Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Nigerian Farmers In Banditry-Affected Areas Suffer Loss, But Experts Say GMO Seeds Provide Opportunity For Better Yield

By Odimegwu Onwumere
Musa and his sibling, who are presently soliciting on the streets in a northeastern State of Nigeria, are unable to manage their farmland during the agricultural season due to the prevalence of banditry.

This situation has led to the deprivation of not only their primary source of income but also the loss of numerous local residents’ lives. A few years back, Musa’s father fell victim to bandits while working on his farm, leaving Musa at 10 years old and his younger brother at 8 to independently sustain themselves through farming. When questioned by this journalist about their decision to beg rather than employ genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their farming practices, Musa and his brother who are now between 20 and 18 expressed remorse for their lack of awareness regarding GMOs and conveyed a desire to have been informed prior to this interview.

Similarly, many farmers in Nigeria, particularly in the aforementioned region, encounter obstacles due to their unfamiliarity with GMOs. This deficiency in knowledge has fostered misconceptions and doubt among certain farmers concerning the advantages and safety of GMO crops. The limited comprehension of biotechnology among Nigerian farmers can be ascribed to various factors such as restricted access to information, insufficient training initiatives, cultural beliefs, and misinformation propagated by anti-GMO factions.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian authorities have consistently underscored the significant impact of banditry on farmers in recent years. Musa articulates that farmers have been compelled to cease agricultural activities due to bandits extorting money, imposing illicit “taxes,” and perpetrating violent assaults. Consequently, farmers nationwide have incurred substantial financial losses.

The government has emphasized that farmers have experienced crop destruction, theft of produce, and extortion of resources, resulting in exorbitant expenses for planting, harvesting, and marketing crops. Additionally, many farmers have tragically lost their lives or been abducted, exacerbating the economic pressure on farming communities.

It is understandable that Musa and his brother are not well-versed in GMOs since Nigeria is still at an early stage of GM crop adoption, leading to a lack of awareness among many farmers regarding the advantages of biotechnology in enhancing crop yields and overall agricultural productivity. This dearth of knowledge may be impeding farmers from optimizing their agricultural output and adapting to challenges such as pests, weeds, droughts, and climate variations.

It has come to light through investigations that a significant factor contributing to the lack of agricultural knowledge among farmers in Nigeria is the ongoing controversy surrounding GMOs. Misinformation disseminated by European organizations has fueled anti-GMO sentiments, instilling doubt and apprehension regarding genetically modified technology among farmers.

Specialists say that this misinformation has impeded farmers’ comprehension of the safety and advantages associated with GM crops. The importation of GM crops into Nigeria without adequate education on their benefits may lead to disconnect between what farmers cultivate and their awareness of these technologies. The disparity between importing GM products and the limited local production or education exacerbates the knowledge gap among Nigerian farmers. Musa advocates for providing farmers with accurate information and hands-on training in biotechnology within agriculture to enable them to make well-informed decisions about incorporating GM crops into their farming practices, subsequently enhancing food security in the region.

An undisclosed health expert discloses that biotechnology holds the potential to generate crops that exhibit heightened resistance towards stressors such as pest incursions and climate variations if Musa and his ilk had known. And they could farm from anywhere even right in their living premises. This robustness plays a crucial role in regions plagued by banditry, enabling crops to endure adversities and sustain elevated yields.

Through the utilization of biotechnologically enhanced seeds, it has been confirmed farmers can enhance food production efficiency while conserving resources, particularly in areas where resource accessibility may be constrained due to insecurity. Such measures have the capacity to bolster long-term food security in banditry-affected regions.

Furthermore, investing in agricultural biotechnology not only tackles immediate hurdles but also aids farmers in upholding economic stability amidst security challenges. By cultivating crops resilient against pests and diseases, farmers can mitigate risks stemming from disruptions caused by banditry and maintain their means of livelihood.

Musa and his brother should not be held accountable for their limited knowledge regarding GMOs, as the level of awareness of biotechnology varies across different regions in Nigeria. While there is an increasing recognition of the advantages of biotechnology in addressing agricultural issues like climate change and food security, the overall level of awareness may still be relatively low.

Nonetheless, biotechnology plays a crucial role in Nigeria’s endeavors to attain food security and foster economic growth. The Nigerian government acknowledges the significance of biotechnology in boosting local food production, reducing dependence on food imports, and promoting sustainable agriculture. By investing in genetic engineering and biotechnology, Nigeria aims to enhance agricultural productivity, safeguard the environment, and propel industrialization forward.

This commitment to biotechnology is evident through initiatives such as the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), which supports state-of-the-art research and development in biotechnology for the socio-economic welfare of Nigeria. The Nigerian Minister of State for Environment, Iziaq Salako supports the use of genetically modified (GM) seeds in Nigeria for the purpose of achieving food security, creating jobs, and eliminating extreme poverty.

He believes that the decision to adopt GM seeds should be based on scientific evidence and ethical principles. Despite concerns about the impact of GM seeds, Salako maintains that their choices are guided by science, and that some locally developed GM seeds are authorized by the Nigeria Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA). Furthermore, the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Nigeria is actively working to raise awareness and promote understanding of agricultural biotechnology, including GMOs, among farmers and the public.

OFAB has established Biotechnology and Biosafety Clubs in schools to educate students about innovative agricultural practices and foster a culture of bioscience. Through educational initiatives and advocacy efforts directed towards farmers like Musa and his brother, OFAB aims to promote the acceptance of GMOs as a means of enhancing agricultural productivity and bridging the gap between scientific progress and public acceptance.

Those who know better say that the need for GMOs in Nigeria has increased due to bandit activities causing food insecurity, while Southern African governments in the 2000s faced a tough decision on whether to provide genetically modified food aid to prevent starvation. Despite the dilemma, the UN’s World Food Programme stepped in to provide emergency food aid, including GM foods from donor countries like the US.

The UN agencies reassured Southern Africa in August 2002 that GM foods provided as aid were unlikely to be harmful, but also respected each country’s right to accept or reject them. Albeit, the Ministry of Science and Technology, through NABDA, focuses on using biotechnology to improve crop yields, livestock breeding, and environmental conservation, benefiting farmers and promoting national progress through innovation and technological development.

Onwumere writes from Rivers State. He can be reached via: [email protected]

Related Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *