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Our Take: The Nigerian economy is plagued by a reduction in food output, food insecurity, and youth unemployment. Food insecurity has grown due to population growth without equivalent increases in agricultural output or favorable policy. It emphasizes the necessity of agriculture in ensuring food security, as well as the importance of empowering small-scale farmers, particularly women and youth. The importance of comprehensive agricultural research involving diverse stakeholders from the public and private sectors of the agricultural value chain is also important.
Reduction in food production, food insecurity, and youth unem- ployment have characterized the present day status of the Nigerian economy. These problems have been associated with an increase in population without a corresponding increase in agricultural pro- ductivity and favorable policies. This article discusses methods to promote increased food production, poverty alleviation, and food security in Nigeria. It highlights the importance of agriculture to food security and the need to empower smallholder farmers, es- pecially women and youth. The need for holistic agricultural re- search, encompassing various stakeholders in the government and non-governmental sectors of the agricultural value chain, is also emphasised.
Poverty is a major problem in many developing countries in the world, in- cluding Nigeria. It has been described as a vicious cycle, causing hunger and malnutrition, and is aggravated by rapid population growth. Poverty is also a gender issue, affecting mostly households headed by women. The causes of poverty have been linked to food insecurity, adverse development of in- ternational schemes, world economic recession, foreign debt burden, and a series of economic reforms (Okuneye, 2001). Nigeria is currently facing a food crisis, with the population—especially the poor—having limited access to adequate quantity and quality of food. Food security reflects stability of the food supply and availability of and access to food. These, in turn, influ- ence the amount of food consumed and have implications for the health of consumers (Akinyele, 2010). Food insecurity can be addressed by sustain- able agriculture, which has been described as an agricultural system adapted to a particular area so that crop and animal products do not decline over time and are reasonably stable over normal fluctuations of weather (Troeh & Donahue, 2003). Food production declined between 1970 and 1998, due to the oil boom era when many workers abandoned farm work (Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN], 2000). This led to food importation and rural urban migration (Ogunsumi, 2007).
Meaningful development of the Nigerian economy cannot be achieved outside of agriculture. Sustainable agriculture has the benefits of satisfying human needs for food, protecting natural resources, and ensuring environ- mental quality (Edeoghon, Ajayi, & Ugboya, 2008). Agriculture is the main- stay of the West African economy and, even in Nigeria, where crude oil accounts for over 90% of the government’s earnings, over 70% of the popu- lation derive their livelihood from agriculture.
Food Production And Smallholder Farmers
In the past, agriculture has been the major backbone of the economy in providing raw materials, food, and employment for over 75% of the popu- lation. Agriculture is critical to world food security, poverty alleviation, and conservation of natural resources. Farmers are critical to crop production and farm enterprises. They perform various functions such as clearing, planting, weeding, staking, fertilizer application, harvesting, processing, storage, and marketing (Ibeawuchi, 2007). Throughout the world, farmers have been clas- sified as small-, medium-, and large-scale; however, in Nigeria, small-scale farming is dominated by peasant farmers living in rural areas, with farm holdings of one to two hectares. It is reported that they constitute about 70% of the rural areas sustaining Nigerian agriculture (Fawole & Oladele, 2007). Over 12 million farmers are scattered in different ecological zones and engaged in the production of a wide variety of arable crops under tra- ditional subsistence farming (Oluwatayo, Sekumade, & Adesoji, 2008); 90% of Nigerian total production comes from small farms.
Increasing farmers’ productivity and income will require the develop- ment of appropriate technology through research and the transfer of research output through efficient extension systems (Abalu, 1988). Promoting produc- tivity among small-scale farmers is therefore essential for national growth and food security in Nigeria. Peasant farmers should be encouraged to en- gage in Integrated Farming Systems (IFS) based on integration of livestock production into cropping systems. Through proper management practices, IFS increases soil fertility; minimizes insect and disease problems, energy requirements, and risks due to climatic fluctuation; and protects the environ- ment through erosion control (Tirado, 2009).
