• Saturday, April 20, 2024
businessday logo


Fostering food security and environmental sustainability

GAIN, NCIC grant $16,000 to four innovators to boost nutritious foods

Addressing climate change is key to maintaining harmony in the symbiotic relationship that exists between man and nature. This is because that vital relationship is being threatened by the wider depletion of natural resources as well as the release of harmful substances across business operations and human activity.

Consequently, severe nature responses in the forms of extreme weather conditions, flooding, drought, and landslides amongst others continue to cause glitches in the food value chain, stoke poor health conditions in our cities, widen scarcity of water, increase desertification across regions, disrupt communities, and ruin valuable social infrastructure.

For instance, the United Nations (UN) reported that an estimated 55 million people around the world are affected by drought every year. According to the UN, within the next three decades, a quarter of the globe would be impacted by these severe climate reactions. The global body also revealed that the earth is presently about 1.1 °C warmer compared to previous centuries.

It also said greenhouse gas concentrations comprising carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and certain synthetic chemicals are at their highest levels and rising faster. It warned that emissions must be put in check to achieve a 7.6 percent drop per year going forward to ensure the global temperature does not escalate to a level that is unbearable for everyone.

In the food value chain, the effects of climate change are telling. They lead to soil degradation which impacts crop yields adversely. Poor soil conditions and low harvests contribute substantially to food insecurity. Food production levels dive. Food prices subsequently skyrocket leaving many households short on valuable nutrients.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has even tagged the year 2023 another year of extreme jeopardy for those struggling to feed their families. This gruesome theme cast a shadow over the world as 345.2 million people are projected to be food insecure somewhere in the year.

The onus is on governments and businesses to act fast to avert this looming calamity. Investment in innovation that would stave off the realization of the scary extreme temperature and food insecurity projection is critical at this point. Olam Agri is a leading agribusiness transforming food, feed, and fibre, and we are taking measures to ease the pressure being piled on the global food system and the environment to ensure a safer and prosperous world for all.

As a leader in agriculture, we are investing in various innovative projects that can reduce carbon emissions and help preserve our environment. A fine example of our efforts to curb carbon emissions is the bold step taken towards sustainability at Olam Agri in Nigeria’s new office building.

Located in the heart of Lagos’ bustling industrial zone, we recently installed solar panelling at the new office to increase the share of renewable energy, promote the corporate goal of de-carbonisation as well as obtain green credits for the edifice.

Of course, solar panelling harnesses the power of the sun to generate electricity, provide clean energy and reduce operating costs. Currently, our building solar infrastructure generates an estimated 50 KW. It takes care of about 15% of the total energy required to power the office building. By installing the panelling infrastructure at the office to support our energy consumption rate, we are significantly reducing the building’s carbon footprint and contributing to a greener environment.

In addition to reducing carbon footprint, our Lagos office building will also be able to obtain green credits. These credits are awarded to companies and organisations that take steps towards sustainability and reducing their carbon emissions. The credits can be traded to offset the carbon emissions of other Olam Agri facilities in the country.

More, we are making a lot of progress in improving access to food and nutrition, farmers’ lives, and sustainability practices, especially in lower-income and emerging countries in Africa. Early in the year, we partnered with the Nanyang Technological University, a leading global research college in Singapore, to craft innovative, sustainable strategies targeted at raising the resilience level of Nigeria’s food value chain.

Through that partnership, we are sponsoring the Singapore Business Case Competition (SBCC) X African Challenge 2023. The competition featured 34 teams comprising 135 undergraduates from over 11 universities which made presentations on climate-smart strategies to Olam Agri with a focus on how to improve Nigeria’s agriculture sector, tackle climate threats, and address the topographic and systemic challenges impeding the achievement of food security. The winners of the contest won a $1,500 prize in addition to an all-expense paid trip to Nigeria to implement their solutions.

Read also: Nigeria among countries with lowest food security – IMF

As well, we have developed an industry innovation targeted at utilising agri-waste to produce a heat source useful for bakery operations. The innovation which is called ‘the Gasifier’, is a palm kernel oven which utilises palm kernel waste i.e., palm kernel shells to produce heat that powers baking ovens. This innovative biofuel provides a cleaner, greener environment.

All the sustainability efforts form an additional arm of the Olam Agri Seeds for the Future (SFTF) project, a signature corporate social sustainability vehicle. The SFTF also focuses on supporting farmers and farming communities, enabling wider education & skill development for young people in Nigeria, upskilling women bakers, promoting health & nutrition, and reducing carbon emissions in our operations.

Another example of our environmental sustainability effort is our strategic partnership with leading Nigerian university, Bayero University Kano (BUK) and the Kano State Government, where we donated 5,000 tree saplings to BUK as part of a tree planting campaign geared towards offsetting carbon emissions and conserving biodiversity.

This was an important climate action aimed at achieving carbon neutrality and the net-zero targets on a larger scale and to ensure that the fuel emissions created by our fleet operations are to a large extent offset from the ecosystem.

Precisely, the reforestation, installation of the solar panelling at our office, the investment in the SBCC X Africa Challenge, and the conception and development of the gasifier, amongst others, are a clear demonstration of our commitment to sustainability. We are hoping that this move will inspire other organisations to take steps towards making our environment liveable.

Pande is the country head of Olam Agri in Nigeria.