Food insecurity dominates parley at UNN, UNESCO symposium



AFRICAN heads of state have been advised to invest and engage in scientific researches, and the introduction of post-harvest biotechnology, which minimizes wastage and improves the chances of developing new products as part of the measures to make more food available to the people.

At the symposium “Sustainability Science in the Advent of Agenda 2030” organised by United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) International Centre of Biotechnology, held at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Prof. Umezulike Opara, lamented the high incidence of food insecurity and disease in Africa despite the continent’s enormous human and natural resources.

Opara, who was the keynote speaker, stated, “future projections indicated that by 2018, the number of food insecure people in the world would likely go down except in Africa.” Attributing development to the low ebb of science and technology activities in the continent, he noted that while the continent could hold its own in human and natural resources and land mass, “it suffers handicap when it comes to the application of science and technology to solve its problems. ”

In his presentation, “From Rising to Arisen: Harnessing the Potentials of Science to Transform Africa and the World in 2063,” the don called on African scientists to embrace the challenge of solving the continent’s problems instead of relying on the help from others.  

Meanwhile, the programme expert at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, Lucy Hoareau revealed that the quest for food security and disease control in Nigeria and Africa will soon receive a boost as UNESCO Category II Biotechnology Centre in the University is set to commence full scale operation.

Speaking at the third meeting of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Centre, held at UNN, Hoareau noted that the Centre has developed in infrastructure added that the biotechnology Centre in UNN was meant to develop human capacity required to drive UNESCO’s mandate in Africa in line with UNESCO’s passion about tackling the problem of food insecurity and diseases in Africa.

She said the International Governing Board of the Centre has approved the appointment of Executive Director for the Centre and that the appointment of the Executive Director was in the offing.
Hoareau, who urged women to show more interest in science, while noting that the participation of women in science was the priority of UNESCO, explained further that the Biotech Centre could serve as a centre of excellence model for “future intervention of UNESCO in scientific study and research in biotechnology for the African region.”

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Prof. Benjamin Ozumba, explained that the UNESCO Category II Biotechnology Centre was established following an agreement between UNESCO and the Federal Government signed in October 2012.

According to the vice chancellor, the Centre “would dwell on food security, bio-resources conservation and tropical disease research with emphasis on promoting research on indigenous plants and animal and diseases peculiar to African region.

“The centre will be equipped with the state of the arts facilities for cutting-edge researchers, and thus will serve as a hub for biotechnology research, not only for Nigeria but for the whole of Africa.”

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