The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, has identified universities of agriculture as stimuli for economic diversification, food and nutrition security that can bail the country out of its current food insecurity.
He noted that according to the new agenda, the universities need to be more innovative and enterprising, as every undergraduate must own a farm, from 200 level to graduation.
His word “We are not interested in theoreticians. We are looking for farmers: educated young men and women, who will leave the university to pursue a career in agriculture. Their examinations should dwell 60 per cent on the success on the farm and 40 per cent on academic work. We will support the universities, increasingly, in the area of nutrition.”
The minister said nobody is better placed than the university professors and teachers to teach the rest of Nigerians how to eat and how not to eat, noting that everywhere in the world, attention is turning to nutrition because western Europe has corrupted its food systems with hormones and the United States is having problems with obesity and in Nigeria, it is the problems of diabetes.
While stating that farmers are in desperate need of seeds and extension services, Ogbeh noted that if all of the universities of agriculture were to develop seed faculties, and train breeders, and market seeds, each of them would earn up to N5 billion per annum from seeds. “Farmers don’t have seeds. The little we have at our seed research council here is sold across West Africa. So, they have a big role to play. We will find the resources for them to achieve this. We need them. The universities of agriculture can produce them and there are farmers ready to buy them.
“We agree, however, that strategic as agriculture is, in this country, it is still very much in infancy, given that it is still essentially a smallholder-dominated enterprise. The constraints are many and all-encompassing. For instance, seed research and seed quality are hopelessly low. Agronomic practices are poor. Yields are very low. Post-harvest losses are heavy. Mechanisation is abysmally low and tractorisation is either scanty or almost non-existent in many parts of this country,”