Agrictech

In this section of the blog, we would consider how technology can be used to drive increase in both profitability and productivity.

Technology as a key to agricultural growth and success in Nigeria

“As we search for a less extractive and polluting economic order, so that we may fit agriculture into the economy of a sustainable culture, community becomes the locus and metaphor for both agriculture and culture.”  ― Wes Jackson, Becoming Native to This Place

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By Olasupo OJO

The prevailing economic situation in Nigeria has prompted the need for a diversification to ameliorate the economic challenges hitting the country in the face. Oil prices have dropped drastically, the Naira was depreciating at an alarming rate until recently, and the prices of commodities have risen.

Agriculture has become the talk on everyone’s mouth, a means to liberate and sustain the economy. Needless to say, that many have forgotten that the 60’s – early 80’s are far from different from the 21st century that we find ourselves. The era when the population was barely 45 million, employment rate was high, the economy was stable and agriculture was a joyous occupation. But the “oil boom” came along and agriculture was long gone. Paying less attention to agriculture resulted in a decline in policy support and public funding for agriculture, strong decline in domestic production and rising level of dependence on agricultural imports. Now, population has grown to over 180 million, oil is losing its value and the naira’s value is dwindling. Isn’t it time to go back to the 60’s? A resounding ‘yes’.

The truth is that agriculture can take us back to where we were. Little wonder then that the government is doing everything within its reach to resuscitate this sector of the economy. The role of the public and private sectors in agriculture, the farmers, youths and women, donor organizations, research institutes, health care organizations and other organizations or agencies that play a role in the agriculture value chain can’t be overemphasized. But, it is noteworthy that just like science and technology have played their roles in our lives in this century, they are also a backbone to achieving the long-term goal of sustaining the agricultural sector of the economy.

TECHNOLOGY

Technology is shaping the world, improving lives, making things easy and transforming the continent. In the world of agriculture too, a lot is being done to improve seeds and increase production. This will also help in restoring increased production of food in Nigeria.

Here are some technological inventions that will definitely improve the agricultural sector of the economy:

Mechanization

The 60’s are far gone, the era of farmers using crude farm implements like hoe, sickles and cutlasses. Painfully, many farmers still use these tools in their farming operations, the effect? Low supply of farm products, poor efficiency and sustenance of products. Mechanized form of farming involves the use advanced technological machines, tools and techniques in rearing plants animals, this will:

  • reduce energy exerted in the agricultural process
  • improve productivity
  • improve life span
  • regular supply of farm produce
  • enhance economic growth

Nigeria faces a Hello tractorslot of challenges in this area. For example, the land use decree (1978) makes acquisition of land difficult in a way making it difficult for peasant farmers to acquire sufficient land mass to practice mechanized farming. Unavailability of infrastructural facilities like good road network, communication facilities and transport system. Illiteracy among farmers and sufficient funding.

The use of tractors, boom sprayers, ploughing machines and pumps are mechanized tools that will help reshape the agriculture sector and help farmers. A revision of the land use decree of 1978 will help farmers acquire more acres of land to practice this form of farming.

AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY

Simply put, agricultural biotechnology is the manipulation of crops and animals or their parts for the production of value added goods and services for man’s use.  It is being used to address problems in all areas of agricultural production and processing. This includes plant breeding to raise and stabilize yields; to improve resistance to pests, diseases and abiotic stresses such as drought and cold; and to enhance the nutritional content of foods. Despite reservations about GMO plants, security and regulatory agencies have stood up to defend advantages of this plants. South Africa for example has recorded remarkable increase, remaining till present the leaders in Africa in the use of biotech crops. In an interview with UK MP Owen Paterson by SASHNEE MOODLEY, South Africa as realised an economic gain of $1.15-billion between 1998 and 2012 from the use of genetically modified (GM) crops or biotech crops. Sudan has also increased its biotech cotton hectares by almost 50% to 90 000 ha. He said, “although humanitarian and environmental groups have disputed the use of GM technology on crops, studies have shown that GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22% and boosted farmers profit by 68%.” Nigeria can definitely increase its crop production through the use of biotech plants, having them available, educating rural farmers on how to successfully maximize profit and strengthen the food growth of the country like other African countries like South Africa and Sudan. Read more on Biotech here from a Nigerian health practitioner.

Information and Communications Technology

The Internet is a standing topic in newspapers and on television, and the number of users doubles every year. IT can be used a tool for direct contribution to agricultural productivity and an indirect tool for empowering farmers to take informed and quality decisions which will have positive impact on the way agriculture and allied activities are conducted. The main objective of ICT application, from a development perspective, is that of empowering people through knowledge.  It increases the effectiveness of their development efforts through informed decision making and through their capacity to harness science and various forms of knowledge to achieve the objectives of poverty eradication,
food security and sustainable development. This would be an effective tool for the very large uneducated populace farmers in the country and also help foster a better understanding of farming practice and marketing among the youths who are eagerly delving into farming today.

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Photo Credit- Esoko.com

The 60’s are here in the 21st century, Agriculture should be fully worked on and modified in order to meet the needs and number of populace in the country. Application of technology in agriculture accompanied with the best policies can liberate Nigeria from the shackles of poverty, high cost of living and unemployment ravaging the country currently.

