Africa: ‘Plant Biotech, Solution to Africa’s Socio-Economic Development Challenges’

A professor of Biotechnology at Covenant University, Professor Olawole Obembe, has asserted that plant biotechnology offers Africa and the world significant opportunities to subdue the challenges of ever-growing demands for food, feeds and fibre production, as well as the need for good health and well-being.

While speaking at the 19th inaugural lecture of the university recently, the inaugural lecturer, who delivered a lecture on ‘Subdue and Dominate the Earth: Plant Biotechnology for Sustainable Development,’ said plant biotechnology would ensure more efficient use of the world’s limited resources and consequently contribute to sustainable development.

He said that with the world population projected to increase from the present 7.6 to 9.7 billion by the year 2050 and an estimated 50% of the growth to be contributed by Africa, Nigeria, the most populous African country, had been predicted to over double the present 191 million people to 411 million.

This development, he noted, had its effect on socio-economic development and the overall quality of life.

“Rapid population growth and over-population lead to poverty, low standard of living, ill-health, malnutrition and environmental degradation, high rate of unemployment and high rate of crime,” said Obembe.

He added that plants were pivotal to the existence of life on the earth and in situations whereby population growth was exceeding food production, agriculture is crucial to the economies and environments of the world.

Modern agriculture must meet the demands of the ever-increasing population and the expectations of improved living standards, in the presence of frightening harmful consequences of diminishing arable land and environmental pollution, he added.

Professor Obembe listed five of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that directly addressed the three capabilities for human development in Africa, and Nigeria in particular as Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-being; Quality Education; and Decent Work& Economic Growth.

He said for instance, plant biotechnology could assist to attain SDGs via the adoption of high-yielding genetically modified (GM) crop varieties that were resistant to pests and diseases, weeds and adverse environmental conditions such as drought.

He argued that the development and adoption of plant biotechnologies and products in African countries, including Nigeria, would go a long way in contributing to the achievement of the five SDGs under consideration.

He pointed out the need for curriculum development, starting from the secondary school level, as manpower development for biotechnology, should be based on long term training rather than through seminars and workshops.

According to the inaugural lecturer, the modest recommendation in achieving improved plant biotechnology development and adoption in Africa would be in the area of awareness campaigns about the new technologies, particularly as it concerns the potential benefits and public fear over its safety.

He argued that engaging innovative technologies became an imperative in an atmosphere where more food must be produced to feed a growing population while preserving the earth’s ecology.

Earlier in his remarks, the Vice-Chancellor, Covenant University, Professor AAA. Atayero, said there were serious concerns about food security in the face of increased incidents of drought, desert encroachment, decreasing arable land for agriculture, and other environmental issues militating against increased agricultural productivity.

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