Bishop Oyedepo canvass improved food production techniques for Nigeria's food sufficiency

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By Kehinde Akinpelu, Ilorin
The Bishop of Living Faith Church International David Oyedepo has canvassed a paradigm shift in the nation’s quest for a boost in its employment opportunities from paid job to agricultural mechanisation. 
Oyedepo, at the 20th International Conference and 40th Annual General Meeting of Nigerian Institution of Agricultural Engineers, (NIAE)  held at Landmark University, Omu-Aran, Kwara state, said aside agriculture, no vocation or institution could accommodate millions of the unemployed Nigerians. 
According to him, “this university has a vision to restore agrarian revolution in Africa and to restore the dignity of African man. We are endowed with fertile land but have over 400 million hungry graduates seeking for job opportunities that do not exist. 
“The cheapest way to be gainfully engaged is via agriculture. It can’t go into extinction because man must eat to live. There is no day that food will be irrelevant. It is therefore wise and safe now to tackle the impending day of poverty and hunger through mechanised farming.”
The event,  with the theme: ‘Innovations and Technologies For Sustainable Agricultural Mechanisation and Livestock Transformation For Economic Growth’, drew participants from and outside the nation. 
The Keynote Speaker, Engineer Professor Michael Ngadi, an international expert in  Food Quality and Safety,  with particular emphasis on Heat and Mass Transfer Processes in Foods, Hyperspectral imaging, Sensors and Properties of Foods,  said the agric engineers of the modern century played a key role in bringing food to the table of man. 
Decrying the high rate of human population the world over put at about 7.7 billion,  with a tendency to grow into 10 billion in few years time,  Ngadi noted that unless the food capacity is boosted via agricultural mechanisation, man would suffer from famine and quality health conditions. 
The Don while dismissing Nigerian present population growth as the likely cause of unemployment and poverty, said the population of the entire African nations, was equal to the population of China which has one of the finest Gross Domestic Product (GDP), due to innovations in the field of agricultural mechanisation. 
He added, “we have a problem with demographic and climatic change, flooding and erosion. Besides,  80 per cent our produce especially tomatoes are getting wasted because of poor preservation system. In fact,  it is a known fact that at present, Nigeria has the highest rate of food wastages in the world.
“The recent ban of rice importation in Nigeria is good but it must be matched with needed local production, otherwise, we will suffer greatly for food in this country.  We should also note that we will not feed the increasing population with knives and hoes Stone Age Technology.”
Believing that Nigerian agric engineers should design and develop more equipment primarily for local food production and processing, canvassed conducive atmosphere and veritable governmental policies for a private sector driven food production system.
Besides,  he said,  Nigeria should upscale her food  production, processes and practice technologies just as he opined that “a pull and a push” approach needed to be embarked upon in her food innovation strategies. 
The Speaker,  “there is a connect between innovation and the GDP of any nation. Therefore in Nigeria,  it is either we innovate now or die of hunger later. We need improved technologies in tillage facilities and maximize the irrigation practices. We must produce affordable technologies to link farmers with processors and consumers. This has been successfully done by the Hundurians.”
Ngadi who said unlike agric principles which are transferable, innovations are peculiar with the innovators adding that Nigeria with its largest cashew production capacity in the world, could build strong agric technologies around the fruit and its seed. 
In his  opening address at the conference, National President of Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Engineer Adekunle Mokuolu said “the immediate needs of man as it relates to food and fibre production can be met through the commited efforts of  the Agricultural Engineers.”
Mokuolu added, “by way of encouraging our Engineers who are looking forward to building career in in the nation’s Civil Service, the Federal Government has graciously approved enhanced Entry Point Salary for Engineers in the Civil Service,  from Grade Level 8 to Grade Level 9.”
The NSE is an umbrella body for engineering profession both in private and public sectors in the country. 
National Chairman of the NIAF, Engineer Dr S. M. Musa, thanked the members of the Local Organising Committee of the body,  especially the host institution, just as he opined that the theme for the year conference was apt for the Federal Government quests for foods sufficiency in the country. 

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