Tripathi discusses work with staff
By Crusoe Osagie
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has ranked Nigeria as the worst country in the world in terms of deforestation.
However, the Institute also stressed that there was still hope for the country, unless it starts paying urgent and serious attention to nature.
The Project Director, IITA, Mr. John Peacock, explained that over 90 per cent of Nigeria’s forest has been lost as a result of deforestation.
Peacock, who spoke at the official launch of the Nigerian Field Society Young Explorers (NFSYE) in Ibadan, added that as a result of this huge destruction of the nation’s forest, it would require a lot of work on the part of the young generation to bring back the forest.
“Today’s event is about the children identifying and appreciating the values of nature so that they will not grow up to cut trees and shoot birds. Nigeria has a dubious position of being last but there is no reason why it should not be first,” he said.
“Like the President has said about changing this country by empowering the youth, we have the youth here today because they are part and parcel of the future of this country,” he added.
According to him, IITA has started a reforestation programme in Nigeria and said that the children in Ibadan had been instrumental in planting trees.
He also stressed the need to empower youth in the country maintaining that involving the younger generation in nature would bring about job creation and over all development in the country.
He noted that cutting down forest not only causes global warming and climate change but affects farming activities in the country.
“What IITA is doing is trying to encourage farmers to adopt the high yield varieties and at the same time advising them not to cut down trees so that Nigeria does not lose valuable and medicinal plants,” he said.
“If you cut your trees down, the planet will die. Trees are like skins and we know that if you in a fire and you lose about 70 per cent of your skin you will die. The forest is the skin of the planet earth,” he added.
Also speaking at the event, a cassava breeder, IITA, Mr. Peter Kulakow, said cassava yields in the country has been improving, noting that if farmers use high yield varieties and good management practices, they can get yields of 25 to 30 tonnes per hectare.
He said one of the tasks of IITA is to help farmers get the resources needed to improve their productivity.
“It is a challenge to make the whole value chain of the cassava chain work to get high yields. There is also a need to have a market for cassava and this is why the 10 per cent inclusion of cassava into wheat is very important for the cassava tube market so that the price farmers get for their cassava gives them a reasonable profit,” he said.
He also called on the government to organise the cassava value chain to ensure that all of the infrastructures are in place to support cassava production in the country.
On the scourge of the current cassava brown streak affecting cassava yields in the eastern Africa, Kulakow said cassava brown streak is not present in Nigeria but said that it has been spreading west.
He warned that it is very important that the FG engage itself in a pre-emptive measure to develop resistant varieties to cassava brown streak diseases and also stressed the need for a proper monitoring of the disease situation, to identify any occurrence and prevent it from being an epidemic in the country.
The Director General, IITA, Mr. Nteranya Sanginga, said blamed the poor yield of farm produce on the soil fertility in the continent.
He added that soil fertility remains the bane to high yield of crops since the land had been degraded as a result of deforestation, noting that the use of fertilisers cannot protect farm produce in the country.
He pointed out that the institute was involving the youth in championing the course of food security saying that the youth has to be conscious of deforestation and its damaging effects.
He said as a result of this the new focus is aimed at confronting the emerging challenges to food security and livelihoods in tropical countries including climate change and the degradation in soils and other natural resources.
According to him, improving the quality of research on a continuous basis will enable the institute to retain and maintain its position as the top agricultural Research-for-Development (R4D) organisation in Africa. “This is imperative,” he said.
In its 44 years of existence, IITA led research on the control of cassava mealybug (a cassava pest) that generated benefits worth between $15.6 and $27.8 billion based on 2004 estimates.
The institute has, over the years, developed several improved varieties of cowpea, banana and plantain, cassava, yam, soybean, and maize.
These varieties are transforming the lives of farmers, enhancing wealth and guaranteeing food security especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Currently about 60 per cent of the maize grown in west and central Africa comes from IITA varieties.
Sanginga emphasised the importance of partnerships and the need to help build the capacity of partners. He noted that the growing interdependence with partners was crucial in carrying out the institute’s mission and vision of eradicating hunger and poverty