Stakeholders in the Agricultural sector has harped on the need for sustainable agriculture geared towards massive food production and protection of the ecosystem. The charge was given during the two-day first hybrid International Conference of the Faculty of Agriculture, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka held from 23rd to 24th March 2023 at the University Auditorium with the theme, “Sustainable Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Climate Change Response”.
In his opening remarks, UNIZIK Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Charles Esimone, FAS, stated that the theme of the conference is apt and a very topical issue owing to climate changes and how it affects the agricultural practice. The Vice-Chancellor who was ably represented by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Prof. Frederick Odibo emphasized that the sustainability of agriculture depends on the contributions of stakeholders in the field.
In her welcome address, the Dean of the Faculty, Prof. Nkiru Theresa Meludu stated that the conference is an affirmation of the role of the Faculty aimed at enhancing food production and agricultural practice in Nigeria. Meludu appreciated the Vice-Chancellor and various resource persons who turned up for the hybrid conference. Prof. Meludu also disclosed that Anambra State Government through the Ministry of Agriculture had given the Faculty seedlings to help develop agriculture and ensure the Faculty achieve targets set for the sector. She highlighted some of the needs of the faculty as farms, office complexes, hostels for students while soliciting for assistance from all and sundry who are stakeholders in the Agricultural sector.
In his goodwill message, the Deputy Governor of Imo State and Pioneer Vice-Chancellor of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike, Prof. Placid Njoku commended Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka over the progress they have made overtime. Prof. Njoku said that he is pleased with the improvements he saw within the school noting that UNIZIK is a second generation University in Anambra State that has proved itself of what people envisioned it to be.
Prof. Njoku pointed out that there is need to learn basic Agriculture as stakeholders are at crossroads and the need to learn what should be practiced, what it is and where to take it to is paramount. The Imo State Deputy Governor said that the objective of agriculture is ensuring food and nutrition security, conservation and sustainability. He suggested that there should be regional institutes of Agriculture to look at problems that are specific and peculiar to each region and help profer solutions.
The keynote speaker and Vice-Chancellor, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Prof. Charles Igwe stated that there are lots of challenges agriculture is facing in our country of which the misplaced priorities of our leaders contributed majorly. He said the issues discussed in the conference are timely and shows that the time to make amends for a better tomorrow is now. He further commended UNIZIK Vice-Chancellor, the Dean and Faculty Conference Organizing committee led by Dr. Eucharia Obidiebube while suggesting that the conference be made an annual event.
The lead paper presenter and currently the Pro-Chancellor, Federal University of Agriculture Zurich, Kebbi State, and visiting Scholar, National Universities Commission, Abuja, Prof. Chinedum Nwajiuba enthused that there are so many opportunities for those who study programmes in agriculture in the universities, but these are often not known to young people.
The scholar disclosed that many young persons may not find the study of agriculture “cool” at the time of choosing what to study, but it can be seen that those who graduate in the various disciplines of agriculture have better opportunities and excellent career path not just in Nigeria but also globally.
The Pro-Chancellor said that many of the courses the young people find interesting at 16 to 18 years turn out to have comparatively less opportunities after graduation and by our level of development and the challenges we face as a country, agriculture should be well patronized.
Prof. Nwajiuba opined that a university system must be relevant to the national circumstance and must adapt to solving national problems. He noted some issues to be addressed as huge challenges with agriculture in Nigeria such as the massive deficits in food supply and raw materials provision, which all indicators show may be worse in the future going by the predictions of global food challenges, rising food cost, significant urban immigration, Nigeria urban population galloping, aging farming population, reduced number of those who can farm or the inability of producing and raising the next generation of farmers, continued low technology and use of rudimentary technologies and climate change.
Prof. Nwajiuba therefore beckoned on universities to find ways of encouraging students into programmes in agriculture and creatively make the study of agriculture more exciting, more practical, modernize agriculture and shift to technology, and develop food and agriculture processing technologies.
In his contribution, the Minister for Agriculture, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar who was ably represented by the Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Anambra State, Engr. Arthur Mbuba, said that Agriculture is about the new environment which everyone should be part of.
