From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
In a bid to overcome severe food crisis, hunger, malnutrition, unemployment and poverty threatening the future of Nigeria and African continent, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State is set to inaugurate Africa’s first agricultural electronic centre in Ibadan, the state capital, towards achieving food security.
This came as the current population of Nigeria is put at over 210million as of Monday April 19, 2021 and African population was also put at over 1.3billion, based on Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data. Nigeria is ranked seventh in the list of countries by population, while Africa ranks second among regions of the world.
The inauguration of the centre, which is slated for Thursday April 29, 2021 at Bashorun, Ibadan, is expected to attract critical stakeholders in the agricultural sector, including the Director General of the Oyo State Agribusiness Development Agency (OYSADA), Dr. Debo Akande, and top government officials. The Agricultural Electronic Centre was founded by FarmKonnect Agribusiness Plc so that precision agriculture could be promoted in Nigeria and Africa at large.
The Chief Executive Officer of FarmKonnect, Azeez Oluwole, a retired Naval Commander, told journalists in Ibadan that the electronic centre has two components, which are FarmKonnect Agricultural Electronic Extension Service Centre (FAgEX) and FarmKonnect Institute for Data and Agribusiness Studies (FIDAS) with specific goals to provide input services to stakeholders in the agricultural vale chains through Information Technology, training, research and business/professional consulting.
Oluwole, who noted that food is a form of security as hungry people could easily take to criminal activities, noted that the age long primitive approach to farming in Africa must give way progressively to a modern system because the primitive practice is unsustainable.
He urged policy makers and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector to adopt electronic data for the development of agriculture with a view to overcoming the palpable fear of food insecurity in Nigeria and the entire continent.
Oluwole noted that the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has declared that by the year 2050, the world will have about 9.1 billion people to feed, addng that Africa must be part of efforts to address the food requirement to cater for the projected population.
“FarmKonnect Agricultural Electronic Extension Service Centre (FAgEX) is established with the intent to accelerate controlled environment farming practices in Africa. Leveraging modern technologies such as satellite imagery, drones, electro-optic systems, global positioning system, geographic information system, on-site sensors, etc.
“FAgEX will enable us to monitor and receive live feeds from all our farms and greenhouses anywhere in Africa. With this initiative, we can also control certain operations such as irrigation and humidification remotely. This is first of its kind on African soil.
“Africa is particularly threatened by its exponential population growth compared to its food production capacity. For Africa to reduce the challenge of poverty and the population of the malnourished, there should be deliberate effort to increase food production significantly.
“Africa is home to over 60 per cent of the world’s arable land, yet it is the most malnourished continent in the world. With a population growth rate of 2.7 per cent every year, the sub-Saharan African population is projected to hit 2.5 billion by 2050 from the current figure of 1.25 billion. Unless stakeholders begin to take concerted efforts to salvage the problem, the future of Africa is threatened with severe food crisis, hunger, malnutrition,unemployment and poverty.
“No doubt, the ability of the people to have access to affordable nutritious food is an indication of economic prosperity for a nation. However, achieving food security in a sustainable way requires incremental innovations and a strong political will to create enabling environment for entrepreneurship to thrive .One direction that farmers and agricultural experts must be encouraged to explore to reach wider possibilities in the food supply chain is the big data ecosystem.
“The ongoing data explosion has disrupted the way we normally see or do things. In the last few years, there has been evidences of a new awakening in the ways we grow crops, rare animals and produce foods due to the growing capacity of stakeholders across the different agricultural value chain to leverage data for smart-farming. Major developments in the industry have been recorded with the application of the big data and digital technologies.
“Through this innovation, agricultural success stories no longer depend on having favourable natural forces like rainfall and so on. The integration of cloud computing and big data for smart farming has ensured a wider repository of knowledge that contains various data points including weather, irrigation practices, plants nutrient requirements, pesticide application and several other farming techniques which enable farmers to make informed decisions and outsmart nature.”