The Vice-chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Prof. Simeon Bamire, has called on the Federal Government to promote food security, powered by science, innovation and technology.
Bamire made the call during the Training and Capacity Development Workshop by Commonwealth of Learning (COL), in conjunction with the OAU and Agricultural and Rural Management Training Institute (ARMTI), Ilorin, on Friday, at the OAU, Ile-Ife.
The theme of the workshop, mostly for vegetable farmers, was, “Scaling-up Lifelong Learning for Farmers on Digital Agricultural Solution for Vegetable Farmers in Southwest Nigeria Towards Achieving the SDG Goals”.
The VC, who was represented by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Innovation and Development, Prof Akanni Akinyemi, said that gone are the days when farmers planted for home consumption alone.
According to him, OAU and other University Research Institutes can utilise their innovation, technology and science to power agriculture for effectively benefits.
The Don emphasised that OAU has many brands of tomatoes among other vegetables, saying the institution still has the capacity to power agriculture in such a way that it produces sufficient food through science, innovation and technology, if supported by the government.
He urged the Federal Government to bring stakeholders, University research institutes and economists together to form a good synergy and work towards maximum food productivity.
“Food Security is now about how you get high yield, how do you maximize output from a little space unlike before that people just plant for household consumption. We are looking at how get high hiked and how do you maximize space using innovation and science,” he explained.
Stating further, he said, “OAU Ile-Ife prides itself in terms of innovation in terms of technology. You know for instance the Ife brown that’s the beans that is common that people eat is OAU’s product, we have tomato breeds of high yield that come from our university.”
Advise to the Federal government on food security?
Also, the Director-General, ARMTI, Dr. Olufemi Oladunni, enjoined vegetable farmers to work together as a society to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Oladunni, who was represented by Dr. Peter Popoola, the Assistant Director, ARMTI, said that vegetable producers were brought together under the cooperative society over the years, but now they want to promote digital cooperative formation.
He said further that the farmers want to invest on more farmers that can have digital window platforms, by leveraging on information, assessing high quality seeds, dealing with pest and diseases affecting their food security.
According to him, “Working alone has exposed farmers to a lot of dangers and this risk had driven some youths out of agriculture.”
The DG emphasised that insecurity, attacks by herdsmen, unknown gunmen, kidnappers, climate change, effect of pests and diseases have made adverse effects to farming.
He said: “Vegetable Farmers can come together under the digital platform and use computer and technology to network their produce, discuss the challenges facing them while experts would proffer solutions thereafter.
“If we had alternative to digital innovation in Nigeria, we would have explored that, but there’s nothing like that.
“Agriculture has got to a stage where we bring innovation to the business of agriculture, that’s the only way we can integrate our youths, for they would not farm with hoe and cutlass.
“Our youths want to go to technology, by connecting with other farmers in their different locations outside their domains,” he expressed.
The DG urged vegetable farmers to rise up to the task ahead of them by purchasing smartphones which will enable them move forward on this digital era.
He said that with digital knowledge, there would be connectivity, collaboration, visibility, access to information, efficiency, continuous learning, for if they refuse to seek more knowledge, they can’t improve on what they know.
“We are in the era of digital technology where modern implements are used for agriculture,” the DG stated.
Oladunni urged farmers to come together as a team under digital platforms, like Telegraph, Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube, among others, to do their businesses and invite counsellors to address issues on crop production.
In the same vein, Dr Toyin Ojo, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development, OAU, lectured them on “Digital Communication for Profitable Vegetable Marketing”.
Ojo advised vegetable farmers to market their vegetables through computer, website, E-mail, blogs, infographics and video chat that would give them visibility and more customers online.
He said through Digital Communication, they would have market access and price transparency, access to market information, supply chain efficiency, weather and climate information.
Other benefits include E-Commerce for Vegetable sales, empowering women and youth on vegetable farming, build an online presence for increased visibility, leveraging social media, mobile apps for immediate supply.
“The programme supports long-life learning to sensitise, empower and to educate farmers to come with new knowledge applicable to their businesses,” Oladunni said.
He charged them to use the knowledge gained at the the workshop to key into digital communication for Profitable Vegetable marketing.
Additionally, Mr Isaiah Ogunsina, a facilitator from ARMTI, said that their smartphone is a digital tools for improved vegetable production.
Ogunsina added that they can connect with two or three people in the same group, by meeting the needs of the customers and benefitting through WhatsApp businesses.
He urged them not to waste their data for fun but to advertise their market to enhance vegetable production, maximising the market that is available for people to see so as to have prospective customers.
“You can display your product on Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram,” he suggested.
The Convener of the Programme, Prof Adeolu Ayanwale, appreciated all the participants, facilitators, guest speakers for taken part of the workshop.
Ayanwale appealed to the participants to “make hay while the sun shines” because opportunity comes but once.
One of the beneficiaries, Mrs Funmilayo Abdullahi, the representative of Person’s with disability in Osun, acknowledged the good gesture of the Convener of the Programme.
Abdullahi said that all she has learnt would be useful because she would try to impart the knowledge to others to enhance their living.
Over 70 vegetable farmers attended the workshop. They also made a field trip to El-Shadai Farm, Ifewara, Osun State.