Agribusiness Incubation: A Young Agropreneur’s Story, Post Incubation

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Johnbosco on the farm

This month we bring you a model youth of the IITA youth Agripreneur who was mentored to see Agriculture as a business. Today he has moved on to make for himself a growing and thriving business in plantain, banana and pineapple sucker production and multiplication among others, he distributes his suckers to various locations across Nigeria while he also helps farm setups both in Nigeria and diaspora with their farm management and setup. He also gives training on the production and business aspect of his mandate crops.

JohnBosco has since realized that picking agriculture as a business is the only work of life that is capable of giving massive percentage return on investment with eye-catching cost benefit ratio and higher curve of income, only if seen as a business. He thanks IITA for taking the lead to walk the talk on Youth in Agribusiness in Africa and encourages the Private and Public sectors and the world to rise up and walk the talk with proactive measures to help Youth see Agriculture as a business.

JohnBosco advices young people who have failed before in their agribusiness not to see it as a setback as every time invested in business has an impact and enables us see ways doing business in a particular way would’nt work.

In this piece he reveals how he started and projects he is currently working on in the value chain and discusses challenges faced as it relates to youth engagement in Nigeria.

Q1. Can you briefly introduce yourself? How was growing up like for you?

Answer: My name is Ezemenaka Johnbosco, preferably called Bosco by fans. I come from Anambra state, born and brought up in Ibadan. I grew up as a normal child with passion for business and development, but with no formal foresight of what sector of business I wanted as a child. Now, I’m the C.E.O of AgroBosco – Agribusiness and Consulting, Founder – International Forum for Youth in Agribusiness ‘IFYA’ (a virtual non-formalized platform), Agribusiness Analyst for Aroms Farms Nigeria Limited and Program Manager for McPennin Nigeria Limited.

Q2. Can you please tell us how you came into farming/agribiz? Do you have a background in Agric? If No, Tell us why you considered agriculture?

Answer: I have an Agricultural background in Soil Science and Land Management, Agricultural Extension and Rural Development. There’s no doubt I had the background from a Federal Agricultural University, still I had no clue of what aspect of life I was going to make that money from, even as at my fourth year as an undergraduate. I eventually graduated and as luck would play its role, I found myself in International Institute of Tropical Agriculture as my place of primary assignment as a Youth Corper serving my nation.

I was mentored and spawned to see Agriculture as a business. From there, I gained momentum with a crystal clear vision and goal to my independence and self-sustainability, so I decided to scramble for professional experience in Agribusiness Development, Business and Entrepreneurship, Civic Leadership, Public Management and Leadership.

Picking up Agribusiness as my part of life is simply because Agriculture is the ONLY work of life that is capable of giving you massive Percentage Return on Investment with eye-catching Cost Benefit Ratio and higher Curve of Income, only if seen as a business.

John bosco working on the farm

Q3. What aspect or nature of work in Agriculture do you practise? Briefly, Tell us about your work?

Answer: With practical experience in maize seed production, soybean seed production, cassava production / stem multiplication, plantain / banana fruit production and rapid sucker multiplication using macro-propagation technique and pineapple production / rapid sucker multiplication, this has helped me setup my own company. I give trainings on the aforementioned crops, help clients near and in diaspora set up farms and management, help develop Agribusiness companies in line with their business strategies to meet their business goals, help develop business plans, project plans and proposals with groovy and keen attention in Agri-start-ups for Youths.

Q4. What societal problems are you solving with your work and what solutions are you using? What are the hurdles currently being faced?

Johnbosco facilitating Macro-propagation of Hybrid Plantain

Answer: I have been giving trainings on the production and business aspect of my mandate crops to Youths and Farmers for self dependence, sustainability and enhanced income. Since commercial banks hardly finance Youths to start their venture, I’m working on providing Agri-finance with the Co-Founder of International Forum for Youths in Agribusiness – IFYA through ‘crowd-funding’ (micro fund raising through our members on the IFYA virtual platform) to set up Agri start-ups (maximum of $26,000 USD with an approved business plan).

Q5. What do you think about youth participation in Agriculture?

Answer: Youth participation is Agriculture is just the tool-box for significantly increasing food security, reducing world poverty and unemployment to ALARP level. Statistically, Youth make up the highest percentage of world’s population density with significant physiological and morphological capacity capable of deactivating the world time bomb. There’s no two ways about using Youth as a veritable tool.

Q6. What are the challenges of youth engagement in agribusiness as it relates to what you do, How do you think it is affecting Agricultural Entrepreneurship in Nigeria?

Answer: There are numerous challenges faced by Youth engaged in Agribusiness. The primary and number one challenge is ‘change of mindset’, others are secondary. Youths should have their mindset changed about Agriculture, the Private and Public sectors should help Youth see Agriculture as a business. A proactive concept and programs with strong Monitoring and Evaluation should be developed in all continents to tackle this and not just financing start-ups for Youths. Special regards to the IITA’s concept of Youth in Agribusiness, as a model in Africa. I tell you this; if you give a Youth $1 billion for an Agribusiness venture without having his/her mindset changed about seeing Agriculture as a business and the prospects attached to it, then you just poured water into a basket. I know there are so many programs and concepts about changing the mindset of Youths towards seeing Agriculture as a business, but the world has to rise and walk the talk with proactive measures. More regards to IITA for taking the lead to walk the talk on Youth in Agribusiness in Africa.

