Friday, September 10, 2021 5:18 pm
A Professor of Agroforestry has advised policymakers to redesign the country’s agricultural systems to take advantage of the important roles of trees in stabilizing and sustaining the environment. Professor David Oke gave the advice while delivering the 134th inaugural lecture of the Federal University of Technology, Akure titled, “Agroforestry: An Innovative Approach to Sustainability Challenges,” on Tuesday, September 7, 2021. Oke tasked the Government and those responsible for the formulation and implementation of agricultural policies and practices to henceforth encourage big time and smallholder farmers to make conscious and deliberate efforts to incorporate trees into their farming systems. Trees, he said, could be planted around the farm borders in rows, within the farm, or scattered on the farm. He said if agroforestry is brought to bear on farming practices, it will ensure the maintenance of a balanced environment, sustain the ecosystem, mitigate some of the effects of climate change while ensuring that man has both food and trees in abundance and perpetually.
The don advised the government to provide economic incentives for farmers who plant trees on their farms. Such incentives should include viable and improved seeds and seedlings provision through government nurseries, regeneration and exploitation tools that are beyond the reach of peasant farmers. Professor Oke reiterated the need to educate farmers about the intricacies of the agroforestry system and make available genetically improved seedlings that could address the issues of the long gestation period of trees. He recommended a farmer-friendly arrangement that allows farmers to have a share of the proceeds from trees planted and nurtured by them.
Oke said the government and other key stakeholders should also see agroforestry as a veritable tool to control desertification and conserve the ecosystem. He said it’s important for them to work with farmers and other stakeholders to achieve these goals. According to him, “Traditional silvopastoral systems have evolved in many parts of the arid and semiarid ecosystems of Nigeria and these only need to be developed and modernized as a strategy to conserve forest and control deforestation.”
The professor of Agroforestry pointed out that in light of reoccurring food shortages, projected climate change and rising prices in fossil fuel-based agricultural inputs, agroforestry has experienced a surge in interest from the research and development communities as a cost-effective means to enhance food security while at the same time contributing to climate change adaptation and mitigation. He defined Agroforestry as using the existing varieties of tree species in a variety of innovative ways to increase our agricultural productivity, stabilize our soils and sustain our environment; thereby making it an attractive alternative for balancing increased food production with environmental conservation.
He disclosed that research and development efforts in the past forty years have demonstrated the positiveness of agroforestry in addressing some of the major agro-system challenges such as soil degradation, desertification, biodiversity loss and climate change; adding that agroforestry has emerged as an integrated applied science that has demonstrated potentials for addressing some of the land management and environmental problems in developing and industrialized nations.
He posited that not all agroforestry practices are viable everywhere and the current state of knowledge offers very little guidance on what systems work where for whom and on what circumstance. He, therefore, called for concerted research efforts in agroforestry systems so that the future scaling up can be rooted in robust scientific findings and adaptable to environmental needs and practices rather than, “the intuition of government and development actors.” Oke said to complement this, there is the need for the development and promotion of smaller and simpler farm machinery and implements which he says are much more amenable to agroforestry practices as opposed to big agricultural equipment.
In his capacity as chairman of the Inaugural Lecture, the Vice-chancellor, Professor Joseph Fuwape described the submissions as apt and timely as reports have shown that present trends in agriculture may result in ecological disaster if not urgently mitigated. He said Oke is an erudite scholar who has contributed to teaching, learning and research in his area of specialization.