Increasing Population And Decreasing Agricultural Productivity
Currently, population growth has outstripped agricultural productivity (Okuneye, 2001). Thus, the country is facing food insecurity. Before the oil boom—i.e., before the 1970s—Nigeria was a major producer of a number of food crops, such as cassava and beans, and cash crops, such as cocoa and palm oil. Food crops like roots, tubers, and vegetables are cultivated predom- inantly in the rainforest zone of the south, while grains and cereals are culti- vated in the savannah zone of the north (Ogunsumi, 2007). Traditional crops in the southern region include root and tuber crops such as cassava, yam, cocoyam, and sweet potatoes. Cereals such as maize, sorghum, millet, and rice are commonly grown in the north. Oil seeds such as oil palm, ground- nut, sheabutter, sunflower seed, copra, and sesame and fruits—including plantain, banana, mango, and orange—are grown in the southern region. Vegetables such as aubergine, tomatoes, okra, onion, and chilli pepper are also common in northern Nigeria. Grain legumes—including various types of beans: soya bean, pigeon pea, lima bean, and peanuts—are grown in different parts of the country. Meat and fish from both marine and fresh- water are also produced. Nigeria accounted for 60% of the 51.4 million tons of cereals produced in West Africa in 2006 (Ismaila, Gana, Tswanya, & Dogara, 2010). Regrettably, it is estimated that about 50% of perishable food commodities—including fruits, vegetables, roots, and tubers—and about 30% of grains—including maize, sorghum, millet, rice, and cowpea—are lost after harvest in West Africa (Aworh & Egounlety, 2001). Inefficient or inappropri- ate food processing technologies; inefficient postharvest handling practices; and inadequate or complete lack of storage facilities, packing houses, and market infrastructures are some of the factors responsible for high posthar- vest food losses in West Africa (Adeyemi, Taiwo, Akanbi, & Sanni, 2010). Cash crops have been sources of foreign exchange income for Nigeria, con- tributing to the Gross Domestic Product.
Today, Nigeria is more of a consumer nation than a producer nation, and this has contributed immensely to food insecurity and poverty in the country. The inability of Nigerian agriculturists to provide food in sufficient quantity and quality to feed the increasing population has resulted in food shortages, undernourishment, malnutrition, starvation, hunger, and ill-health. The current population of Nigeria has been estimated at 167 million (Ngozi, 2011). The rate of increase in the number of hungry people in the world in the 1980s was several times what it was in the 1970s. By 1989, the total number of chronically hungry people in the world was estimated to be 550 million people and the figure was 1 billion people by 2002. Between 1991 and 1998, the number of food insecure people declined by 76 million in China and increased by 40 million in all other developing countries (Inter- national Food Policy Research Institute, 2002; Ojo, 2009). The prevalence of undernourished people in Nigeria, as of 2008, was 6%, which is about 9.4 million people (FAO, 2011). Population growth in developing coun- tries increases food demand at a rate of 3–5% per year (Maisonet-Guzman, 2011). This must be considered in sustainable agricultural practices. Popula- tion growth leads to intensive land cultivation and use of available natural resources, resulting in water and land degradation. These factors are also implicated in malnutrition, poverty, and a lower standard of living.
Past Government Efforts To Increase Food Security
Various governments in Nigeria have attempted to improve agricultural pro- duction through programs such as the Agricultural Development Project (1974), Operation Feed the Nation (1976), the Green Revolution (1976), and Fadama I, II, III, etc. The programs were set with the main goals of reducing food insecurity and alleviating poverty. However, some of these programs failed due to poor administration and lack of continuity in policy implementation, inadequate manpower to provide effective leadership, poor funding, and ineffective planning (Akinyele, 2010; Longe, 2005). In spite of Nigeria’s oil wealth—being rated as number six among the petroleum producing countries (OPEC)—it is sad to note that Nigeria is still among the 18 poorest countries in the world. National data indicates that the num- ber of poor people increased from 18 million to almost 68 million between 1980 and 1986. The government’s inconsistent import policies, unrealistic exchange rate, industrial policy on raw materials importation, rising fiscal and trade imbalances, and mounting international debt all affect the growth of the economy (Central Bank of Nigeria, 2000).