Johnbosco at the IITA youth Agripreneur incubation plot

In Nigeria, this has greatly affected negatively, considering the teeming Youth population moving into Nigerian labour market quarterly, and then you can figure out how devastating this is in Africa, having Nigeria as the most populous country in Africa. Just figure it out! Example: My friend ‘A’ is comfortable working as a freelancer with a bank and receiving a limited token as salary, while my friend ‘B’ quitted his freelancing ICT job for just a commodity in Agribusiness and now making fortune with unlimited revenue and profit generation.

Q7. What advice do you have for young people engaged in agriculture?

Answer: My advice for young people engaged in Agriculture is to see it as a business. Only then will they realise the fortune that awaits them. In business, every time invested has an impact. Failing is normal in life, but they should NEVER see ‘fail’ as a setback in any of the value-chains of Agribusiness they are into, but rather see ‘fail’ as a finding of ways that don’t work.

Q8. What do you think government should put in place to improve the agric sector in Nigeria? Suggest Advice

Answer: Nigeria government should; 1. Take Youth as a tool-box for development of the Agricultural sector. 2. Work on changing the mind-set of the Youths through Non-Governmental Organizations and private sectors who are walking the talk and proactive, and embracing these organizations with resources needed. 3. Significantly reduce the interest rates on loan and to make it easily accessible to the common Youth. Government should be proactive about the aforementioned using aggressive and diplomatic Monitoring and Evaluation framework base approach.

Here is a Youtube video of Johnbosco talking about Plantain Macropropagation in Nigeria.

Contact him via boscowjay@yahoo.com or Blog

OPINION: Livestock Mechanization, Reproduction should not be an exemption PART 1

 

p1040870As agricultural mechanization gains daily popularity among Nigerian farmers and key agricultural stakeholders, what comes readily to mind at the instance of mechanized farming – as some prefer to call it – are tractors, plough, harrow, planters, automated feed conveyors/drinkers, automated feed millers to mention just a few.

Crop production – one of the two components of agriculture in Nigeria – has been greatly favored as regards the use of modern technology in implementing its operations. As at today, there is virtually no activity in the crop production value chain that is tedious to achieve with available modern technology; pre planting, planting, post planting, harvesting, processing and storage have been catered for. No doubt one’s mind swing swiftly toward crop production at the mention of the subject, “mechanized farming in Nigeria”.

On the other hand, animal production – the co-component of agriculture in Nigeria – apparently suffers more at the instance of mechanization. Vast majority of livestock farmers/producers still employ crude methods and techniques during production. Does this imply that animal production is yet to be mechanized in Nigeria? Emphatically No!

We are all witnesses to the gigantic infrastructural automation projects by some prominent key players in Nigeria livestock industry. Livestock mechanization in Nigeria has conveniently seen to ease of feeding, water supply, identification, medication, vaccination, slaughtering, evisceration, processing and packaging. Though this worth our applause, we could have given a resounding applause if only livestock reproduction has been fully mechanized in Nigeria.

Your guess must be as good as mine, Artificial Insemination? Of course, Artificial Insemination!

Artificial Insemination nonetheless, is today a toothless and clawless lion, living in the glory of successes recorded beyond the borders of Nigeria, which explains the less than 5% overall success rate of A.I in Nigeria in the last one decade. Livestock reproduction is far beyond Artificial Insemination, it includes effective estrous synchronization, accurate ovulation detection, semen evaluation and pregnancy detection. Today one can even scan to know the number of fetuses expected, the ratio of expected male to female, age of fetus (es) and the estimated date of delivery. In summary, livestock reproduction can be segmented into pre-insemination, insemination and post-insemination. It is unwise however, to isolate insemination, or prioritize insemination over other processes in the reproduction chain.

In Nigeria, A.I has been in practice since 18th century but its effect has not been significantly felt in the livestock industry. In 2015, a state government in the Northern region of Nigeria embarked on a livestock multiplication project; numerous cattle, sheep and goat were inseminated artificially with less than 15% success rate. I heard recently how a PhD in Animal Physiology recorded a zero result during a pig multiplication project in a state in Southwest Nigeria.

Yet the problem is not A.I in itself, there are expertise all around us. Our reproductive veterinarians and animal health scientists readily possess this skill. But then how can one ascertain the viability of the sperm cells in the semen at the point of insemination? Are the sperm cells motile? What is the percentage concentration to suggest how many female animals should be inseminated? Was the female animal at the peak of ovulation? Can one confirm the success of the insemination shortly after insemination? Was the animal actually pregnant? Should the process be repeated?

The above questions can only be answered with the use of modern animal reproductive technological solutions.

One would wish all these were abstract or theories but then I have been privileged to use some of these technologies here in Nigeria on animals in Nigeria; pig, goat etc. These devices/solutions are here with us and very affordable to farmers. Government and livestock agencies should assist the awareness at all level for easy localization of these animal reproductive solutions for rapid multiplication of our indigenous livestock production.

Until household and large scale farmers can breed and improve livestock production with efficacy can we wholly proclaim the mechanization of animal production in Nigeria.

Written by:

OLUSEGUN OLORUNTOBI

+2348163507824

http://www.fb.com/stakeholda

 

Every waste counts- Rice Straws

Kindly recall my last post titled Sustainable Agriculture ; Small Steps To Bigger Tomorrow. I was able to explained what sustainable agriculture is, what to do to achieve it and how it benefits us all.

In this post I will be sharing my personal experience using sustainable farming techniques to achieve sustainable agriculture. the month of June was a time of planting for rice farmers in Birgi Village, Minna, Niger state in Nigeria while harvesting started in the month of October.  After drying the rice plant was threshed and the grains were removed leaving only the rice straw. the rice farm of about 20 hectares with so much waste a type of agricultural waste that poses a huge environmental and health burden on rice farmers who burn it as a means of disposal if not probably managed. as an agriculturist i was saddled with the responsibility to profer an economical solution  that would channel this waste turned resources for better usage.

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In the quest for knowledge, I started making enquires on what rice straw can be used for and its benefit. The straw mass corresponding to 1 ton of sun dried paddy rice is 1.5 tons which contains about 9 kilos of nitrogen, 2 kilos each of phosphorus and sulfur, 25 kilos of potassium, 70 kilos of silicon, 6 kilos of calcium and 2 kilos of magnesium based on a study by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) of 1984.

Rice straw is thus a good source of macro-nutrients. Burning rice straw, a usual practice in most farms  destroys most of the nitrogen, sulfur, some of the potassium and makes silicon less available.To return the nutrients of rice straw to the soil, cut rice stalks higher during harvest time. More stubble are then incorporated into the soil during land preparation. Threshed straw can be fed to animals or can be used for feeding livestock during fodder shortage. Some of the rice straw nutrients are subsequently returned to the soil as animal excreta.

The rice straw were moved to a ventilated room for  temporary storage for size reduction by a forage chopper. Some of the chopped straws were treated with biofertilizer ( molasses) and wrapped in plastic so that it is not exposed to air or water( under anearobic condition), and then stored away from the sun for one month before been used as livestock feed. The leftover after chopping were used in making compost. we should always keep one thing in mind that every agriculture waste counts.

Sustainable Agriculture:Small Steps to a Bigger Tomorrow

Sustainable farming or in a broader term, Sustainable agriculture is using farming practices considering the ecological cycles. It is also sensitive towards the microorganisms and their equations with the environment at large.

 In simpler terms, sustainable farming is farming ecologically by promoting methods and practices that are economically viable, environmentally sound and protect public health.

It does not only concentrate on the economic aspect of farming, but also on the use of non-renewable factors in the process thoughtfully and effectively. This contributes to the growth of nutritious and healthy food as well as bring up the standard of living of the farmer.

Our environment, and subsequently our ecology have become an area of concern for us over the last few decades. This has increasingly led us to contemplate, innovate and employ alternate methods or smaller initiatives to save our ecology. One such initiative is sustainable farming. It simply means production of food, plants and animal products using farming techniques that prove to be beneficial for public health and promote economic profitability. It draws and learns from organic farming

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Sustainable farming or Sustainable agriculture helps the farmers innovate and employ recycling methods, this apart from the conventional perks of farming. A very good example of recycling in sustainable farming would be the crop waste or animal manure. The same can be transformed into fertilizers that can help enrich the soil. Another method that can be employed is crop rotation. This helps the soil maintain its nutrients and keeps the soil rich and potent. Collection of rainwater via channeling and then its utilization for irrigation is also a good example of sustainable farming practices.

Sustainable Farming Methods or Practices

Let us see various methods or practices of Sustainable farming in detail:

  1. Make use of Renewable Energy Sources:The first and the most important practice is the use of alternate sources of energy. Use of solar, hydro-power or wind-farms is ecology friendly. Farmers can use solar panels to store solar energy and use it for electrical fencing and running of pumps and heaters. Running river water can be source of hydroelectric power and can be used to run various machines on farms. Similarly, farmers can use geothermal heat pumps to dig beneath the earth and can take advantage of earth’s heat.
  2. Integrated pest management:Integrated pest management a combination pest control techniques for identifying and observing pests in the initial stages. One needs to also realize that not all pests are harmful and therefore it makes more sense to let them co-exist with the crop than spend money eliminating them. Targeted spraying works best when one need to remove specific pests only. This not only help you to spray pest on the selected areas but will also protect wildlife from getting affected.
  3. Crop Rotation:Crop rotation is a tried and tested method used since ancient farming practices proven to keep the soil healthy and nutritious. Crop rotation has a logical explanation to it – the crops are picked in a pattern so that the crops planted this season replenishes the nutrients and salts from the soil that were absorbed by the previous crop cycle. For example, row crops are planted after grains in order to balance the used nutrients.
  4. Avoid Soil Erosion:Healthy soil is key to a good crop. Age old techniques like tilling the land, plowing etc still work wonders. Manure, fertilizers, cover crops etc also help improve soil quality. Crop rotations prevent the occurrence of diseases in crops, as per studies conducted. Diseases such as crown rot and tan spot can be controlled. Also pests like septoria, phoma, etc can be eliminated by crop rotation techniques. Since diseases are crop specific, crop rotation can work wonders.
  5. Crop Diversity:Farmers can grow varieties of the same crop yielding small but substantial differences among the plants. This eases financial burdening. This process is called crop diversity and its practical use is on a down slide.
  6. Natural Pest Eliminators:Bats, birds, insects etc work as natural pest eliminators. Farmers build shelter to keep these eliminators close. Ladybugs, beetles, green lacewing larvae and fly parasites all feed on pests, including aphids, mites and pest flies. These pest eliminators are available in bulk from pest control stores or farming supply shops. Farmers can buy and release them on or around the crops and let them make the farm as their home.
  1. Managed Grazing:A periodic shift of the grazing lands for cattle should be maintained. Moving livestock offers them a variety of grazing pastures. This means they will receive various nutrients which is good for them. The excreta of these animals serves as a natural fertilizer for the land. Change of location also prevents soil erosion as the same patch of land is not trampled upon constantly. Also by grazing in time and mowing the weeds can be gotten rid off before they produce more seeds and multiply.
  2. Save Transportation Costs:Targeting the sales of the production in the local market saves  transportation and packaging hassles. It also eliminates the need of storage space. Therefore when stuff is grown and sold in local markets, it makes a community self sufficient, economically sound, saves energy and doesn’t harm the environment in any way.
  3. Better Water Management:The first step in water management is selection of the right crops. One must choose the local crops as they are more adaptable to the weather conditions of the region. Crops that do not command too much water must be chosen for dry areas. Irrigation systems need to be well planned otherwise they lead to other issues like river depletion, dry land and soil degradation. One can also build rainwater harvesting systems to store rainwater and use them in drought prevailing conditions. apart from that municipal waste water can be used for irrigation after recycling.
  4. Removal of Weeds Manually:Farmers having small farms can use their hands to remove weeds from crops where machines can’t reach or where crops are too fragile. This is quite a labor intensive task and is not suitable for large farms. Apart from this, a farmer also has the option to burn the old crops so that weeds do not produce seeds and destroy rest of the crops. However, that will causepollution in airand cal also affect the soil quality.

Sustainable energy is not only economical but it also helps in the conservation of our natural resources. Sustainable farming also helps reduce the need for chemicals fertilizers and pesticides. This makes the process more organic and clean.

Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture

  1. Contributes to Environmental Conservation:The environment plays a huge role in fulfilling our basic needs to sustain life. In turn, it is our duty to look after the environment so that future generations are not deprived of their needs. Sustainable agriculture helps to replenish the land as well as other natural resources such as water and air. This replenishment ensures that these natural resources will be able for future generations to sustain life.
  2. Public Health Safety:Sustainable agriculture avoids hazardous pesticides and fertilizers. As a result, farmers are able to produce fruits, vegetables and other crops that are safer for consumers, workers, and surrounding communities. Through careful and proper management of livestock waste, sustainable farmers are able to protect humans from exposure to pathogens, toxins, and otherhazardous pollutants.
  3. Prevents Pollution:Sustainable agriculture means that any waste a farm produces remains inside the farms ecosystem. In this way the waste cannot cause pollution.
  4. Reduction in Cost:The use of sustainable agriculture reduces the need for fossil fuels, resulting in significant cost savings in terms of purchasing as well as transporting them. This in turn lessens the overall costs involved in farming.
  5. Biodiversity:Sustainable farms produces a wide variety of plants and animals resulting inbiodiversity. During crop rotation, plants are seasonally rotated and this results in soil enrichment, prevention of diseases, and pest outbreaks.
  6. Beneficial to Animals:Sustainable agriculture results in animals being better cared for, as well as treated humanely and with respect. The natural behaviors of all living animals, including grazing or pecking, are catered for. As a result they develop in a natural way. Sustainable farmers and ranchers implement livestock husbandry practices that protect animals’ health.
  7. Economically Beneficial For Farmers:In exchange for engaging with sustainable farming methods, farmers receive a fair wage for their produce. This greatly reduces their reliance on government subsidies and strengthens rural communities. Organic farms typically require 2 ½ times less labor than factory farms yet yield 10 times the profit.
  8. Social Equality:Practicing sustainable agriculture techniques also benefits workers as they are offered a more competitive salary as well as benefits. They also work in humane and fair working conditions, which include a safe work environment, food, and adequate living conditions.
  9. Beneficial For Environment:Sustainable agriculture reduces the need for use of non-renewable energyresources and as a result benefits the environment.

Due to population increase, it is estimated that by 2050 we will need approximately 70% more food than is currently being produced in order to provide the estimated 9.6 billion world population with their recommended daily calorie intake. This is by no means a small challenge, but unlike many other sustainability challenges, everyone can play a part. We all need to eat, but by simply reducing food loss and waste, as well as eating diets that are lower impact, and investing in sustainable produce, we can make a difference. From countries, to companies, right down to consumers, we all have a role to play. The challenge is simply making people care in a world where we are surrounded by such abundance.

NO GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS OFFICIALLY GROWN IN NIGERIA – FG

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The Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed has called on Nigerians not to panic over the issue of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO). She said presently no genetically modified organisms are officially grown in Nigeria.

The Minister stated that, “what we have approval are for field trials”. “All the GMOs in Nigeria officially approved are under experimental fields, citing the insect resistant cotton for commercial release will still be subjected to further processes for the next two years, she added.

In a statement issued by the Minister today in Abuja, she stated that the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), established in 2015, under the Federal Ministry of Environment was charged to among others, ensure proper regulation of modern biotechnological activities and genetically modified organisms so as to protect the lives of Nigerians.

According to her, with the Act in place, Nigeria has taken laudable strides in order to adopt the necessary legal biosafety framework and policy, bearing in mind that if Nigeria gets it right, it will guide other African countries.

Furthermore, Amina Mohammed stated that the quest for Nigeria’s biotechnological advancement dates back to 2001 when the country adopted a National Biotechnology Policy and subsequently established the National Biotechnology Development Agency, adding that over 20 Research Institutes, private biotechnology firms and universities are also players in the biotechnology sector.

She stated that the Agency is not working alone, as it is partnering with critical stakeholders such as the Nigerian Customs, the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps (NCDC), the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the Ministry of Justice, Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service, National Seed Council, Science and regulatory based institutions, the New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD) and African Biosafety Network of Expertise, (ABNE), among others.

The NBMA has the onerous task to ensure that potential impacts of the GMO on human or animal health, the environment and the socio-economic effects are carefully weighed and the risk assessment fully carried out before being released, she disclosed.

While describing the concerns on GMOs expressed by the public as legitimate, she disclosed that the Federal Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), is organising an experts meeting, involving civil society groups, National Agencies and International Organisations to address all concerns expressed, with a view to clarifying the Nigeria’s position on the use of GMOs.

She enjoined the citizenry to cooperate with the Federal Government in its quest to diversify the Nigerian economy for the present and future generations, adding “Nigerians should be rest assured of the protection of their health and environment by the National Biosafety Management Agency”.

Alhaji Isiaka Yusuf

Director Press

Federal Ministry of Environment

 

The Sun can power your farm for FREE! You need no labourers!

Wildflower meadows growing between panels_Credit Guy Parker_GP_Westmill_

Wildflower meadows growing between panels. Credit: Guy Parker GP Westmill

It’s no news that for over 4 thousand years ago, farmers have employed the use of solar energy in drying their crops and heating their water. Today is no different except that the Solar energy system technology has now gone advanced since the late 19th century when it was first discovered by A. E Becquerel (1839) that solar energy can be converted into electricity. This discovery of A. E Becquerel, a teenage Physicist then, was later known as the Photovoltaic effect.

Am not here to bore you with much science, but what could be more interesting than the fact that getting a complete Solar Power system for your farm is now highly affordable starting from as low as N299 per watt of a durable solar panel?

So what benefit is the Solar Power system to a farmer?

You know, the list is innumerable but I’m going to make a list down for you, follow me.

  1. Solar powered irrigation system
  2. Remote Electricity supply for your Farm house
  3. Solar powered farm implements including water pumps, crop dryers, etc.

With Solar power on your farm, you will definitely say good bye to Diesel and Propane costs. Not only that, there will be reduced noise pollution, air pollution and the cost of maintaining a solar powered system is very low.

So what next?

It’s quite simple, go to the market and purchase a full installation of solar power system for your farm. Unfortunately sometimes, it isn’t as simple as it sounds though.

With the recent energy crisis in the developing countries and especially in the Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, one would think countries as Nigeria would be investing heavily on other alternative and renewable energy resources like Wind and Solar energy. Unfortunately it isn’t so and the reason will certainly surprise you.

First of all, what is renewable energy?

Renewable energy is a cheap and almost a free energy. It is generally defined as the energy that comes from resources which are naturally replenished on a human timescale such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat.

We will appreciate this more when we compare it to the non-renewable energy sources that we have today like the crude oil and coal that’s mined from fossil fuel deposits beneath the surface of the earth.

Why non-renewable energy is not preferred in Nigeria and Africa

Considering the rate of fossil fuel use, it is estimated that worldwide reserves of Fossil fuels will become extinguished by 2039. So we anticipate a global energy crisis if nothing is done before then to avert the situation.

Apart from that, the fossil fuel is not a clean source of energy. Its combustion releases dangerous carbon emissions that deplete the ozone layer in our atmosphere, little wonder Global warming has always been the re-occurring issue in several United Nations meetings these days.

Renewable energy on the other hand is completely clean. Some of the benefits of renewable energy source include:

  1. Its reliable
  2. Its naturally renewable
  3. It is clean and environmental friendly.

The way forward for Nigeria

The government and private investors are key players in renewable energy revolutions sweeping across the world now.

I was privileged to meet Dr. Patrick Owelle who is the M.D and CEO of PSC Industries Limited (PSC Solar). PSC Industries Limited is a Solar Electricity and Renewable energy total Solutions Provider located in Lagos, Nigeria. I particularly picked interest in this company because they don’t only talk about the need for the switch to alternative energy sources; they are actively involved in transforming a lot of lives via their highly affordable solar energy Photo Voltaic panels, inverters and storage facilities. A look at the PSc Solar website http://www.pscsolaruk.com is certainly worth it.

In one of Dr. Owelle’s papers that I got access to, he wrote:

“Traditional fossil fuels and conventional power generation methods have failed us in Africa or Africa has failed the traditional and conventional power generation methods, it is now time to do something else; namely deploying and integrating power from renewable sources like Solar, Wind and Biomass in to the national power Grids”

Personally I couldn’t agree more with him. So what is Nigeria still waiting for?

It’s hard to tell. Over the years, Billions of dollars has been pumped into the nation’s energy sector and yet no tangible result is seen.

But the good news is that you don’t have to wait for the government this time. You can light up your home at least using the abundant solar energy. All you need is a complete solar converter set including Photo Voltaic panels, inverters and batteries.

About Author:
Chekwas Ojike is a Trained Physicist, a freelance writer. He owns Mymobnet.com where he shares some Tech stuffs.

Nigeria releases more cassava with higher pro-vitamin A to fight micronutrient deficiency

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Hernan Ceballos (left) CIAT Plant breeder with IITA Cassava breeders Peter Kulakow (middle) and Elizabeth Parkes (right), harvesting the new cassava varieties in Ibadan

Three newly improved vitamin A cassava varieties with yellow roots have been released by the Nigerian government, stepping up efforts to tackle the problem of vitamin A deficiency especially among women and children in the country. These new varieties were developed jointly by IITA and the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) Umudike.

The three varieties—UMUCASS 44, UMUCASS 45, and UMUCASS 46—are the second in the series of pro-vitamin A varieties released in the country, and are commonly known as NR07/0220, IITA-TMS-IBA070593, and IITA-TMS-IBA070539.

The new varieties have a pro-vitamin A content that averages 10 parts per million (ppm) based on fresh roots as compared to the first series (UMUCASS 36, UMUCASS 37, and UMUCASS 38 commonly known as IITA-TMS-IBA011368, IITA-TMS-IBA1371 and IITA-TMS-IBA011412) that were released three years ago with a pro-vitamin A content of between 6-8 ppm.

Dr Peter Kulakow, IITA Cassava Breeder, said that the development of the varieties demonstrates strong collaboration between scientists at NRCRI and IITA which benefits Nigerian farmers and especially women and children who suffer from vitamin A deficiency.
Afflicting almost 20% of pregnant women and about 30% of children under the age of five, vitamin A deficiency results in stunting in children, predisposes them to sicknesses such as diarrhea and measles, and even premature death. In pregnant women, vitamin A deficiency results in night blindness and increases the risk of mortality.

Measures to address this deficiency include dietary diversity, fortification, supplementation, and now biofortification.
In 2011, researchers from IITA and NRCRI with funds from HarvestPlus developed the first series of biofortified pro-vitamin A cassava varieties to help reduce the incidence of vitamin A deficiency especially in the rural communities.

Dr Chiedozie Egesi, NRCRI Cassava Breeder, said this newer set of pro-vitamin A cassava varieties will play a role in attaining the goals of the Cassava Transformation Agenda of the Federal Government of Nigeria and help improve cassava food products such as gari, fufu, high quality cassava flour, cassava bread, and starch.

“This new set of pro-vitamin A cassava varieties have increased beta-carotene levels as well as matching agronomic characteristics as an incentive for better farmer adoption,” he added.

Prior to their release, participatory varietal trials involving farmers were conducted across 10 states in Nigeria, the world’s top cassava producer, cutting across the different agroecological zones.

The varieties have potential yields of 32–36 tons per hectare; they branch either moderately or profusely and possess yellow roots.
Farmers’ love for the varieties is helping to increase the acceptance of “yellow cassava,” Dr Egesi added.

The next steps to rapidly disseminate the varieties include the rapid production of breeders’ and foundation seed stock so that commercial farmers will have access to these new varieties.

The development of these newer set of provitamin A varieties demonstrates that plant breeders are not resting. Dr Hernan Ceballos, cassava breeder from CIAT in Colombia has developed biofortified germplasm that IITA breeders are actively using in crosses to select for even higher beta carotene germplasm.

The research was funded by HarvestPlus. Other partners include the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), and various Nigerian government agencies.

For more information, please contact: Peter Kulakow, p.kulakow@cgiar.org; Chiedozie Egesi, cegesi@yahoo.com; Godwin Atser, g.atser@cgiar.org or Adaobi Umeokoro, a.umeokoro@cgiar.org

The Zeer Pot- Preserving Our Food

If you live in Nigeria like me and you are reading this, chances are that you have problems with electricity in your town or city. We have a good-sized refrigerator, but we cannot power them with charcoal?
Change Your Food Storage Mind-set
Do you know more food than you might think can go for some time without refrigeration and remain safe to eat?
Do you know the optimal temperature to store fruits and veggies is between 10  and 13 degree Celsius with low humidity?
Do you know the Zeer Pot is a new invention, created in 1995 by a Nigerian pot-maker by the name of Mohammed Bah Abba who wanted to help Sudanese families to preserve their food?
Do know his invention won him the Rolex Award in 2000 and the World Shell Award for Sustainable Development in 2001?
The ZEER POT
The zeer pot also called the pot-in-pot refrigerator as the name implies is a small earthenware pot placed inside a larger one, and the space between the two filled with moist sand.
The inner pot is filled with fruit, vegetables or soft drinks and covered with a wet cloth.
Abba, who hails from a family of potmakers, tapped into the large unemployed local workforce and hired skilled pot makers to mass-produce the first batch of 5,000 Pot-in-Pots.
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6 STEPS TO OWNING A ZEER POT FRIDGE
 

1 First, bowl-shaped moulds are created from mud and water – and left to dry in the sun. Clay is then pressed onto the moulds to form the desired size of pot. Clay rims and bases are added and the moulds are removed. The pots are left to dry in the sun.

2 Once the pots have been fired in a pit of sticks, the zeer pot is ready to assemble. A smaller pot is placed inside a larger one, and the space in between filled with sand.

3 The whole structure is then placed on a large iron stand. This allows the air to flow underneath and aid the cooling process.

