The Director-General of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Professor Abdullahi Mustapha has said farmers in Nigeria and other African countries cannot attain the yield potential of legumes and grains when compared to other parts of the world.
Professor Mustapha said while farmers in America, the West and Asia are getting over 10 tons per hectare for maize, Nigerian and other African farmers are still struggling to attain four tons per hectare.
He said biotechnology has proven its potentials to help overcome agricultural productivity challenges leading to more yield and addressing various breeding limitations that conventional breeding methods cannot address.
Professor Mustapha noted that the future of the continent’s food security lies in its ability to adopt necessary technologies that will make farming a profitable business, an employer of labour to attract the younger generation into farming and ensure abundance of quality food and at the same time an engine of economic growth.
“Considering our huge challenge and the desire to feed our people to ensure food and nutritional security, we must make technology the engine room for our agricultural development. That way we can ensure that no African goes to bed hungry”.
The Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) cowpea is a classic example of how the technology can provide solutions to one of the major challenges confronting cowpea farming.
“Needless, I bother you with the long history of several attempts by cowpea breeders who tried to find solutions to ravaging attacks of Maruca. For many years without success in the past. This technology has taken care of that and its potentials to improve other crops have started emerging. Farmers in Nigeria are excited with the performance of this new variety and giving testimonies”, he said.
The Executive Director of African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Dr Canisius Kanangiri, said the continent has been regarded as the region with the biggest potential to benefit from biotech, but the progress is hampered by misinformation about biotechnology.
Kanangiri, who was represented by the AATF representative for West Africa, Dr Francis Onyekachi, said Nigeria has advanced so much in biotechnology and biosafety in Africa, which has made it become a focal point.
“Everyone in Africa comes to see what’s going on in Nigeria. Ghana is also advancing in that area and that is why we must continue to engage and bring together stakeholders to share experiences and chart the future together on communicating agricultural biotechnology in the continent”, he noted.
The Chairman, Parliamentary Committee on Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Ghana, Dr Emmanuel Marfo, while commending Nigeria for the commercialization of cowpea which is already in the hands of farmers, said it would help achieve food security in the country by extension to other African countries.
His words: “This means Nigeria is producing what it will eat and reducing reliance on importation of food. Also, the balance of trade as a country will improve, currency will become stronger and the country will continue to move forward.”
“As a continent, we have not been able to take advantage of the knowledge that we have, we have not interacted enough, if we choose to learn from ourselves and share knowledge, we will be able to move faster than we have moved”.