Terms In Food Security
Food insecurity is lack of access to a nutritionally adequate diet in a house- hold or country. Food security is defined as physical, social, and economical access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Household food security exists when household members have access to the food needed for a healthy life. A region is food secure when a majority of the people in the geo- political area have access to food of adequate quantity and quality at all times, while a locality is food secure when a majority of the people in the locality have access to food of adequate quantity and quality at all times (Babatunde & Oyatoye, 2005). National food security implies that a country, with the amount of food available, if evenly distributed, has enough to meet the people’s food needs. Sustainable food security means enough food for everyone at present, plus the ability to provide enough for the future (FAO, 2006; Kolawole, Agbetoye, & Ogunlowo, 2010).
For food security to be ensured at these different levels—whether for an individual household, region, or nation—three important factors have to be in place: food availability, food accessibility, and food utilization. “Food avail- ability” concerns the physical presence of food, which depends on domestic food production and food importation. The problem of dwindling food avail- ability has been aggravated because total food production has been constant over the years with a growing socioeconomic challenge. The value of food imports increased by 53% from N 3.2991 trillion (Naira) in 2008 to N 5.0479 trillion in 2009. Nigeria’s import table also shows that 90% of goods imported are for consumption and not for production purposes (Omoh, 2011). Avail- ability is also a function of stock holding and food marketing, apart from food production (Von Braun, Bouis, Kumaris, & Pandya-Lorch, 1992).
It is not enough for food to be available; it must be accessible to the consumer—i.e., affordable. It is one thing for food to be physically present; it is another for it to be accessible, which is dependent on the purchas- ing power of the people. “Food accessibility” is not physically or socially constrained, but economically. Food processing and associated activities, in particular, are important factors in the promotion of food access and the production of safe and nutritious foods. Improvement in food acces- sibility, through increased income resulting from the commercialization of indigenous foods, should be encouraged. Improvement of indigenous tech- nologies and the nutritional value and safety of local foods should also be encouraged. Although the bulk of food consumed in many African countries is converted into edible forms, using indigenous food technologies (Aworh, 1994); unfortunately, the role of these technologies in the attainment of food security has not been fully addressed by the many paradigms characterizing agricultural development in Africa. As a result, the underlying technologies have not received much attention from the scientific community.
“Food utilization” reflects the quantity and quality of dietary intake and the nutritional and health status of the people. Nutritional status is a measure of the health condition of an individual as affected primarily by the intake of food and utilization of nutrients. The basic minimum requirement figure has been 65 g of protein and 2,500 kcal of energy, which has not been achieved by most people (FAO/WHO/UNU, 1985; Opata & Nweze, 2009). Food utilization has been affected by high inflation, low purchasing power, unequal distribution of the food supply, and income (Okolo, 2004). Good nutritional status can only be realized and sustained when individuals within families and communities are food-secure. Better nutrition means stronger immune systems, less illness, and better health. Better nutrition is a prime entry point to ending poverty and a milestone in achieving better quality of life. The vulnerable and food insecure include the poor, smallholder farmers, children, pregnant women, lactating mothers, and the elderly. Low nutritional status has been implicated in prevalent deficiency diseases such as iron deficiency, protein malnutrition, and vitamin A deficiency (Potter & Hotchkiss, 1998).
Processing greatly increases the value of perishable foodstuffs by making them available for a longer period of time and over a wider area. In addition, postharvest activities improve the palatability of food products, as well as provide semi-processed agricultural products which serve as raw materials for a number of small- or medium-scale industries in Africa (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, 1990). The development of small-scale food- product-processing industries reduces imports, provides employment, and is an impetus to the development of other types of agro-industry (Vlavonou, 1989).
Factors Affecting Availability, Accessibility, And Utilization Of Food In Nigeria
A number of factors have been reported to cause food insecurity in Nigeria. These include poor infrastructural facilities, inadequate farm input, lack of working capital, inappropriate equipment, labor intensive traditional/manual processes, shortage of manpower/skill development, and postharvest losses (Ukeje, 2003). Postharvest losses may be attributed to the following: (a) lack of appropriate technologies for processing, packaging, and storage; (b) low rate of technology adoption; (c) poor linkages between research and the food industries; (d) lack of information on marketing channels for farmers and processors; and (e) lack of infrastructures.
