Horticulturists and challenge of food security

The society comprising several professionals from many organisations gathered in Ibadan recently to chat a new course on food security for the country. BAYO AGBOOLA reports on the meeting.

Horticulturists from across Nigeria converged on the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria, (CRIN) Ibadan, the Oyo state capital between November 15 to 17 for the 39th annual conference of Horticultural Society of Nigeria, (HORTSON) with the theme, ‘The Role of Horticulture in Food Security and Sustainable Health in Era of Climate Change and COVID-19’.

It was to showcase, among other things, the importance and relevance of the society to humanity and the society at large most especially on the aftermath of COVID-19, climate change and the falling standard of economy.
HORTSON was founded as a non governmental organisation (NGO) in October 1977 with its functions to advance and support research in or connected with horticulture, afford the members of the society opportunities for the interchange of opinions and for the discussion of matters relating to research connected with horticulture and the teaching of horticulture.

It also arranges, holds, promotes and or supports conferences, seminars, meetings, symposia, demonstrations and lectures relating to the objectives of the society and as well as arrange for the publication and dissemination of the records and reports of the proceedings of the society or associated activities, in any form of record which would promote objectives and interests of the society while its objectives shall be advancement and development of the science and art of all branches of horticulture in Nigeria.

The 39 annual conference was attended by over 500 delegates from across the country on the way forward for the society amidst the numerous challenges facing the body and Nigeria as a country at large with experts and authorities in the relevant and related field presenting papers and lectures.

Meeting timely

The immediate past president in council of the society Dr Usman Ibrahim while speaking at the opening of the 39 annual conference said the theme of this year’s conference is timely with increasing demand for horticultural crops for the prevention and treatment of communicable and non communicable diseases.

Dr Ibrahim emphasised that the COVID-19 pandemic is putting diets and food security in jeopardy around the world with markets, affordability and access to healty and nutritional food out of reach, saying, “Evidence shows that horticulture can be a solution for improved food security. Foods such as fruits, vegetables and spices play key roles in the health and well being of families and communities.

“Sustainable horticulture production aims to produce nutritious and healthy foods while reducing negative environmental impacts, conserving natural resources and enhancing healthy ecosystem services.”
Dr Ibrahim stressed that climate change, environmental degradation and stagnation threaten crop production and world food security.

“It is now recognised that the enormous gains in agricultural production and productivity achieved through the green revolution were often accompanied by negative effects on agriculture’s natural resource base. These negative effects are so serious that they jeopardise its productive potential in the future. It is also clear that the current food production and distribution systems are failing to feed the world. “Given the current and the increasing future challenges, to our horticultural crop supply and to the environment, sustainable horticultural production is emerging as major priority for policy makers and international development partners.”

According to him, “The population of hungry and malnourished people in the world stands at about one billion. There is a need for a major increase in food production to feed a population of nine billion people by 2050.
“This can be achieved by doubling crop production in developing countries like Nigeria; however, there is decreasing availablity and more competition for land and water, increasing urbanisation and shift to peri-urban production, changing consumption patterns and climate change. Increasing crop production is usually associated with increase in pesticides and fertiliser use plus subsidiary elements such as supply chain and transportation.”
He emphasised that it is the role of horticulturists to provide farmers with adaptable and relevant technologies and ensure that governments provide them with enabling policies, infrastructural and industrial support.
Dr Ibrahim said to make this a reality, HORTSON has developed a strategic plans for it to champion the needed changes and has developed a strategic plan for the society which would cover 2020 – 2027 when the society would be 50 years old.
“We have also developed a draft document for a proposed Council for Regulation of Horticulture (CORHORT) in Nigeria. This document has been reviewed by various stakeholders.”

Keynote speakers’ address

One of the keynote speakers at the conference, Prof Oluwole

Fatunbi from the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) in his presentation stressed among others the importance of horticulturists to the grow of a country like Nigeria in ensuring good and healthy living conditions for humanity in the area of food consumption. This, he said clearly showed the importance of the roles, contributions of horticulture to humanity cannot be over emphasized.

Prof Fatunbi stressed that as at present, 14 million Nigerians representing 23% of the total population are experiencing severe food insecurity, while 14.6% of the population suffering from food insufficient. Also, he stressed that the number of Nigerians living in rural areas are 99.1 million and that climate change in the country has led to loss of food production, reduction in production of food.
The keynote speaker emphasis e d the need for horticulturalists in the country to start generating ideas to suppress the negative impacts of the climate change and COVID-19 on Nigerians particularly the down trodden who are in dire need of way out of negative effects of climate change and COVID-19.

He maintained that the climate change and COVID-19 are no doubt having strong effects particularly on the nation’s economy which he said is striking, resulting in loss of jobs for many Nigerians as well as closure of so many factories in and across Nigeria.
Professor Farounbi however stressed the urgent need for the review of research system in Nigeria to enable Nigeria have the much- needed task of eating nutrient foods that are abundant in horticultural foods as well as to resolve the major constraints in the practice of horticulture field particularly pests and diseases hence the need the Nigeria government to focus more on research and invest heavily in it.

According to the key speaker, it is now time for horticulture system in Nigeria to be accorded with the much needed priority and adequate attention to be able to have and meet nutritional needs of all and sundry in and across Nigeria.
Others that presented papers at the 39 annual conference are the executive secretary , Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria, (ARCN), Prof Sharubutu Garba Hamidu, Engineer Mrs Omolara Olorode , the zonal director, NTA Ibadan Zonal Network centre and the executive director, Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria, (CRIN), Dr Patrick Adebola.

New set of leaders

At the end of the 39 annual conference, a new set of executive council was put in place by members of society comprising of Dr R R Ipinmoroti as the new president in council for HORTSON with others as Dr Mrs O. O Idowu- Agida; vice president 1; Dr Abdul- Rafiu A Mongur, vice president 2; Dr E.O Ajayi, secretary general; Dr Ben Okafor, assistant secretary 1; Dr J. Raymond, assistant secretary 2; Dr Mrs S Y Yusuf, treasurer; Dr Mrs B.O Fagbola, business manager; Dr Mrs E.A Adeyemi, fruit coordinator; Prof A A Mohammed, vegetable coordinator; Mallam Nasiru Usman, ornamental coordinator; Dr J.M Adesina, PRO; Dr Usman Ibrahim, Ex Officio 1; Dr O.O Alamu Ex Officio 2 to steer the ship of the society for the next three years.
With the new team in place, it is expected that HORTSON as a body would continue to play its expected roles in ensuring production, availability and consumption of healthy foods needed for the growth and development of human survival in and across Nigeria.

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