Going by different climatic nature obtainable from various states and cities across the country, Nigeria could only be sufficient in crop production and food security if conservation agriculture, which entails maximising crop yields with minimum inputs or resources while sustaining soil productivity and protecting the environment, is practised among farmers and agriculturalists.
This was said by Felix Salako, a professor of Soil Physics and Soil Conservation at the 48th inaugural lecture, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), tagged: “For Soil to Oil the Nation: Advancing the Frontiers of Conservation Agriculture in Nigeria.”
The deputy vice-chancellor (Academics) of FUNAAB, who said his contribution to knowledge was in the area of the Concatenation of Catenae, observed that the problem of unemployment in Nigeria and in other parts of the world could be solved by engaging in commercial, large scale agriculture and agro-allied industries with a virile investment in natural resource conservation to guaranty food security, adding: “I think we should go back to agriculture all year round, we must conserve soil and water irrigation facilities must be improved or developed.”
He said although soil conservation had traditionally been considered as Applied Soil Physics with focus on soil erosion, tillage and irrigation studies, it had now been expanded to cover “environmental issues such as soil pollution, remediation, carbon sequestration and climate change coming to the fore as parts of the responsibilities of the Soil Conservationist or Soil Physicists.”
The inaugural lecturer recalled that agriculture was the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy before and after independence up to the period of the oil boom (1971-1983), where agriculture was practised at the subsistence level with the resultant effects of reduction in food export, while the importation of crops like rice increased, just as he lamented that ‘oil boom became oil gloom’ as more money was accrued from oil, while the lives of many Nigerians became miserable.
He called for the use of soil conservation planning in Nigeria on the platform of the Isoerodent Maps, which he developed. This, he said, had removed the major obstacle involved in the use of the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE), while irrigation agriculture should be practiced in Nigeria, because of the advantage to conserve from the savannas to the humid forest when compared with what was obtainable in other countries.
The professor also called for proper soil management that should be decided before embarking on any land clearing or conversion of land process, proper soil survey and land evaluation which should be handled by experts of all sub-disciplines that had contributed to the work, just as he maintained that there was the need for universities and research institutes to invest in field and laboratory equipment, as well as computer software regularly, for meaningful researches to take place as there should be adequate funds with specific mandate attached while requesting for more seriousness in the collation of research results and their applications in solving societal problems.
He also recommended that funds be provided for the establishment of first-class central laboratories in the various universities with well-trained technologists to handle (specialised) equipment. He said “without being pessimistic, we cannot really get to the promised land in science and technology, if basic needs like electricity and clean potable water cannot be taken for granted.”
He stressed the need for the existing government institutions to be strengthened to provide efficient and effective services for the growth of the agricultural, science and educational sectors, appealling to all to make the institutions work, noting that for soil to oil the nation again, farmers or agriculturists in Nigeria should adopt and practice Conservation Agriculture for sustainable crop production and food security.
RAZAQ AYINLA and ADEDOYIN IBIDAPO-OBE