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NASRDA, others advocate year-round farming to ensure food security

The National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector, on Monday, called for all year-round farming that would address the issues of food security in the country.

They made the call in Abuja at a two-day workshop on “Enhancing Food Security Through Irrigation Farming in Nigeria: Understanding Patterns, Challenges and Opportunities’’

The workshop was organised by NASRDA in collaboration with International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and University of Delaware, USA.

The Director-General of NASRDA, Dr Halilu Shaba, said that some nations like China and India that were self-sufficient in feeding themselves, addressed the crisis of seasonal farming, which Nigeria should adopt.

“When you look at irrigation in Nigeria, it is about three per cent activity that we carry out.

“Nigeria is majorly dealing in rain felt agriculture, so irrigation farming would have augmented and provided so much food for the teaming population of Nigeria,’’ director-general said.

According to him, agriculture is the easiest and common in area where space technology can be deployed. Relevant stakeholders should utilise the data provided by the agency.

Dr Matthew Adepoju, Director, Strategic Space Application Department, said that no nation could achieve food security without adopting technology.

“We are still practicing agriculture the way our forefathers did it, that is why we are grappling with food security when the population has increased drastically.

“It is important that we mainstream cutting-edge technology from space science technology that will help our farming community to go beyond rain felt agriculture practices,” he said

He added that the agency was putting measures in place to convey the message of adopting space technology into farming to local farmers by engaging agriculture extension officers.

“We want to train them in the near future on how to read the map and how it will be applicable in the issue of fertiliser, soil type, diseases control and other areas.

Mr Momoh Yusuf, a Scientific Officer from the agency, while giving an overview of its agriculture, water related projects, said irrigation was about water that could be stream, ocean, any other sources.

According to Yusuf, adopting irrigation farming is the way forward because humans eat food through the year.

Prof. Kyle Davis, a representative of University of Delaware, said the university was embarking on a project to map the entire cropland in Nigeria, map staple crops that would help create dataset for informed decisions.

“We are deploying Artificial Intelligence, machine leaning techniques to get information on what farmers need,’’ he said.

He added that the university was beginning with ten states and afterwards to map out the rest of the country.

Prof. Akeem Oyerinde, Dean, Faculty of Agriculture , University of Abuja, said that Nigeria was blessed with large blue economy that could be utilised for irrigation farming.

“We should think of how we can use our water sources through the off raining water season for the dry season.

“Governments have made provision to cultivate 123,000 hectares of wheat, around 50,000 hectares of maize for dry season farming.

“Within the short period of time, they have started harvesting about 118 hectares of wheat, that means instead of importing wheat to Nigeria, we should have sustained the provision of wheat, maize and other commodities.”

He said that youths as bigger population of the country should be engaged to solve herders, farmers clash and insecurity.

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