Lack of Appropriate Technologies for Processing, Packaging, and Storage
Too much of the world’s food harvest is lost to spoilage and infestation on its journey to the consumer. Losses occur in all operations, from harvest- ing through handling, storage, processing, and marketing. Proper evaluation of postharvest technologies should consider the entire postharvest chain, using loss assessment as a tool for understanding when, where, and why losses occur. Appropriate technologies are particularly needed for process- ing food in rural areas of developing countries (Aworh, 2008). Traditional technologies can sometimes be upgraded to enhance the shelf life and con- sumer acceptance of indigenous foods, as well as in developing value-added products with export potential. Application of simple techniques for harvest- ing, postharvest treatment, grading, sorting, and presentation of many fruits and vegetables, at village and community levels, has proven profitable for small-scale growers in numerous countries.
Low Rate of Technology Adoption
A technology may be tested technically in a research laboratory and proven effective, but it may not be acceptable to the end-users (Taiwo & Faborode, 2003). Development of expensive and sophisticated technologies always leads to low adoption by rural farmers. Participatory approaches involving farmers in the decision-making process ensure better adoption of technolo- gies (Lawal & Oluyole, 2008). Technologies should be simple-to-practice, affordable, easily replicated and, if possible, designed from locally available materials. Stakeholders’ participation is critical, not only in achieving focus but also for public acceptance and adoption of developed technologies. Factors affecting adoption of new practices include financial advantages of adoption, complexity of the new practice, compatibility with existing prac- tices, ease of trying new practices, and degree to which outputs can be easily seen and measured (Barr & Cary, 2000).
Poor Linkages Between Research and the Food Industries
Alliances between research organizations and food industries will result in greater synergies, bringing about better utilization of research findings. The formation of partnerships will help establish a sustainable and commercially successful food production chain and facilitate efficient knowledge trans- fer for practical application, product development, and economic growth. Public-private partnerships between research institutions, universities, and food industries will also help solve some of the problems associated with poor funding, often faced by research bodies (Binenbaum, Pardey, & Wright, 2001).
Lack of Information on Marketing Channels for Farmers and Processors
A market channel describes the movement of a product or commodity from the site of production to the place of consumption. It may include trans- portation, handling, storage, ownership transfer, processing, and distribution. Principal players in marketing channels are the entrepreneurs (Pinkerton, Harwell, Drinkwater, & Escobar, 2000). Processing and effective marketing of food items offer veritable avenues of job creation. Farmers and processors, as primary producers, need to rightly link with market information and key players in marketing channels for proper market flow and income earning. An effective and well-coordinated marketing system affects food production and household food security.
Lack of Infrastructures
Development of infrastructures in rural areas is parallel to agricultural de- velopment. Such facilities as good feeder roads will enhance evacuation of output and transportation of inputs to the rural areas. In particular, on-farm storage facilities are appropriate for specific agricultural enterprises. Such storage structures should be designed and commercialized for use in rural areas (Okuneye, 2001).
Women And Agriculture
Homestead food production enables the planting of a wide range of fruits and vegetables, often integrated with animal husbandry, promoting increased nutritional diversity and improved diet quality within households. Most food consumption surveys either underestimate or ignore indigenous and wild foods that are consumed (Mmom, 2009). Traditionally, women have been the custodian of most primary on-farm processing operations and posthar- vest activities (Vlavonou, 1989). In many countries, they also form the ma- jority of micro-entrepreneurs (Morse & Ellis-Jones, 1994). In different sub- sections of agriculture—such as crop production, livestock, fisheries, and agroforestry—women play key roles in planting, weeding, and harvesting, especially in subsistence production, contributing about 60–80% of the total labor (Ajani, 2008).
