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immediate Past Vice-Chancellor of Bells University of Technology, Ota,Professor Isaac Adebayo Adeyemi

How to overcome challenges of food security in Nigeria

 

Professor Isaa Adebayo Adeyemi is one man, who is very passionate about Nigeria having food in their table. He believes if agriculture was taken serious by the government, Nigeria will not have any course to complain of food.

Adeyemi ,who  stated this in an Interviews with the EDITOR of Skybirdnews Group, CHARLES NWAOGUJI,  said that as a matter of urgency government must provide   infrastructural facilities such as un-interrupted power and water supply on which the survival of the Nigerian food industry depends ; whether by small scale processors or multinationals.

“ Governments must also open up rural agricultural areas to ensure easy movements of agricultural materials while interstate roads must be rehabilitated and improved upon. A critical component of food and nutrition security is food distribution, which depends on efficient transportation systems.

Excerpt:

 

Background

I am Isaac Adebayo Adeyemi, a Professor of Food Science and Technology with background in Agricultural Biochemistry and Nutrition, and Human Nutrition at Postgraduate Diploma level from the University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria.  I had my Ph.D. in food science from the University of Leeds, Leeds, England. My academic career spanned through  Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife(1978-1991) where I rose to the position of Reader in 1990; Ladoke Akintola University of Technology. (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, Nigeria (1991-2018) where I was appointed Professor at the inception of the University in 1990 and retired in 2018.  While at LAUTECH, I had an opportunity of serving as the second Vice-Chancellor of Bells University of Technology, Ota for ten years (2006-2016). Apart from serving as Vice-Chancellor, one of the most fulfilling aspects of my career is the number and current status of those who were my students, especially at Ph.D. level who are presently occupying various senior  positions in the academia and, private and public sectors.

Professionally, initially as member  and now fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology  (NIFST), I have had an opportunity of serving in various capacities within the body of which I eventually became the National President (2006-2008). I have also had  opportunities of serving on other bodies and organizations such as the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Registrars of Private Universities (CVRPU) of which I was the Chairman (2014-2016) which enabled me to serve as  second Vice-Chairman, Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU) within same period; Olusola Sanu Education Support Foundation (OSESUF),   currently the board chairman; member, nutrition committee of the Nigerian Heart Foundation, and Chairman of Council, the Polytechnic, Ibadan, Nigeria. My election in 2012 as fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Science was an icing on the cake.

Current state of Nigeria economic 

I am not an Economist, as such I cannot give a professional and balanced view of the Nigerian economy.

My assessment will be based on the life of the common man and, supporting and accepted global ratings. These are : level of poverty which has been put at 50% , with Nigeria being classified as belonging to abject poverty group with an income of $1/day; unemployment among the youths (40-50%); national literacy rate (59.6percent); life expectancy (55years); poor  access to health care delivery, high population growth rate (2.62%); very low human development index (0.532); low infrastructural development; high rate of corruption;  contraction of the industrial base ; undeveloped iron and steel industry; high rate of insurgency and banditry, etc. For a country that has suffered an irrecoverable “Dutch Disease” compounded with the above, such an  economy cannot translate into decent and relatively comfortable living for the people and as such it is an economy that is unhealthy and unfriendly.

Challenges facing food science and technology in Nigeria and Africa

One of the major challenges facing food science and technology in Nigeria and in most parts of Africa is lack of gainful employment for trained personnel. The reasons for this are not far fetched. Most of the thriving food industries in the past have folded up due to several factors such as lack of raw materials, insecurity and, the cost and uncertainty of doing business in Nigeria.

Secondly,  Nigerian economic environment does not encourage startups who would have filled the gap in the down stream sector of the industry. Access to loans with the high interest rates  and poor access to utilities like water and electricity are deterrent factors for  small scale processors.

The situation is compounded further by the fact that most of the multinationals import virtually all the basic raw materials which would have been sourced locally. A good platform for practitioners in the field would have been the opportunity to produce food grade quality raw materials for the big manufacturers or for export purposes.

The  collapse of the agriculture sector has its significant impart in the ability and capability of professionals to function effectively. Moreover, a handful of food scientists and technologists  would have been found highly relevant in the research departments of some multinationals, unfortunately, these industries rely on scientists and research units in their home countries or their parent companies.

