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Professor Adebayo Seeks Renewed Commitment to Food Security in Nigeria

The Vice-Chancellor, Covenant University, Professor Abiodun H. Adebayo, has urged stakeholders in Nigeria agriculture to renew their commitments towards ensuring food security in the country. He made the call at a stakeholders' ‘Advocacy and Sensitization Meeting on Cassava Viral Disease Management through Participatory Surveillance’ held at the Ogun State Ministry of Agriculture, Abeokuta.

Represented by Professor Grace Olasehinde, a senior faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences, Covenant University, the Vice-Chancellor lauded the efforts of the West Africa Virus Epidemiology (WAVE) for Roots and Tuber Crops project for its continued commitment to food security in Nigeria. He said that the timing of the meeting was right, as cassava was important towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2 that seeks to end hunger around the world.

While calling for concerted efforts at preventing the incursion of the Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) into Nigeria, Professor Adebayo stated that the University was proud to host the North-Central and South-West Hubs for the WAVE project. He reiterated the University's commitment towards ensuring that the WAVE project achieved her set goals.

In his opening remarks, the Ogun State Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr Adeola Odedina, thanked the organizers and called for increased partnerships towards ensuring cassava productivity. He decried the fact that 95% of cassava produced in Nigeria was still consumed as food despite the very high demand for industrial purposes. He stated that many processing factories currently lacked raw materials and, as such, were redundant.

In his remark at the event, Dr Paul Ilona, the Country Manager, HarvestPlus Nigeria, commended the workshop's organizers. He emphasized CBSD exclusion in Nigeria and compared the disease to COVID-19 while sharing stories of CBSD devastation in Uganda. He informed the gathering about current efforts towards developing CBSD-resistant varieties in Nigeria and encouraged the WAVE project to work more closely with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to distribute improved varieties across the country.

He gave credence to the choice of Ogun and Benue States for the pilot phase of the participatory surveillance initiative while emphasizing the importance of these two states in the agricultural agenda of Nigeria.

While making his presentation titled 'Overview of the Central and West African Virus Epidemiology (WAVE) Project and Status of Cassava Viral Disease in Nigeria', the Country Director, WAVE Nigeria (North-West and North-East), Professor Mohammed Ibrahim, said the WAVE project had been able to map cassava viral diseases across the Central and Western Africa as well as build capacity for virology research in the regions.

The Country Director, WAVE Nigeria (South-West and North-Central), Dr Angela Eni, in her presentation titled 'Participatory Surveillance for Sustainable Management of Cassava Viral Diseases', said that the WAVE conducted surveys regularly; however, disease incursion and spread could be drastic. She added that a lot could go wrong within six months. She bolstered the need to have extensive stakeholders’ participation in continual disease monitoring.

According to her, the idea of participatory surveillance was to ensure that the stakeholders on the ground, i.e. the farmers, extension officers and seed multipliers, were well trained on viral disease symptom recognition/rapid reporting. She said the initiative was aimed at equipping them with everything required to actively participate in cassava viral disease monitoring.

Dr Eni pointed out that the Covenant University Hub of WAVE was charged with undertaking WAVE activities in all the states in Nigeria's South-West and North-Central zones. She explained that the WAVE chose Ogun State and Benue State to pilot the participatory surveillance activities because they were the largest cassava producers in the South-West and North-Central zones. According to her, successful implementation of the initiative in these two pilot States would determine the willingness of funders to extend the initiative to other states in the two zones.

As part of his closing remarks, the Benue State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr. Timothy Ijir, called for intensified efforts towards boosting cassava productivity for industrial revolution. He lauded the participatory surveillance initiative and encouraged stakeholders present at the meeting to work towards bringing more persons on board. The Permanent Secretary of the Benue State Ministry of Agriculture, Mrs Magaret Ikpe, lauded the efforts of WAVE and promised to work on getting resources to support the participatory surveillance initiative.

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