A Professor of Crop Physiology at the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), Samuel Agele has observed that debilitating environmental factors and weak agricultural policies might soon engender acute food scarcity as well as hunger in the country.
He stated this while delivering a lecture titled: “Neighbour in the Environment: Agriculture, Food Security and Climate” at the institution’s 102nd inaugural Lecture, advising that governments must reduce weaknesses in the policies and practices of agriculture in order to avoid the danger.
“To avoid the impending danger of hunger in Nigeria by 2020, government and other keys actors should immediately formulate and implement policies that will reduce weaknesses in the policies and practices of agriculture and put in place structures that will enhance the capacity of small holder’s farmers to effectively adapt to changing environmental conditions.
Describing the inter-relationship between agriculture, food security and climate, Agele stated that Agriculture and food security were inextricably linked with climate, just as human well-being and environment are closely tied.
“These ties imply that climate change will further exacerbate the inherently low productivity of agriculture, food insecurity and ecosystem health challenges, thus it is expedient to develop innovations, practical and multi-disciplinary approach to achieve better balance between agriculture sustainability and environmental stability,” he stated.
According to him, going by the reports of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Nigeria was listed among the nations that were technically unable to meet their food needs from rain fed production and low level of input usage.
“The reports indicate that projected mean annual rainfall values may decline by 2.8 – 10.9 and -18.6% in year 2020, 2050 and 2080 respectively, meaning this projected climatic changes will exacerbate soil moisture and high temperature conditions during the dry season (November to March) and aggravate the vulnerability of crops to adverse climatic changes,” he added.
Professor Agele said improving productivity (yield and quality) and sustainable environment was a task that must be accomplished in the wake of the growing urgency surrounding drought and warming climate.
While stressing that crop performance was influenced by both total rainfall (amount) and its distribution during the season and that declining amount and variability of rainfall affect the productivity of crops, he added that some crops in the early and late rainy seasons subject pre and post floury development to variable temperature and soil moisture.
“The benefit from precise knowledge of the relation between plants and the weather can be realized if farmers can alter that relation to their advantage in order to attain increased productivity in agriculture.
“Ways to alter relation between plants and the weather are planting according to possible weather affecting the micro-climate and affecting plant responses to weather,” Agele advised.
He disclosed that Nigeria was particularly blessed with resources for sustainable and adequate food production, and frowned at the situation of spending an estimate of 20 billion dollars on food import yearly.
“Extreme weather will be significant on the different dimensions and determinants of food security,” adding that “an urgent global priority is grappling with the challenge of managing agriculture to reduce hunger and poverty and maintaining a healthy ecosystem in an increasingly constrained world.”
On the way forward, Agele proposed the development and deployment of smart climate friendly initiatives for addressing effects of climate change and other environmental challenges on agriculture and food security.
Agele also stressed the need to harness the “untapped potential” of agroecology-based practices in agriculture for climate mitigations and resilience building in order to build a food secured future dedicated to achieving a world free of poverty, hunger and environmental degradation.
Agele also recommended re-defining, restructuring and strengthening research, especially growth-oriented research programmers in agriculture.
He said research organization should become more involved in partnerships and collaborations to achieve these daunting tasks.
In his remarks at the occasion, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Joseph Fuwape described the Lecturer as erudite and hardworking don who has contributed significantly to research and academic development in his field of specialization.
He said Agele has demonstrated his intellectual prowess as a product of FUTA by being a consistently productive scholar in addition to providing leadership both for his students and younger academics since he took up appointment in the University.