Women are also involved in processing and marketing. Irrespective of their contribution to food production, processing, storage, transportation, marketing and distribution, women have been found to be more food in- secure than their male counterparts. Female-headed households have been reported to have food insecurity levels of 0.49 and male-headed 0.39 (Ajani, 2008). Some of the factors contributing to female food insecurity and lower agricultural productivity include a low level of literacy, lack of ownership and control of assets, low resources, lack of sufficient and substantive collat- eral, inadequate knowledge and training on improved technologies, multiple roles as homemaker and income earner, poor access to transport systems in rural areas, etc. (Fasoyiro, Obatolu, Ashaye, & Lawal, 2010). Women are also subject to several gender-based vulnerabilities—including fewer benefits un- der customary or statutory legal systems than men, lack of decision-making authority, greater time burdens, and threats of acts of physical violence. In many countries, women who grow the food that sustains the majority of the population are not even recognized as farmers. They have no legal right to own land. And women are routinely shut out of government agricultural programs. They lose out on access to credit, seeds, tools, and training. Ru- ral women are involved in indigenous processing methods, which are often laborious and time consuming, and play a significant role in postharvest technologies in critical areas such as food storage, processing, preparation, preservation, and packaging. Indigenous technologies provide the founda- tion for socioeconomic progress. Traditional technologies need upgrading for wider application and broad-based benefit to the population. Indeed, many modern technologies are either difficult to acquire for economic reasons or unsuitable to the sociocultural African context. Food storage, processing, preservation, and packaging are good examples of areas in which technolog- ical development has generally been overlooked by policymakers. Problems associated with indigenous technologies include access to remote markets; risks arising from the indiscriminate adjustment of indigenous technologies that have evolved because of their inherent safety; and difficulty in imme- diately implementing Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) in small-scale enterprises, if international marketing is targeted. All of this means that policies aiming to resolve the food crisis need to also uphold women’s rights (Susskind, 2008). Access of women to land and other assets such as credit facilities will alleviate poverty through improvement of their productive capabilities.
Youth Unemployment And The Agricultural Value Chain
Worldwide, youth unemployment has been estimated as almost three times higher than the adult unemployment rate (International Labour Organiza- tion, 2008). Youth stand as the future strength of any nation. One of the factors responsible for increasing youth unemployment is increased popula- tion growth. Youth engagement in agricultural activities will reduce the youth unemployment rate in Nigeria. Nigerian agriculture will be professionalized through promotion of educational and professional training to encourage young people to embrace agricultural activities (Okuneye, 2001). The prac- tice of urban agriculture, such as backyard farming (Ojo, 2009; Opata & Nweze, 2009), among youth will make them self-reliant.
“Value chain” refers to a full range of activities that are required to bring a product or service from conception through the different phases of delivery to the final consumer and disposal after use (Kaplinsky & Morris, 2001). A value chain exists when the actors in the chain operate in a way that maximizes the generation of value to products and services along the chain. The chain involves a network of upstream linkages or sources of supply (farmers and producers) and downstream linkages (distribution and the ultimate customers). The chain is a collaborative system of obtaining value-added products and services. The distribution link—especially as re- tailers, traders, and exporters—will empower youth for income-generation and self-employment. The agricultural value chain will play a key role in reducing the unemployment rate among youth by empowering them as key players in various activities such as production, processing, storage, dis- tribution, and marketing of agricultural produce and products. The value chain will provide an integral approach to poverty alleviation and sustain- able livelihood. It encompasses the flow of produce and product through entrepreneurs such as farmers, processors, traders, distributors, etc., who are all engaged in various forms of business, whether for the domestic or export market. The small-scale food industries in which youth can be engaged for income generation include root and tuber processing, especially cassava and yam processing; cereal and legume processing; baking; fruit and vegetable processing; brewing and beverage production; flour milling; vegetable oil milling; cheese-making; fish and meat smoking and drying; and production of condiments. Urban-rural migration among the youth will be reduced when they have the necessary support systems, such as training and starting cap- ital, in their various localities. Issues of proper governance, upgrading, and distribution (both upstream and downstream) need to be addressed in order for the system to work effectively.
Rural development and agro-industrialization are closely linked with the promotion of small-scale food industries, which involve lower capital investment and reliance on locally produced raw materials and traditional technology (Aworh, 1994). Small-scale food industries generate income, thus reducing rural-urban migration and the associated social problems. They are vital to solving the problem of imbalance between the rural and urban ar- eas and are crucial to reducing postharvest food losses and increasing food availability. However, rapid growth and development of small-scale food in- dustries has been hampered by the adoption of inefficient or inappropriate technologies, poor management, inadequate working capital, limited access to banks and other financial institutions, high interest rates, and low profit margins (Aworh, 2005). In addition, small-scale food industries rely on lo- cally fabricated equipment, and non-standardization of equipment and lack of spare parts for equipment maintenance and repair are major problems constraining their growth (Taiwo, Oladepo, Ilori, & Akanbi, 2002).
