• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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Harnessing Nigeria’s innovation ecosystem to combat food insecurity

Understanding food insecurity in Nigeria

Nigeria finds itself at a critical juncture, grappling with the repercussions of subsidy removal and its subsequent impact on economic stability and social welfare. Over the past three months, the nation has witnessed a surge in inflation rates, particularly in food prices, posing a significant threat to its food and nutrition security. According to a recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), food inflation soared to 35.41 percent in January 2024 from 33.93 percent in December 2023. With a current population exceeding 200 million and projected to reach 400 million by 2050, Nigeria’s imperative to sustainably feed its populace cannot be overstated.

Food security, a cornerstone of national development, encompasses various dimensions, including access to nutritious food, availability, supply stability, utilisation, and resilience to shocks and disruptions. Despite the challenges, Nigeria boasts a burgeoning innovation ecosystem with the potential to address its food insecurity crisis.

Read also: Revitalising Nigeria agriculture: Confronting food insecurity challenges

Critical factors exacerbating food insecurity include over-reliance on rain-fed agriculture, limited access to inputs, and a fragile economic base. Additionally, low technology adoption, high post-harvest losses, and inadequate market access further compound the issue. To address these challenges, it’s crucial to draw inspiration from leading agricultural producers such as India, the United States, and Brazil, which have leveraged technology and innovation to achieve high productivity.

While many innovation ecosystems worldwide emulate Silicon Valley, it’s noteworthy that California, a leading farming state in the USA, serves as a testament to the intersection of technology and agriculture. With significant investment in ag-tech research and proximity to Silicon Valley, California exemplifies agricultural innovation leadership, generating billions in revenue from the sector.

Despite global trends in venture capital (VC) investment, Africa, including Nigeria, receives a disproportionately low share. For instance, while global ag-food tech startups raised $29.6 billion in 2022, African startups garnered a mere $636 million. Bridging this gap necessitates substantial investment, with estimates suggesting a requirement of $200 billion to harness Nigeria’s ag-foodtech potential.

Data source: Africa AgriFoodTech investment report 2023

Effective collaboration among stakeholders, including startups, investors, government, academia, and corporations, is pivotal for nurturing an innovation ecosystem. This entails robust funding for research institutes, fostering linkages across the value chain, and creating an enabling environment for growth.

To drive agricultural value chain growth, leveraging technology is paramount. Ag-tech, encompassing a spectrum of innovations aimed at enhancing efficiency, productivity, sustainability, and profitability, offers promising solutions. Here are key technologies poised to catalyse agricultural transformation:

Automation and Robotics: Leveraging robotics and automation for cultivation, planting, fertilising, and harvesting can optimise Nigeria’s vast arable land. Drones and automated systems offer opportunities to enhance yields and propel self-sufficiency in food production.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Analytics: AI and data analytics enable the analysis of agricultural data collected from various sources, facilitating informed decision-making. Applications include flood prevention, crop forecasting, disease detection, and resource allocation optimisation.

Blockchain Technology: Crypto or Bitcoin comes to mind for most people when they hear the word blockchain; however, it is an exciting technology that has great applications across different industries, and agriculture is not an exception with some interesting use cases.

Read also: Food insecurity big threat to nation, says Obi

Think of blockchain as a technology that enhances transparency using a digital ledger that is secure, decentralised, and immutable. Blockchain enhances supply chain transparency, enabling traceability from farm to fork. This technology holds immense potential for verifying product authenticity and quality, which is crucial for export-oriented agricultural products. This will increase the foreign earning potential for Nigeria.

Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering: Investment in biotechnology R&D is essential for developing genetically modified organisms and seeds with desirable traits, enhancing resilience to pests, diseases, and environmental stressors.

Vertical Farming and Controlled Environmental Agriculture (CEA): Indoor farming under controlled conditions offers year-round production, water efficiency, and reduced pesticide usage, particularly relevant for urban environments.

To realise Nigeria’s agricultural potential, collaboration among stakeholders is imperative. This includes entrepreneurs, investors, research institutions, government bodies, and corporations. By investing in sustainable practices, supporting smallholder farmers, strengthening value chains, and improving post-harvest systems, Nigeria can advance towards food security.

In conclusion, harnessing Nigeria’s innovation ecosystem is paramount for addressing food insecurity. Through technological advancements, policy interventions, and holistic strategies, Nigeria can revolutionise its agricultural landscape, ensuring food security for its citizens.

 

Kolapo Ogungbile is a seasoned business and startup leader, renowned for his contributions to the entrepreneurial landscape. He hosts the acclaimed Kurious K Podcast, delving into diverse topics shaping the future of business and innovation.