Plant Biotechnology Solution to Africa’s Socio-Economic Development Challenges –Professor Obembe
A Professor of Biotechnology at Covenant, Professor Olawole Obembe, has asserted that Plant Biotechnology offers Africa and nay the world significant opportunities to subdue and dominate over the challenge of ever-growing demands for food, feed and fibre production, as well as the need for good health and well-being (https://bit.ly/2FzjJ4k).
While speaking at the 19th Inaugural Lecture of Covenant, held on Friday, March 22, 2019, the inaugural lecturer, who delivered a lecture on the topic, ‘Subdue and Dominate the Earth: Plant Biotechnology for Sustainable Development’, said that plant biotechnology would ensure more efficient use of the world's limited resources and consequently contribute to sustainable development.
He said that with the world population projected to increase from the present 7.6 to 9.7 billion by the year 2050 and an estimated 50% of the growth to be contributed by Africa, Nigeria, the most populous African country, had been predicted to double the present 191 million population to 411 million. This development, he noted, had its effect on socio-economic development and the overall quality of life.
“Rapid population growth and over-population lead to poverty, low standard of living, ill-health, malnutrition and environmental degradation, high rate of unemployment and high rate of crime,” said Obembe.
He stated that plants were pivotal to the existence of life on the earth and in situations whereby population growth was exceeding food production, agriculture was as never before crucial to the economies and environments of the world. Modern agriculture must meet the demands of the ever-increasing population and the expectations of improved living standards, in the presence of frightening harmful consequences of diminishing arable land and environmental pollution, he added.
Professor Obembe listed five of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that directly addressed the three capabilities for human development in Africa, and Nigeria in particular as: SDGs (1) - No Poverty, (2) – Zero Hunger, (3) - Good Health and Well-being, (4) - Quality Education and (8) – Decent Work and Economic Growth. He said that, for instance, plant biotechnology could assist to attain SDGs 1 and 2 via the adoption of high-yielding genetically modified (GM) crop varieties that were resistant to insect pests and diseases, weeds and adverse environmental conditions such as drought.
He averred that the development and adoption of plant biotechnologies and products in African countries, including Nigeria, would go a long way in contributing to the achievement of the five SDGs under consideration. He pointed out the need for curriculum development, starting from the secondary school level, as manpower development for biotechnology, should be based on long term trainings rather than through seminars and workshop.
According to the inaugural lecturer, his modest recommendation in achieving improved plant biotechnology development and adoption in Africa would be in the area of awareness campaigns about the new that technology, particularly as it concerned the potential benefits and to reduce public fear over its safety. He argued that engaging innovative technology became an imperative in an atmosphere, where more food must be produced to feed a growing population while preserving the earth’s ecology.
Earlier in his remarks, the Vice-Chancellor, Covenant, Professor AAA. Atayero, said that there were serious concerns about food security in the face of increased incidents of drought, desert encroachment, decreasing arable land for agriculture, and other environmental issues militating against increased agricultural productivity.
Professor Atayero affirmed that it was gladdening to note the recent advances in the field of biotechnology and its enormous potential, to bring succour to the devastating effects of pests, drought, soil degradation, and declining soil fertility, and by so doing contributed to sustainable gains in agricultural productivity, reduce poverty and enhance food security, especially in developing countries.
Covenant, he revealed, was committed to promoting research efforts in plant biotechnology, and in furtherance of this commitment, the University had established the Covenant University Plant Science Research Cluster, to engage in plant biotechnology research that would serve as a base line for enacting national agricultural policies geared towards sustainable food production.
Aside the Covenant Management, Principal Officers, staff and students, the 19th Inaugural Lecture also had in attendance family members of the lecturer including his parents, wife and children, friends and other distinguished guests.