Another serious factor is the increasing trend, especially among the youths, in developing  tastes for so called exotic foods wherein, Nigerians are gradually losing the appetite or taste for Nigerian foods and imbibe more of foreign foods – ‘food slavery’ ? The implication is the encouragement of industries for the production of  such foreign foods at the expense of Nigerian foods. What then is the role of the Nigerian food scientist ? In as much as we have failed to develop our inherited food processing technologies, foods and food culture, the food scientist will be at a loss and completely irrelevant to the Nigerian system.

There is therefore the urgent need to create awareness and give massive support to small scale industries to invest in the manufacture of local foods, snacks and beverages. Nigeria,  by her cultural diversities which are reflected in her food culture, depending on the ecological and geographical zones,  has the opportunity of not only popularizing these products within the country but also export same to global markets in a world where consumers always yearn for exotic products either for curiosity or for dietetic reasons. This could have been enhanced if the tourist industry in Nigeria had thrivedwhich would have encouraged local foods for tourists.

Expectations of Government Agencies such as NAFDAC and Standard Organization of Nigeria

(SON) are some of the hurdles that starters in the food sector have to contend with. While it is

imperative for processed food and beverage products to meet the quality criteria as specified by

these agencies, most of start ups and small scale processors  cannot meet the initial cost of

registration and payment for product analyses. A financial support scheme could be put in place

to assist such small scale processors during the gestation period and in product registration.

Unless this is done, young investors without any financial support would find it difficult to find

their feet and thereby killing initiatives which would result in increased level of youth

unemployment.

How to keep   NIFST going

The profession needs to be professionalized. The Institute, the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology (NIFST), has in the last twenty years been clamoring for a charter. I could recollect when I was the National President, we got the bill almost  through the National Assembly. Thereafter, during the time of President Goodluck Jonathan, the bill was passed by the National Assembly but unfortunately, it was not signed into law by Mr. President.  The Institute is not giving up as the bill has been represented and we are optimistic that it will be approved by the current National Assembly . It is our conviction that President  Muhammadu Buhari is not averse to the NIFST charter as its objectives are in line with one of the cardinal programmes of the present administration, agrarian revolution with agriculture and processing of food and agricultural materials as the main stay of the Nigerian economy.

Food security in Nigeria and Africa

Globally, food security is always discussed with nutrition security indicating their interdependence. Food  and nutrition security exists “when all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to food, which is consumed in sufficient quantity and quality to meet their dietary needs and food preferences with an environment of adequate sanitation, health services and care, allowing for a healthy and active life (United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition). Therefore, if Nigeria and other African countries were to be placed on the scale of the above definition, definitely most African countries including Nigeria will be at  the bottom of the  scale .

This is evident from the Nigeria’s position as reflected in the following : prevalence of undernourishment (25.5 percent ), moderate or severe food insecurity (26.4 percent), stunting (37.4 percet), malnutrition (16.4%) and proportion of agricultural area under productive and sustainable agriculture (56.55 percent).  The above are being compounded by the current wave of insecurity across the country most especially in the Northern States, drought due to climate change predominantly in the Lake Chad Basin and food price inflation.

In addressing the role of government, it is imperative to highlight the causes of food and nutrition insecurity which are :  low food and agricultural production mainly from aged and peasant farmers who rely mainly on hoes and cutlasses,  lack of facilities to handle food and agriculture produce at the farm gate and to add value through intermediate processing , poor road network especially in the rural agricultural areas with comatose rail system which has paralyzed the distribution of raw and processed foods,  unfavourable environment for food retailing and marketing,  home and institutional handling of food materials,  food losses and wastes in the food chain, household access to adequate health services and the adequacy of environmental health conditions and  the social and care environment within the household and local community.

There is no doubt, the various tiers of government along with relevant stakeholders have important roles to play in addressing the challenges of food and nutrition insecurity in Nigeria. Both governments ( federal, state and local governments ) and the private sector must address the  above identified causes of food and nutrition insecurity.

