Ending Hunger With Scientific Innovations
By Gilbert Ekugbe
Gilbert Ekugbe takes a cursory look at how scientific innovation and digital technologies can put an end to hunger in Africa and the rest of the world
There is no gain saying that Nigeria and many African countries face acute food insecurity as over 98 million out of the 155 million people pushed into acute food insecurity in 2020 were Africans according to Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC) report.
At least, every 2 out of 3 people facing acute food insecurity are on the African continent with conflict or economic shocks often related to Covid-19 along with extreme weather are pushing millions of people into hunger net.
In a country like Nigeria that still depends on hoes and cutlasses to meet its food requirements, there is an urgent need for its economic managers to prioritize investments into mechanized farming, improved seedlings, fertilizers and educate farmers especially small holders with good agricultural practices in its quest to achieve zero hunger by 2030.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) buttressed the need to deploy scientific innovations and digital technologies to address food insecurity as it partnered five private sector companies to organise a zero hunger sprint-pitching event for innovators to showcase their technologies and innovations aimed at addressing rising food prices and providing lasting solutions to ending hunger in Nigeria.
It also launched the Virtual Farmers Market mobile based marketplace known as Maano that links smallholder farmers to buyers offering competitive prices for their produce to increase farmers’ earnings and income opportunities.
WFP’s Country Representative in Zambia, Jennifer Bitonde, said the virtual farmers market will help farmers access buyers and customers who would otherwise have been out of reach, improving their profit margins.
“It provides farmers with real-time commodity pricing, helping them get better prices for their produce, make bids and transact with farmers. Upon collection, the buyer verifies the quality and quantity of the produce before the payment is automatically released through mobile money or bank transfer
Recently, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu told world leaders and other participants in the Pre-Summit to the UN Food Systems Summit that there was an acute need for renewed global efforts to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030, as he urged increased funding and called for greater efficiency, as well as a sustained push for “scientific innovation and digital technologies”.
The African Development Bank (AfDB’s), Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Dr. Beth Dunford, said through its Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) initiative, it has committed up to $5 billion to finance women’s businesses on the continent by 2026, saying that by the end of 2021, the Bank is expected to have provided close to $500 million of which $150 million will benefit women in the agriculture sector while also working public and private sector partners to develop alternative financial models to increase the ability of women farmers to access the financing and skills they need to grow sustainably.
The Italian Foreign Minister, Luigi Di Maio, outlined Italy’s leading role in promoting food security both historically and in the run-up to 2030, when the SDGs come due.
He described food as a “fundamental right of the person” as he sketched out three major policy action tracks: engaging the private sector; the pursuit of a zero-waste approach; and a prominent place for local food systems, community-rooted and steeped in centuries-honed knowledge, alongside modern transnational food systems.
An agribusiness expert and the Director General, Premier Agribusiness Academy, Mr. Toromade Francis, said until proper education is given to farmers on the most impactful practice in agriculture, Nigeria will not be able to achieve food security and would continue to depend on importation to meet its food needs.
He called on the need to develop human capacities in agricultural to adhere strictly to Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)