Friday, December 13, 2013

DG Sanginga: Africa should not be denied the opportunity to use organic and inorganic inputs

L-R: Vice-Chancellor, Osun State University (UNIOSUN), Prof A. B. Okesina;
Dr Sanginga; and Chairman, Governing Council, UNIOSUN,
Prof Gabriel Olawoyin,during the 2013 Distinguished Annual Lecture
 at the College of Agriculture, Osun State University

For Africa to witness a “Green Revolution,” the continent must sustainably intensify its agricultural production system, use organic and inorganic inputs, and also pay attention to the youth by engaging them in every sector of agriculture.

Delivering a lecture on ‘Agronomy or Brown Revolution needed in sub-Saharan Africa? Engagement of the Youth in Science-driven Agribusiness’, Director General Nteranya Sanginga said, “Africa needs to avoid opening up new lands and clearing forests to increase yields which have negative consequences on the environment and lead to a loss of biodiversity.

To sustain agricultural intensification, Africa must increase food production from existing farmland while minimizing pressure on the environment. This would address the challenges of increasing demand for food from a growing global population in a world where land, water, energy, and other inputs are in short supply, overexploited, and used unsustainably.

He advocated a radical shift from the current agricultural system that is characterized by low inputs and poor scientific knowledge.

Dr Sanginga said that if Africa had been efficiently using inputs including both organic and inorganic—herbicides and fertilizers— the continent would have benefited from the genetic gain recorded by researchers over the years through breeding programs.

“For example, if you take cassava, we have had genetic gains through breeding but instead of getting 50 t/ha we are getting 15 t/ha on most farmers’ fields. If we were applying fertilizers, we would have recorded higher yields…and this is the situation not only with cassava but with several other crops,” he explained at the 2013 Distinguished Annual Lecture organized by the College of Agriculture, Osun State University.

Dr Sanginga reiterated that no continent on earth had ever developed its agriculture without the use of inputs such as fertilizers and stressed that Africa should never be denied the opportunity to use inputs.

“If you look at the agricultural revolution in Asia or even in Europe, inputs were used to transform agriculture…I believe that Africa should take the same path,” he noted.

Tied to natural resource management, Dr Sanginga also underscored the need to engage the youth in agriculture and presented the IITA Youth Project as a model that Africa could adopt.

The IITA Youth Project engages young people from different disciplines, trains and equips them with the hands-on skills and knowledge that empowers and encourages them to go into agriculture.

Dr Sanginga said getting the youth on board was critical for the sustainability of agricultural reforms, citing current statistics that indicate that most agricultural researchers and even farmers are old.

The DG said that the Institute would continue to partner with other institutions and deliver those innovations that would improve the productivity and livelihoods of farmers. “Central to the activities of IITA is capacity building,” he added.

Dr Sanginga (centre, in blue tie), with the IITA contingent and hosts
 from the Osun State University
Prof. G.A. Olawoyin, the Chairman of the Governing Council of the university, noted the need for a “Brown Revolution” in Africa, and agreed that the engagement of the youth in agribusiness is relevant to the situation of Nigeria and Africa in general.

He described the lecture as a catalyst to solving the menace of youth unemployment and food insecurity.

Dr Sanginga was accompanied by Dr Gbassey Tarawali, Godwin Atser, and members of the IITA Youth Project.


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