Itemized as follows are feasible and pragmatic actions which must be sustainable and in an holistic manner ,  increased production through  large, medium and small scale mechanized farming and adaptation of novel technologies such as genetic engineering and application of biotechnology,  replacement of the present aged and peasant farmers with younger, well trained and highly motivated farmers,  availability of inputs such as improved seedlings and fertilizers etc at subsidized rates,  young farmers must be assisted to have access to farming lands and bank loans at low interest rates through Agricultural Development Banks without politicizing such loans,  Commodity Boards should be reintroduced and made to be functional with support from governments to put in place guaranteed market prices including subsidies, where necessary, especially when, either there is a fall in demand due to glut or a reduction in harvest due to adverse weather conditions, simple and inexpensive food handling and storage, and intermediate processing machineries with quality control facilities to enhance value addition at  farm levels.

Most of the points mentioned above could be achieved either through individuals, cooperative societies and public- private – partnership. Two major and very important areas that government has to fulfill its obligations would be in the provision of infrastructural facilities such as un-interrupted power and water supply on which the survival of the Nigerian food industry depends ; whether by small scale processors or multinationals. Governments must open up rural agricultural areas to ensure easy movements of agricultural materials while interstate roads must be rehabilitated and improved upon. A critical component of food and nutrition security is food distribution, which depends on efficient transportation systems.

Food retailing environment is also an aspect of food security that needs to be addressed, as such shops and supermarkets offering food products for sale must be made to comply with standard and specified storage conditions for such products. The need to improve local market environment must be explored as a large percentage of Nigerians depend on local markets for purchases of farm produce.  An aspect of the food chain that has contributed significantly to food and nutrition insecurity is high  post-harvest food losses, right from the farm to the table.

Therefore, reduction of food losses, which in Nigeria could be as high as 100% depending on the product, environmental conditions and handling, including at points of consumption, must be addressed.

Waste reduction is an important economic segment of the food production chain which can be achieved at each stage of the chain.  While significant reductions should be achieved along the food chain, increased utilization of food wastes for composting, animal feeds, particle boards for furniture and other potential industrial uses, depending on the type and nature of food waste, is sine qua non.  The gain from harnessing waste can improve the viability of the entire production process.

For Nigeria to achieve food and nutrition security, while addressing the points discussed above among others, it is important to integrate nutrition into food security policies and research. Too often, nutrition and health, and agriculture sectors work separately and even competitively. Without any doubt, agriculture remains the source of our nutrition. Collaborations between the agriculturists, food scientists and technologists, nutritionists and the health workers if properly harnessed will contribute immensely to food and nutrition security, poverty reduction, malnutrition reduction, improved health and economic growth. To achieve these, public  private partnership must be created and sustained.

Science education in Nigeria

The status of science education in Nigeria needs no debate before  concluding  that the country has not made any meaningful progress and, feasible and significant national impact for more than forty years. The reason are not far fetched, some of which include low budgetary allocation to science education at all levels of the educational system, poor research funding and very low rate of commercialization of research findings, non-recognition of Scientists who have made discoveries and innovations, lack of adequate facilities for the training of science teachers across the education strata, poor enabling environment especially with respect to provision of infrastructural facilities such as electricity and water.

A major deterrent factor to science and technology development in Nigeria is the heavy reliance on imported technologies, goods and services which were easily funded with proceeds from oil during the oil boom period when the believe was and still is anything could be imported. The taste and high demand for imported items at the expense of locally produced items have  negative effects on innovation and survival of local industries which have been turned into  marketing, packaging or assembly outfits of foreign companies. For the construction and other engineering outfits, Nigerian Engineers and Technologists, rather been employers of labour through their various home grown companies, end up as employees of  foreign companies.

All these have negative consequences on science education and development. Bottom top approach to science education is the bedrock of development with primary school pupils, right through secondary school to the university level, imbibing the culture and tenets of science and technology. Any deviation from this cannot bring any meaningful development neither can it result in home grown industrialization.  Unfortunately, this is a global age of knowledge economy which is ICT driven with Nigeria having  a knowledge economic  index of 2.04 while countries like Denmark, Japan, United Arab Emirates, South Africa and Namibia have figures of  9.58, 8.56, 6.66,5.55 and 4.19 respectively.

These values speak volumes on the  state of science education in Nigeria which must be addressed to enable Nigeria  join the league of industrialized or developed countries.  Suffice to say that Nigeria does not lack the required mass of highly trained, experienced and exposed scientists, technologists and engineers, both within and outside the country. It is imperative, therefore, to create sustainable and enabling environment to ensure their optimum performance which would translate into taking Nigeria out of the present doldrums in science and technology education.

 

 

About Editor Charles

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