From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
The Executive Director of the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T) Moor Plantation, Apata, Ibadan, which is under the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Prof Veronica Obatolu, has given reasons why Nigeria is rated second global highest with under-five stunted children.
She spoke at the third academic symposium of the National Association of Catholic Theology Students (NACATHS), Dominican Institute, Ibadan, on the theme: ‘Strategic Impact Investment in Agriculture and Agro-Allied Industries: An Insight,’ held in Ibadan. The NACATHS’s president, Kenechukwu Okonkwo, was the chief host.
According to her, “Nigeria has the prevalence rate of 32 per cent of under-five stunted children. With this percentage, Nigeria is the second highest globally. In every 10 children, at least three are malnourished. This is why some of our children are not doing well in school, what you eat affects your intellect. About seven per cent of child-bearing women in Nigeria are malnourished. Without gainsaying, we need to go back to agriculture. This is the only way forward, this is the only way the country can grow.
“The Church also can key into this sector so that they can contribute to not only the members, but also to the economy of the country they find themselves in. Investing in agriculture and agro-allied industry is essential to the church future and wellbeing of proclaiming the gospel with more justifiable economic development.”
Obatolu, a professor of human nutrition, who advised churches to invest in agriculture so that they would not depend solely on the contributions of their members, for administration, was optimistic that the diversification would not only help to stabilize the finances of churches, it would also help to employ some church members to work in the farms. She described agriculture as the oldest occupation of mankind, saying it remains the solution in financing and boosting the economy of the church and the nation.
“If the church must play the role of supporting sustainable livelihood, it is vital for her to better understand the impact of any investments in the agricultural sector. In Nigeria, everyone of us depends on staple food produced from farms. This is very important, because reducing food import is crucial to Nigeria’s quest for sustainable development. Despite the fact that we are blessed with fertile soil, we still import majority of our food from outside. More than 80 per cent of Nigerians purchase their farm produce from the market.
“Agriculture is the highest employer of labour in the country, employing up to 70 per cent of the population and contributing up to 27 per cent of the GDP. It is one single sector that has the potential to lift millions out of poverty and ensure sustainable development,” Obatolu stated.
The keynote speaker on the occasion, Henry Okolo, from the Catholic Diocese of Awgu, Enugu State, who spoke on the topic: ‘Financing the Church’s Mission: Evolving New Strategies and Frameworks,’ said: “The problem with missions in Nigeria is not necessarily finance. The people are not necessarily tired of giving. The problem for me is the sort of departure from the ideals of the mission. We have the case of poor records of accountability. It seems leaders in our local churches are far from being accountable. There’s no record of transparency. There’s also misappropriation and mismanagement.”
The President of Dominican Institute of Theology, Ibadan, Rev. Fr. (Prof.) Emeka Nwosuh, who spoke on the topic: ‘Digital Economy and E-Commerce: Any Prospects for the Church?’ advised the church to venture into digital economy via the internet, the social media and smartphones. The church, according to him, could key into Cryptocurrencies and E-commerce business to lift their finances, without neglecting the technology. He advised that they should go about everything with creativity.