Research And National Development
Research can be defined as the search for knowledge or any systematic investigation to establish novel facts and solve new or existing problems.
Put simply, it is asking questions, answering questions, and proffering so- lutions. Research is usually conducted by professionals who are experts or subject-matter specialists to answer questions that contribute to national de- velopment in their various endeavors. In order to ensure food security in Nigeria, the researchers must continue to answer the following questions based on the three pillars of food security:
- How can food be more available?
- How can food be more accessible?
- How can food be better utilized?
Nigeria is a country with over 100 universities, more than 15 food-related research institutions, and many civil societies (such as non-government and community-based organizations) involved in agricultural research concern- ing various food and cash crops in Nigeria. Agricultural technologies de- veloped and disseminated to farmers should meet changing sociocultural, economic and environmental situations. Since peasant farmers dominate the Nigerian agricultural sector, technologies should be cost-effective and flex- ible for greater adoption and adaptation (Ogunsumi, 2011). International bodies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have assisted developing countries in the generation and transfer of science-based technologies, with the aim of supporting small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs in rural communities. The focus of assistance is on the men and women who produce most of the food in developing countries.
The Role Of Agricultural Research In Increasing Food Security
Research is intended for growth and development. Agricultural research, when appropriately focused, creates an impetus for solving farmers’ prob- lems and generating outputs that will bring about increased productivity. Researchers should use a participatory, bottom-to-top approach in address- ing farmers and processors’ problems (e.g., postharvest losses) and conduct holistic research using a multi-disciplinary approach to address agricultural value-chain issues. Research should be targeted toward national agricul- tural priorities and global food issues. Promotion of appropriate technolo- gies through extension services and training should be emphasized—i.e., technologies must be taken from the laboratory to the field. Appropriate and improved technologies for home preservation and drying of vegetables and fruits will reduce wastage and ensure better utilization of fresh produce dur- ing the harvest season and the development of improved storage facilities will reduce postharvest losses.
Development of low-cost, adoptable technologies that encourage small- scale enterprises and entrepreneurship in rural areas should be a primary focus. Increased food processing through the establishment and strength- ening of small-scale agro-industries can contribute to the year-round avail- ability and variety of micronutrient-rich foods in rural and urban markets. Agro-processing industries will not only even-out seasonal price fluctuations, but also create jobs and income from such activities as processing, storage, distribution, and marketing. Agro-processing will also stimulate demand for farmers’ crops and products and give consumers additional choices. Food and dietary diversification at the household and community level should be promoted (Taiwo, 2010). A range of food-based activities that can max- imize the availability of a variety of nutritious foods should be encour- aged. These activities include promotion of fishery and forestry products for household consumption and improved preservation and storage of fruits and vegetables to reduce waste, postharvest losses, and effects of seasonal- ity. Research studies in urban agriculture production and processing should be encouraged to strengthen small-scale agro-processing and food industries and income-generating activities. Nutrition education on consumption of a healthy and nutritious diet year-round, promotion of mixed-cropping and integrated farming systems, introduction of crops such as underexploited traditional foods and home gardens, and small livestock-raising should also be included. Nutrition education and training should be given to men and women and introduced into the curricula of teacher-training colleges, pri- mary and secondary schools, and agricultural schools. Nutrition information and education are needed so that people can make informed choices about the foods they grow, purchase, and eat. The use of mass media, such as ra- dio and television, is increasingly important for informing and educating the public on nutrition and healthy lifestyles (Taiwo, 2010). Research favoring public-private collaboration, such as linking research with food industries, must become a priority. Appropriate low-cost, user-friendly tools and equip- ment, especially for women, should be designed. Technologies are the key to increasing the productivity of micro-enterprises, while generating broad- based sustainable economic growth. The upgrading of technologies through research will allow more of the value added during the processing of raw commodities to be captured in rural areas. Micro-enterprises can be strength- ened through technological changes to become more self-reliant and thus less vulnerable in their links with supplies and markets (Taiwo & Faborode, 2003). Value addition to local staples and underutilized crops should be promoted to reduce importation. Home-based, traditional methods of pro- cessing impose a heavy burden on the family labor supply, especially the women. Therefore, promotion of gender-sensitive agricultural research and programs that empower women should be encouraged. Appropriateness of the technology is very crucial for adoption by women. Some technologi- cal solutions (tools and methods) are indeed available and appropriate but
have not been widely applied, especially at the level of small-scale women processors (Taiwo & Faborode, 2003). Local processors should be assisted in meeting minimum ISO standards to promote food safety and facilitate international export. Research professionals should be involved in advocacy for policies that will promote food security through evidence-based research findings. Good agricultural policies should be encouraged for continuity and sustainability. Capacity-building through training of unemployed youth, women, and men in the use of appropriate technologies for food processing, packaging, and marketing for self-reliance (i.e., entrepreneurship) should be promoted.
