By Jimoh Babatunde
A member of Global Farmer Network, Patience Egba-Koku, Thursday, said access to biotechnology is the key to food production in Africa.
Speaking at the third day of the ongoing 2020 virtual summit of the African Green Revolution Forum, AGRF, in Kigali, Rwanda, on the effect of COVID -19 on agriculture in Nigeria, Koku said she is a pro- biotechnology advocate.
She said: “I have seen that biotechnology is safe and it gives us the farmers opportunities to grow more with fewer inputs.”
She added that farmers should be allowed to use all tools available to increase food production, noting that “already we are importing genetically-modified foods from South America and Europe, why not start growing same in Nigeria?”
Koku said she had started experimentation of BT cotton and cowpea on her farm in Nigeria, noting that with the new genetically-modified Pod Borer Resistant cowpea variety, commercialised as SAMPEA-20-T, they have just sprayed pesticides to control stem borer and the fall armyworm that are ravaging farms once.
Her words: “To effectively control the pest, farmers must spray at least three different types of expensive pesticides for a minimum of three times each season.
“Experience showed that it requires a huge amount of money to spray one acre (0.405 ha) of the farm each season to give good protection against the FAW.
“Unfortunately, not many farmers can afford this; and in most cases, they end up abandoning their farms to the pest.”
She said to get farmers to access technology, there is a need for a policy that will create a good environment for technology to thrive and also proper regulations.
Koku said: “We need to also convince the farmers on what they stand to benefit from embracing technology.
“We need the private sector to be involved, because if there is no provider, who will help the farmers have access to technologies?”
Speaking on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on farming activities in the country, Koku explained that the lockdown at the outbreak of the pandemic hurt them.
“Our supply system was disturbed. Fertilizers supply was disturbed and there was so much problem and till this moment, we still have low yield because we could not import inputs for our operations,” she said.
She added that climate change also compounded farming activities as the rain started early and ended abruptly.
According to Koku, “we need improved seeds, irrigation, mechanisation because we can no longer rely on food import.
“If we continue to rely on food import, we may have a problem as the COVID-19 has shown.”