HOW IITA IS ADDRESSING FOOD SECURITY IN AFRICA
Some breakthroughs that could lift Africa out of poverty and on the path of prosperity if scaled up include IITA improved varieties of high-yielding cassava, maize, soybean, yam, banana/plantain, and cowpea that are also resistant to pest and diseases.
Dr Nteranya Sanginga, the Director-General of International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) represented by Godwin Atser, IITA Communication & Knowledge Exchange Expert said this at a summit organised by Community Action on Food Security Initiative—a non-governmental organisation as part of activities to mark the World Food Day.
At this summit with theme: The Role of Stakeholders in Harnessing Nigeria’s Agricultural Potential for Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainable Development, Dr Sanginga stated, “Besides, we also have several other initiatives/projects that have demonstrated how countries can transform agriculture. For instance, the IITA Cassava Weed Management Project clearly demonstrates the possibility of doubling cassava yield from the current national average of 10 tons/ha to more than 20 tons per ha.” He explained that research outputs by IITA, an Africa Food Prize winner, and its national partners are helping farmers to come out of poverty, creating jobs and demonstrating the possibility of having a prosperous African continent.
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Dr Sanginga further said at this Food Security Future Summit held at the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta that what is needed in Africa is the political and collective will to act. He noted that Africa could achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (especially goal number 2 also known as Zero Hunger) by 2030 if governments on the Continent made a departure from mere rhetoric to taking action.
Looking at global trends, the IITA boss said that by 2050, Africa’s population will double.
“What that means is that we will have to feed more people. We will need more jobs for our youths. We will need more land, water, etc to produce food. Clearly, if we continue with a business as usual approach, we will be in trouble,” he added.
The director general also spoke on the disturbing trends of youth unemployment in Africa, citing that in Nigeria, between 2001 and 2010; 22 million young people entered the labour market in search for jobs. “Some of these young people end up without decent jobs. In spite of our arable land, majority of African farmers are poor—most of them living on less than two dollars a day. Again malnutrition is widespread. Dr Sanginga, however, said that there was a ray of hope for the continent and he cited some of the achievements made by IITA which culminated in the winning of the Africa Food Prize as a centre for research excellence.
He said the youth programme at IITA, that is providing decent jobs for young people in agriculture, was a model that African nations could embrace and replicate to solve youth unemployment on the continent.
The Convener of the Summit, Azeez Akanni Salawu said the objective of the summit was to spark critical discussions, inspire, engage, network, connect and form a formidable partnership that will be based on investing in food security and rural development leading to the achievement of the SDGs.