Dec 14, 2008
Nigeria has potential to be self-reliant in food production
By Seye Adeniyi
Nigerian Tribune - Ibadan,Nigeria
Dr. Alfred Dixon "I feel sad anytime I see people complaining about food shortage or lamenting about increasing food prices. But the truth is that the nation has one of the best agro-ecology in the entire globe to grow any crop in almost every part of the country.”These were the words of Dr. Alfred Dixon, a senior researcher in agriculture who recently disengaged from the services of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan after many years of meritorious service and research work in the country.
According to the cassava geneticist, Nigeria is one nation in Africa that should not be complaining of food shortage when considering the agriculture–friendly weather in every part of the nation, as well as the array of agriculture experts that are contributing to the development of agricultural sector of the country.
The cassava expert said he was very happy that the country is still occupying the number one position on global agricultural map especially in the area of cassava production, adding that this is a reflection of good things, hard work, comprehensive research work and the commitment of the government to the development of the agricultural sector.
He also gave kudos to farmers, especially those are at the rural area for their efforts at making food surplus and cheap despite neglect by the government, and when considering the insensitivity of many local government administration to the plight of farmers even though the local government area councils are close to majority of peasant farmers.
On what make cassava prominent and popular in Nigeria when compared to some other countries in the African continent, as well as rest of the world, Dr. Dixon who has been called upon by Sierra-Leone government to come and serve his fatherland, explained that cassava is basically grown in every part of Nigeria and the tuber crop is not a sub-regional crop like some other crops.
Apart from this fact, cassava plant can be said to be in love with Nigeria weather and the large production of the tuber crop in every nooks and cranny of the country is also the unique likeness of Nigerian farmers for the crop because it is one of the crops suppling the masses of this country their staple foods.
On how the country can maintain its number one position in cassava production globally, he advised both states and local governments leaders or administrators to help farmers by highly subsidising farm-inputs because greater percentage of Nigerian farmers are into cassava production, an attestation to the fact that the crop is even number one crop in the country.
He however declared that one of the reasons why agricultural sector has not regained its rightful position as a major source of income for the country’s economy is because many states and local governments are only paying lip service to agricultural development, deceiving people that they are helping farmers whereas, majority of farmers are living in abject poverty, while some are existing merely on bank loans with “cut-your-throat” interest.
Dr. Dixon however advocated for a reasonable subsidy for farm inputs and working tools, adding that the question they need to ask some governors and local government chairmen is that: What has farm implements or inputs got to do in government house and offices, and even in many states of assemblies? He also stressed that these are implements and farm inputs that needs to be distributed to farmers during the planting season to increase food production, but which has now become one of the major political weapons to silence the opposition and to woo people who are not even practising farmers into their political parties.
The researcher further appealed to the Federal government to call local government chairmen to order in the way and manner they waste their monthly allocations on unprofitable ventures. “Rather they should invest heavily on agriculture in order to make food not only surplus, but also cheap in the country.