4 Twice a day, water is added to the sand between the pots so that it remains moist. The entire assembly is left in a dry, ventilated place.

5 Fruit, vegetables and sorghum – a type of cereal prone to fungal infestation if not preserved – are then placed in the smaller pot, which is covered with a damp cloth.

6 In the heat, the water contained in the sand evaporates towards the outer surface of the larger pot. This evaporation brings about a drop in temperature of several degrees, cooling the inner pot and extending the shelf life of the perishable food inside.
 
Impact of the zeer fridge pot cannot be over emphasised as it has a significant result on the shelf life of the various crop and vegetable.
In the hot weather of Sudan, Hawa Abbas used to lose half of her tomato, okra and carrot crop. She shared her thought    “They keep our vegetables fresh for 3-4 weeks, depending on the type of crop. They are very good in a hot climate such as ours where fruit and vegetables get spoiled in one day.”
Mohammed Bah Abba speaks on his invention and its impact. Watch this video
This blog post was contributed by Akinsanya Tomiwa, a vibrant youth in agriculture. He currently works as part of the IITA Youth Agripreneur.
You can read other articles from him via his blog http://omotomiwa.blogspot.com/ 

 

Ways ICT Can Transform Nigeria’s Agriculture

What is ICT? 
ICT (Information and communication technology) is an umbrella  term that include any communication device or application, encompassing: radio, television, cellular phones, computer and network hardware and software, satellite systems and e.t.c, as well as the various services and applications associated with them, such videoconferences and distance learning . ICTs are always involving and has been contributing immensely in Agriculture. Appropriate application of ICTs will help any organizations and nations in development plans. The application of  Information Communication Technology (ICT) in agriculture is increasingly important in Nigeria. If ICTs are fully utilized in agriculture field , traditional knowledge could be improved and farmers could benefit from it.

ICT has created more awareness over the years and still creating more by getting farmers even those at the grass root level vital information needed to promote and market  their produce, prices: fall and rises of market produce, weather information e.t.c  this were able to achieve by introduction of cell phone to the farmers. According  to the statement  extracted from one of the article of Nigeria’s minister of agriculture Professor Akinwunmi Adesina , stated:   “The national bureau of statistic has estimated the number of farmers in Nigeria to be 14 million. The FAO also has reported a similar number. From the result of our sampling which showed that 71% of  the farmers do not have any phone, we can project to larger population of 14 million and arrive at an estimate of  10 million farmers who probably do not have phone”. Lots of significant change has been made over the years. Farmer now have access to first hand information with the help of mobile phone.

ICT can transform Nigeria’s  agriculture in different ways because it  can go a long way in making agriculture more reckoned with and acceptable among the Nigerian youth  and people  in the  world at large. ICT has the ability to remodernize  and repackage the way agricultural activities is being carried out  and also has the ability of changing the perception of Nigerian youths by making it look cool and more sophisticated.

 

Some of the ways ICT will or can transform Nigeria’s agriculture are:

Publicity: The world is now fast becoming a global village whereby you can be in Nigeria and yet participating in an ongoing events in France or Canada, events such as : Agricultural conferences or seminar, symposium, workshop, summit  e.t.c. All these can be done in real time with internet aided facilities with which Nigeria’s farmers that are well informed and enlightened can benefit from it, by so doing other farmers at the rural community level can also get trained by the enlightened ones, they can as well put it into practice at their various levels. Social media has really been of help during our generation, I always say that our generation is blessed and more opportune; we are well informed than any previous generations that have ever been in existence. Twitter, Facebook,Google+,wordpress,blogs, all these are  vital mode of sharing information that has a lot to do in transforming agriculture in Nigeria and in the world at large. ICT is a vital tools in agricultural publicity simply because the two goes hand in hand for a transformation, it’s a two ways phenomenon.

GPS Innovation: ICT can help immensely in agriculture transformation and one of the various ways is the innovation and usage of GPS (Global  Positioning System), the use of the GPS makes practical a systematic  sampling of an agricultural field of any size or shape. With portable software, so that soil sample may be taken. With systematic soil samples, the appropriate amount of fertilizer can be applied to different part of the field. The use of the GPS can easily pay for it self  in the cost of saving on fertilizer and other chemicals. Once crop is planted, the same GPS guided procedure can be used to survey the plant disease or insect. Data on field size and needs size can be collected and available computer software used to calculate the materials list for the treatment of the field.

 

Data Storage: This is another way  ICT can transform agriculture, keeping the records of agricultural produce goes beyond manual handling sometimes, data add a powerful dimension to agriculture. Livestock  is a good example  of data storage: keeping the data of animals, birth rate , mortality rate , till the time day grow for sales will help in detailing running cost of Agricultural produce, this process can be carried out by using software packages like: Microsoft word, Microsoft excel, Microsoft Access e.t.c.

Agriculture and rural transformations are key development strategy for south west states in particular and Nigeria in general. Nigeria has a vast rural community with majorly unsophisticated base. Therefore, ICT  becomes vital key in other to foster development and transform agriculture to make it more admirable among the youths. This implies that if the rural communities must not be left behind in the effort to creating knowledgeable society in which ICT becomes key to socio-economy development, there is the need now, to bridge the gap in the digital divide in information technology aimed at building capacity of rural dwellers  to enhance agriculture and rural transformation.