Food Security: Ohazurike Calls for Government Investment in Plant Protection
A scientist, Professor Nathaniel Chukwusimkwuo Ohazurike, a Professor of plant pathology at Imo State University, Owerri, and Chairman of Governing Council, Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, has attributed food losses to mans neglect of plants’ health, and calls for the protection of plant and plants product against pests and pathogens to achieve food security.
Professor Ohazurike stated this in Owerri, on Thursday, November 28, 2019 at Imo State University auditorium, Owerri while delivering the 26th inaugural lecture of the University, with the title, “Postharvest Food Losses and Food Security: The Role of Plant Pathogens”.
In his presentation, the Don submitted that, “the health of plants is relegated to the background, despite the fact that virtually everything needed by man in life is derived from plants.”
He advised government at all levels in Nigeria, to give greater attention to agriculture, stating that the move would help the country in achieving food security and emphasized the importance of agriculture in global and national development, and described it as the mainstay of the economy of developing nations.
In addition, the ACE Governing Council chairman listed other benefits of agriculture to include foreign exchange earnings, employer of labour, supplier of industrial raw materials and provider of food for rapidly increasing number of citizens.
In a 68 page document, Professor Ohazurike also identified climate change as one of the cardinal threats to food security that must be addressed fundamentally and globally and he listed other threats as poverty, population explosion, loss of bio-diversity and global warming.
On how to address the problem, the Imo State University lecturer, urged government and private sector to invest in research activities and training of more agricultural experts in the field of plant protection.
Professor Ohazurike said that, postharvest diseases and postharvest losses are widespread globally and greater losses occur in the developing countries due to the non-availability of good storage and transportation facilities and poor handling methods, leading to greater levels of injuries during harvest and transit.
In most cases, the scholar said, the harvested plant products might have been infected by pathogens in the field prior to harvest or may get infected in transit and storage.
The Don revealed that, under conditions favourable to the pathogens, loss caused through postharvest diseases and the associated pathogens may be greater than the economic gains achieved by improvements in primary production.
The erudite scholar recommended the following measure in tackling postharvest losses;
Harvesting immature or
over mature plant products should be avoided to ensure better storability.
· The morning hours and late evening are most appropriate time for harvesting and transportation of plant products.
· Careful and improved handling of plant products from harvest, through transportation and marketing to storage is essential in reducing postharvest losses.
· Improved storage structures are strongly recommended. Improved physical, social and institutional infrastructures are also recommended as major agricultural support base.
· Processing as one of the best options for ensuring the preservation of perishable products, particularly, fruits, tubers and roots, are equally recommended.
· Managing postharvest losses by application of biopesticides is another solution recommended by Professor Ohazurike.
Professor Ohazurike is a widely published scholar and has served the Imo State University, Owerri, as Head of Department, Dean of Faculty, Dean of Postgraduate Studies and Director of Academic Planning.
In the course of the lecture, the Don carefully explained the mechanism of rot or decay of plant products, identified passive defence strategies inherent in plants and plant products and finally outlined environmentally friendly measures to extend the shelf life of plant products so as to eliminate or reduce to the barest minimum, the problem of postharvest losses.
He concluded with a strong suggestion that food protection from pests and pathogens must meet up with the rate of food production, if we want to attain food security and self sufficiency. He finally posited that we must stop laboring for pests and pathogens.
The inaugural lecture was spiced with cultural and traditional rites such as breaking of Kola Nuts and cultural dances as well as rendition of melodious songs by the St. Joseph Catholic Chaplaincy choir, IMSU.
The venue of the lecture was filled to the brim by Nigerians from all walks of life including a former Minister of State for Education, Professor A. G. Anwuka, Deputy Inspector General of Police (retired), Udom EkpoUdom, past and present vice chancellors of the university, traditional rulers from Imo State such as HRH, Eze Dr. Okoligwe Innocent, Okukoro II of Awo-Idemili; HRH, Eze Associate Professor Alagwu, Okosisi of Ihite Akata; HRH, Eze Barr. A.E. Durueburuo, Obi of Okwudor; HRH, Eze Bony Egwuogu (PhD) and several others.
Distinguished scholars like Professor M.O.E. Iwuala and Professor Vin Ibekwe of Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Professor Olukoya Ogen of Osun State University (former Provost, Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo) and Professor Ademola Adeleke, Dean, Faculty of Education, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, were all in attendance.
In attendance also were the delegation from Adeyemi College of Education led by members of the Governing Council, Hon Abdullahi Muh’d Lamba Yelwa, Alhaji Aminu Bello, Mrs. C.J. Ugwuja, Mr. Lawrence Aremu, Professor Ademola Adeleke,. Dr. Damian Ademulegun, Dr. Folorunsho Balogun and Dr. Johnson Ojo
Also in attendance from the college were the Provost, Dr. Samuel Akintunde; Registrar, Mrs. Olufisayo Fakorede; Librarian, Mr. Azino, Akpokurerie; Bursar, Mr. Ganiyu Abdul; Deputy Registrar, Council Affairs, Mrs. Veronica Akpe; College of Education Academic Staff Union Chairman, ACE Chapter, Dr. Tope Oziegbe, Deputy Director, Internal Audit, Mr. Adedayo Olumakinwa and Deputy Director, Information and Public Relations, Mrs. Oluseto Olatuyi among others.