Dr. Abubakar informed that there are lots of challenges agriculture is facing in our country of which the misplaced priorities of our leaders contributed majorly. He said the issues discussed in the conference are timely and shows that the time to make amends for a better tomorrow is now. He further commended the Vice-Chancellor, the Dean and organizing committees, suggesting the conference be made an annual event.
On his part, the Anambra State Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. Foster Ihejiofor said that Agriculture is an important aspect of our culture which plays huge role in our economy system. He noted that it is not limited to its production aspect which has been the focus for years and of recent, the world is more concerned with the aspect of climate change.
Dr Ihejiofor mentioned that the Chemical Agriculture being practiced all over the world will become a huge threat overtime. He noted that Anambra State government has adopted Regenerative Agriculture and it is time for everyone to retrace their steps for regenerative agriculture has the answer to help regain our soil because it strives on organic content of soil.
He further mentioned that the academia holds the key to the right knowledge and that God has implanted in a soil all the nutrients and plants while suggesting that everyone adopts regenerative agriculture.
Highpoints of the occasion was award presentations to individuals and stakeholders who have contributed towards the growth of the sector as well as encouraging best practices in their field of endeavour. Technical sessions showcasing scholarly articles also formed the major discussion points at the conference.
At the end of the faculty international conference, dean of the faculty of agriculture hs this to say about the VC of unizik, "the VC, Prof. Esimone Charles Okechukwu FAS is a Professor with a difference moving on a high speed to make sure that every everything about education in unizik is digitized to meet up with the global practices. He has asked us to do activities like... conference, workshops, trainings, etc. He has also stated that the post graduate students should attend at least a conference and publish an article before graduation as this would help the lecturers and the students to be on the global map. Quality publications about what we do in our communities, unizik community and the environ when showcased in an international conference like this, gains international recognition to the lecturer, the student and the university on the global map. In line with the VC's advice, we have opened a repository where all the papers presented will be deposited so that when you google on any related topic, such will be found. Also they will be indexed and the google scholar would capture them.
The dean of the faculty, prof. Meludu N. T. also, while being grateful to the VC for his generous support and encouragement in the just concluded faculty 1st international conference, the dean also poured out profound gratitude to
* The deputy governor of Imo state, prof. Placid Njoku
* The deputy speaker Rite Hon. Amara Iwuanyanwu (had a representative)
* Hon. Ikechukwu Umeh (Former Hon... from Imo state)
* Prof. Charles Igwe (VC UNN key note presenter)
*Prof. Chinedu Nwajiuba the Pro - Chancellor Fed. Uni. of Agriculture Zurich Kebbi State (Lead paper presenter).
The chairperson Dr. Eucharia Obidiebube said that the theme of the Conference has 8 sub - themes which encompasses all areas of agriculture as well as environmental sciences. She added that 98 papers were sent and 90 was accepted. With heart swelling with gratitude to God almighty, the chairperson Dr. Eucharia A. Obidiebube poured out her appreciation to the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Esimone C. O., the dean, faculty of agriculture, prof. Meludu N. T., the committee members, the entire sub committee members and their heads, all the staff and students of the faculty. Whenever I am asked to chair a committee again, I will gladly select and work with my conference committee members Dr. Eucharia conclude.
According to Mr. Onyekachi, expectation after this conference is that people's mentality on how to use natural resources and the environment will improve especially when we talk about sustainable agriculture which involves using particular resources for agriculture without depriving future generation from using same. Same goes to nature conservation also. Of course, some of the problems face in climate change and shift in rainfall pattern and so on is as a result of depletion of the natural resources; for example, the trees which help purify the air, when removed or cut down, they stop performing their systemic role in nature thereby influencing change in climate.
With resolution from the conference in form of communique, we have a positive mindset in the way people handle natural resources and the way people handle agriculture.
On students inclusion in carrying on the theme of the conference, Mr. Onyekachi said, in line with prof. Chinedum Nwajiuba's speech, the faculty will capitalize on their 30% CCmas quota especially in forestry and wildlife department where new courses related to climate change has been incorporated. Hence, students will be taught the nativities of climate change and trained to become proactive in living out principles, ideals and essence of sustainable agriculture, nature conservation and climate change during their undergraduate years and after graduation.