By Charles Nwaoguji
Prof. Lateef O. Sanni is one man, who is very passionate to Food Science and Technology. He believes that the only way Nigerians could have food on their table is for the government to create Agro-Processing Hub in all 774 Local governments
The Former Deputy Vice Chancellor (Development) Federal University of Agriculture,
Abeokuta, President, International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC) and Chairman, Steering Committee, African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD), shares his experiences with Editor of Skybirdnews Group, Mr. Charles Nwaoguji on the current situation of Nigeria Economy, challenges facing Food Science and Technology, agriculture policy etc .
The oil sector provides for 95% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings and 80% of its budgetary revenues. Global dropped in oil price from $54 per barrel to less than $30 had forced revision to our 2020 National Budget. That is sending signal that all is not well with our economy. A country that is heavily dependent on importation with little or lip-service to non-oil production coupled with our unsustained poor production system.
Challenges facing food science and technology
Proper recognition and placement of our profession by other colleagues and policy makers is our major challenge. The government and private organizations should facilitate the recruitment of food technologists. NIFSTers are value assets to Nigerians. Thank God for the approval of Council of Nigerian Council of Food Science & Technology and allied matters (NCFST) Act that is giving us more authority to regulate and monitor our food science professionals. We commend Mr. President and our supervisory Ministry, Federal Ministry of Science and Technology. I know that the inauguration of the Council is in the top gear. Thanks to the proactive and dynamic nature of the Honorable Minister, Permanent Secretary and the Directors within Federal Ministry of Science and Technology. Lack of or inadequate pilot plants with state of the art equipment for cutting edge food research and development are
Policy inconsistency with some negative dispositions across the whole States is making government not getting it right in mainstreaming agriculture. Government must be seen as the operator of agribusiness. Government should only be facilitator or catalyst for agricultural development. There is no harmonization with agricultural policy or agricultural agenda of FMARD with NIRSAL and CBN Anchor Borrowers Programs. There is little technical involvement of agricultural based institutions in the planning and implementation of those programs. Who takes responsibility to ascertain the potency of agro inputs like fertilizers, herbicides etc., quality seeds/stems being procured, or train farmers on good production practices, processors on good manufacturing practices and compliance with GlobalGAP or ISO. We keep on hearing billions of naira in Agriculture moving from staff of the banks to farmers or processors as off takers. No oversight or national monitoring of such investment. I think we need to work together. We need to move away from our silos.
How to tackle these challenges
Collaborative efforts with relevant agencies, institutions, producer associations and media are very important. COVID-19 has shown that CBN can lend loans at less than 5% and extend our moratorium. We need to keep this up. We need to share notes using best case studies.
We now have Department of Food Science and Technology in over 75% of Universities and Polytechnics in the country. We need to recruit more staff, equip their laboratories with state of the art research equipment and pilot plants. We commend TETFund and NEEDs Assessment funds. But we can still do more. Our financial Value is in the neighborhood of Billions. Our approach is to start small and build on later.
Ways can government help these sector to grow
Empower and encourage Start-up SMEs, incubates and interns in running research oriented food businesses especially women and youth. Government can improve N-Power for the food sectors. Create Work-Learn-Establish windows for the beneficiaries linking institutions-Industries-Financial Banks together to create more of Agro-Processing Hub in all Local Government of Nigeria.
My achievement as the former president of food of Nigeria Institute of Food Science and Technology
We achieved quite a lot in terms of trainings on supply chain management to the food industries, advocacy on local substitution policy, research methodology, consistent annual and regional food dialogue, workshops and conferences. We stepped up action on the pursuit of our Council for the food professionals and networked with sister professional bodies and relevant MDAs.
How to encourage this noble profession
Proper recognition and placement. We are supposed to be members of Governing Boards of NAFDAC, SON, Consumer Protection Council and other food related boards. We are more than ready to be part of strategic polity fora for the sustainability of our food and nutrition security in the country. Look at COVID-19, do we have food Banks that could distribute thousands of tonnes of grains, starch and other food items to our senatorial districts including IDPs as a nation. None. Nigerians will benefit more by working with our professional bodies.
Encouraging female student to study science and technology
We have largest number of female students in all our programs in the country. We are also very active in promotion and trainings on gender main streaming in Nigeria and the world in general.
Advice to the government
Government should believe more in the skills and knowledge of Nigerian Professionals. Policy of Top down intervention should be modified to bottom approach. Allow grassroots to demand for what they feel we help their community. In summary, we need to work the talk of our agricultural policy. We have not done well in implementation and sustainability of those policies in the past.