How Sharubutu’s ARCN is Complementing Tinubu’s Fight Against Hunger

Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria ARCN

By Edwin Uhara

There is no doubt that there is food insecurity in the land. Many Nigerians are already feeling the heat of food inflation across the federation.

No matter the location, the price of foodstuffs is generally high. However, government efforts are being under-reported to balance the inequality between demand and the supply chain.

Accordingly, there are many reasons given for the current food inflation, but from the economic perspective, the demand for food by Nigerians is more than the supply in the market. So, when such reality is the case, there is food insecurity.

Conversely, for there to be food security, it must be available, accessible and affordable even to the ordinary person on the street because food is a human right.

However, it is also not right when the efforts of relevant agencies like the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), a body saddled with the responsibility of coordinating and monitoring agricultural research to increase agricultural outputs in Nigeria are underreported.

As a leading research institution, the ARCN has developed many varieties of crops to ensure self-sufficiency in production as it has also released beans and maize varieties that are resistant to insect pests.

Not only that, the council has also developed models to help in food storage as one of the research institutes under its supervision – the National Stored Products Research Institute in Ilorin has developed models for the storage of yam, cassava, and grains.

Nevertheless, as a way of boasting its workforce, the council recently recruited about 1650 scientists to boost food security across the nation.

According to the Executive Secretary of the Council, Professor Garba Sharubutu, he said: “The Federal Government approved the recruitment of 1650 scientists to boost the staff strength in research, particularly the instruction is for us to recruit breeders, those going to bring about the genetic improvement of our local crops”.

“This administration is taking the subject matter of food security seriously and since it came on board, it decided we must refocus our attention to make sure at least food is placed on the table and if we need food to be placed on the table, our advice to the government is to concentrate on quick maturing crops.”

“These quick maturing crops mean rice, yam, cassava, wheat, guinea corn, millet. These are what we call the quick maturing crops,” he added.

“But our advice also entails the fact that other products or other commodities should not be neglected.

“We cannot neglect the cash crops because of the need to diversify and if you look at the mandate of Mr President and his priority list, he mentioned food security as No. 1”.

Unlike before when there were replications of research works by some bodies under its watch, the 16 institutions under the ARCN in the country now have specific mandates for crops they specialise in.

These crops range from grains, tree crops, livestock, fisheries, storages, mechanisation and extension services.

According to the ARCN boss, Professor Sharubutu, he said, “We had numerous agricultural research institutes spread across the length and breadth of the country that were carrying out their activities in isolation. Each agricultural research institute was implementing mandate without recourse to what the other is doing”

“So in the wisdom of the government, there was a need to give specific mandates to each research institute, and therefore the 16 agricultural research institutes in the country now have specific mandates of their crop.”

He further disclosed that the council has been able to release crop varieties that are meant to be flood resistant, quick maturing, quick yielding, boost nutrition and pest resistant.

In total, the council has released 23 crop varieties within the shortest time frame while the National Cereals Research Institute has produced over 65 varieties of rice; quick maturing, drought, flood and disease-resistant crops.

The council also found a solution to the tomato Ebola when it broke out in Nigeria.

The result of this research is not in the book selves anymore but is found with the real farmers on the field.

He added that, “In the whole of Africa, we are the second country to introduce insect-resistant cowpeas.” We have also introduced new varieties of maize that are resistant to armyworms.

In lieu of the foregoing, large-scale farmers are advised to get these new varieties of crops for usage as this year’s planting season is still on.

There is no point continuing with the old species of crops that take almost one full year to yield while the country is in dire need to balance the gap between food demand and the supply chain.

On the whole, Professor Sharubutu has delivered on President Tinubu’s mandate of boosting agriculture to achieve food security within the shortest time frame.

The onus is now on Nigerians especially the farmers to take advantage of the innovation and use them to increase their yields in this year’s planting season.

Achieving food stability is not rocket science because that is one of the key indicators of human development according to global institutions.

In conclusion, I can say that with the current efforts of both the government and the people, there is going to be the availability and affordability of foodstuffs across the federation during the next round of harvesting season.

Comrade Edwin Uhara, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja.

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