Genetic Modification, Protective Cover For Nigerian Farmers
By : Dr Rose Gidado
Nigeria is endowed with a total of seventy-nine million hectares of agricultural land and blessed with two hundred and sixty-seven billion cubic meters fresh surface water and fifty-eight billion cubic meters underground water.
Any country with this endowment should be seen as a major food hub, but this is, however, not the case in Nigeria, as only a fraction of the country’s natural agricultural resources has been put into fruitful use.
According to current estimations, fifty-six percent of the country’s arable land is critically underutilized.
In attempts to bridge this gap and accelerate productivity across the sector’s entire value chains, successive governments introduced targeted intervention programmes to encourage participation in agriculture, through these programmes.
Nigerians across various demographic groups have received trainings for them to take advantage of opportunities within the agriculture value chain.
Although, some remarkable successes have been recorded to the credit of the government, however, banditry, armed conflicts and general insecurity still threaten efforts aimed at making Nigeria food self-sufficient amid growing concern about how to feed the fast-growing population.
The government may have done well in its effort to restore safety to the rich arable farm fields in some of the troubled states, especially in the northern part of Nigeria using industry interventions.
However, experts have identified genetic engineering of existing crops as a scientifically proven way through which the threat of insecurity faced by farmers across the country could be drastically reduced.
With Genetic engineering, scientists in Nigeria have been able to develop varieties of crops that have beaten venomous weeds, pests and other environmental hazards that kept farmers perpetually in the farm.
One of such crops is cowpea which has been genetically modified to resist Maruca, a pod-borer pest responsible for the low yields of the crop.
Since its official commercial release in 2019, the Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea has succeeded in helping farmers cut down the number of hours they spend on the farms, as the crop would only require not more than three sprays of any form of pesticide to ward off non-target insects.
There is also the Br Cotton developed by scientists from IAR, Zaria in collaboration with Mahyco Agriculture Nigeria, Private and other national partners.
Apart from being resistant to pests, the Br Cotton, which was launched in Nigeria in 2018 also matures far earlier, producing much more quantity of Bolls than the conventional varieties.
What this means is that the farmer can now make the best of available security intelligence to take informed decisions on when to go to the farm.
It is also established that they would visit the farm on far fewer occasions but assured of getting far much more yields.
It is gladdening to note that the Federal Government of Nigeria has provided the lead in the drive to making agriculture viable by strengthening the linkage between research, agriculture, and industry by intensifying commodity value chain development process.
This is being guided by the new framework of the National Agricultural Technology and Innovation Policy (NATIP), 2022-2027 that was launched last year.
This policy seeks to modernize the agricultural sector in line with emerging trends in global food systems and supply chains.
The successes achieved so far by indigenous scientists at IAR in collaboration with partners and support from Bayer, AATF, Mahyco- NABDA bas restored confidence in farmers.
Genetic engineering has proven to be the perfect buffer between the farmers and factors like, insecurity, climate change and others that hitherto threaten-lheir livelihood.
Therefore with the right collaborations and appropriate application of modern technologies in agriculture, Nigeria’s goals of achieving food security, diversifying the economy for agribusiness undertakings, and growing the GDP would be achieved effortlessly.
Edited By Grace Namiji
Written by: Salihu Tejumola
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