New Research Areas To Improve Agricultural Productivity
Biotechnology has been useful in increasing crop productivity through de- velopment of disease-resistant and drought-tolerant crop varieties and in improving food processing through development of desirable qualities such as improved nutrition and flavor (Wieczorek, 2003). Biotechnology should be targeted at developing technologies that specifically meet farmers’ re- gional needs. Nigeria has a biotechnology research center and a national agency on biotechnology.
Nanotechnologies are being applied to agriculture in such areas as wa- ter treatment, energy storage, food processing and storage, vector and pest detection and control, agricultural productivity enhancement, and improved environmental management. Nanotechnology has the potential to improve food quality and safety, food processing, and nutrition and to reduce agri- cultural inputs. It will significantly impact the rural population in developing countries (Grue`re, Narrod, & Abbott, 2011).
In developing countries, extension agents usually disseminate informa- tion and technologies to farmers and individuals through field days, radio, television, technical bulletins, and newsletters. The bulletins, for instance, contain complete factual information on a wide range of small-scale tech- nologies, along with associated economic, management, and marketing in- formation where appropriate. The newsletters keep extension agencies and individuals informed of technological innovations and provide additional information on where to get more data (International Resources Group [IRG], 2005). Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is also very important in information and knowledge transfer in agriculture and natu- ral resource management. It helps provide up-to-date market information, weather, and extension information to rural producers and processors. Cell phones, computers, and satellite linkage help rural farmers and processors meet changing market demands in developed countries; however, use of ICT in information dissemination has not gained much ground in Nigeria.
Nevertheless, ICT will provide a faster means of information dissemination as compared to other methods currently in use and holds great potential for improving future agricultural productivity in Nigeria.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) assist in linking geographic in- formation to agriculture for improved decision making (e.g., “precision agri- culture,” which ensures efficient use of inputs, time, and labor). GIS is also important in synthesizing spatial information with health, poverty, economic, and environmental data to permit integrated analyses (IRG, 2005).
Understanding the significance of increased food production to food security, food professionals, through research, must not relent in their efforts to prof- fer solutions to the challenge of food security in Nigeria. However, favorable policies and the political will to create an enabling environment are needed to make research efforts achievable. Food professionals, as leaders of change, must rise to the task of ensuring poverty alleviation in Nigeria, through the promotion of research results and entrepreneurship. Achievement of national food security requires a joint effort, consolidation of effort, continuity, and the building of a future generation of leaders with a vision and passion for change. Policies must encourage the training and empowerment of youth and women in agricultural activities such as crop production, food process- ing, and entrepreneurship, to alleviate poverty, reduce unemployment, and increase agricultural production. Policies must also favor environmentally friendly or not fully developed/novel technologies in agriculture—such as application of biotechnology, nanotechnology, GIS, and ICT—in improving agricultural productivity.
- Favorable policies must be passed, and political commitment to an enabling environment is needed for food-production-related research.
- To alleviate poverty, reduce unemployment, and boost agricultural production, policies must support the training and empowerment of youth and women in agricultural activities such as crop production, food processing, and entrepreneurship.
About the Author:
Subuola Fasoyiro– Institute of Agricultural Research & Training, Obafemi Awolowo University · Agricultural Value addition Programme
Keywords: Agricultural Value Chain, Food Accessibility, Food Availability, Food Production, Food Security, Food, Nigeria