrition, storage and distribution of food. Thus ensuring they are not only employed but also generating revenue that enable them live comfortable and fulfilled lives.
  • Creating Enabling Environments: This applies mainly to government and its related agencies. Smallholders and rural dwellers need to have improved livelihood. For this to effectively take place the government has a big role in creating an enabling environment for them. It starts with proper policies such as those that would allow smallholders to have easy and convenient access to market. Social amenities, such as good roads, electricity, ICT and its services, water supply, storage facilities for farmers, etc., are all essential. Access to credit is also essential for smallholders and anyone willing to venture into the food production sector.
  • Research and Development: With the raging effect of climate change, there is a big need for the development of new and well improved product varieties with inbuilt resilience to climate change, coupled with resistance to diseases and pests. Thus, there is a need for not only financial investment in research, but also for researchers and scientists who would achieve building human capacity and in the long run contribute to food security in Africa. This obligation can be overwhelming, but its potential for the present and future generations, supersedes any investment.

By and large, we all have a role to play. Governments, now than ever, need to invest more in agriculture, encouraging the private sector to participate as they do so. Poor farmers, smallholders, rural dwellers, youth and women need to be given special attention while this is done. The youth should also be dynamic enough to see the future that lies ahead if the continent is food-secure and thus be open-minded in changing their view of agriculture and its related fields. Parents should also be active in promoting agricultural activities among the younger generation, by having a simple backyard farm for example. The future of food security in Africa is bright and has a lot of potential to create better livelihood and improved socioeconomic conditions for us now and times to come.

This article was first published as a contribution to the FORESIGHT FOR DEVELOPMENT NEWSLETTER

Choose life before profit

Very interesting read.

The FARA Social Reporters Blog

Life before Profit

In the name of development, a lot has been taking place in the agricultural sector. Statistics show that by 2050, we will have to feed 9 billion people and increase food production by 70%. Indeed, there is a need to invest more in agricultural research to achieve this, but what should be the priority and focus area of research?

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The challenge of a pro-poor agricultural research system

THE GFAR BLOG

Kenyan farmers

One of the main challenges facing Agricultural Research for Development is how to build an agricultural research system more close to smallholders. For a long time, the research was a matter of scientists practiced in laboratories with results which farmers are often unaware. Several decades after this kind of research, the challenges of poverty and hunger that the research should help to provide solutions remain, and continue to cause more damage in some regions of the world than in the past times.

According to the recent report co-published by FAO, IFAD and WFP on the State of Food Security in the World, the rate of malnutrition in Africa and some regions of Asia have increased over the last 20 years, although improvements have been observed at global level.

Thus with the complexity of the challenges facing farming systems in the future, a transformation of agricultural research systems is urgent to increase…

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