The executive director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Professor Mohammed Othman, has said that Nigeria’s great Agricultural potential can be properly harnessed through Agricultural Engineering.
He made the statement today while giving his keynote speech during an e-conference on the theme, ‘Prospects of Agricultural Engineering For A Better Tomorrow’, organised by the Nigerian Institute of Agricultural Engineers, Student Body.
While speaking, Othman said that Nigeria is one of the most endowed nations across the globe with its vast Agricultural resource and great potentials for Agricultural productivity like, human resources, rich soils, favourable climate, etc.
According to him, “the Nigerian population in 1960 was 43million but as at 2019, it’s now over 200million, with rate of population increase at 850babies an hour, rate of death at 280persons an hour, thereby leading to a population increase of 570people per hour. By the year 2040, Nigeria will be the third most populous country in the world with a projected population of 401,315,000. The population is generally within the productive age group, making the availability of farm labour guaranteed.
“The poor application of technology in Agriculture through Agricultural Engineering has created a lot of challenges such as, inability of farmers to mechanise their farming system; inability of the nation to commercialise locally developed machineries; inability of farmers to access reliable and timely information on proven Agricultural technologies including several prototype machines developed by engineers; difficulty to provide feedback to research institutes and policy makers in the Agricultural sector.
“Agricultural Engineering, which is the application of engineering principles to any process associated with producing Agriculturally based goods and management of natural resources for optimum utilisation, is the key to transforming Nigeria’s great Agricultural potential to tangible reality. According to Dyson (1989), ‘Next to the gift of life is technology, for it is the greatest of God’s gifts as it offers the poor of the earth, a shortcut to greatness and wealth, a way of getting rich by cleverness, rather than backbreaking labour.’
“In the past, Agricultural Engineering was focused on development of farm machines, farm building, irrigation of drainage systems and processes for preserving and converting Agricultural products to useful food, feed and fibre products but this only makes our graduates suitable as employees, and career civil servants or at best, academics.
“But recently, the profession is now focused on, renewable energy, ICT, extension engineering, agro-preneurship, precision farming. However, there is need to step up training contents which can be achieved by incorporating: Automation Agriculture, decision modeling, value addition, image processing etc.
“Agricultural Engineering can be applied in many areas such as: crop and livestock production, with examples such as, unmanned aerial vehicle used for determining crop space, fertiliser requirement, vegetative coverings, chemical applications and so on. Another area of application is handling and transportation.
“An agricultural engineer is the chief component of value addition in Agriculture today. This is why our curriculum in institutions of higher learning, though very sound, need to be modernised and reformed.”