…Says facilities would boost food security
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar, has commissioned the National Soil Testing Laboratory and Geographic Information System (GIS) of the department of Agricultural Land and Climate Change Management Service (ALCCMS).
Speaking during the ceremony, he said both laboratories would boost food security, suitability and capability of lands for the sustainable production of different crops and land use.
Abubakar noted that the Federal Government is committed to an agriculture-led diversification of the nation’s economy, adding that for agriculture to play the expected role towards achieving this objective, the soil resources on which agriculture depends must also receive special attention for sustainable agricultural production.
The minister stated that GIS and soil-testing laboratories are highly significant in ensuring food security for the nation and the promotion of technology-driven agriculture which is the focus of the ministry as contained in the National Agricultural Technology and Innovation Policy (NATIP).
Abubakar pointed out that, over the years, gaps have been identified in soil management in the country and this has affected fertiliser usage and land use planning in the country. He insisted that the ministry is determined to bridge the gaps, hence its establishment of the fourth National Soil Laboratory in Abuja.
“The ALCCMS department has been in the forefront of disseminating information and carrying out projects on effective and efficient management of our soil resources. The laboratories will further strengthen the capacity of the department in this regard.
“The ministry now has four national soil laboratories in Abuja, Kaduna, Ibadan and Umudike each equipped with a mid-infrared spectrophotometer (MIR) for dry chemistry analytical procedures. The equipment can analyse large quantities of soil samples rapidly. The four laboratories will go a long way in expanding our soil-testing capacity,” he said.
Abubakar added that the GIS laboratory can receive soil field data in real-time for processing, analyses and mapping, the GIS technology with its versatility will facilitate the production of soil fertility maps for different parts of the country. This will provide current information on the suitability and capability of lands for the production of different crops and land use.
He further said that the maps will provide information on crop and location-specific fertilisers for blending by our blenders to enhance agricultural productivity and stop the blind application of fertilisers in the country.
The minister urged the department to embark on nationwide sensitization of farmers on the importance and benefits of soil testing in crop and livestock production because the declining yield per hectare of farmland is attributed to declining soil fertility.
He thanked the resource persons from the World Agroforestry Centre (International Centre for Research on Agroforestry, ICRAF), Kenya for conducting the training in soil analysis using MIR and continuous collaboration with ICRAF in soil analytical services.
In his welcome address, the ministry’s permanent secretary, Dr. Ernest Umakhihe, encouraged the staff of the ALCCMS department to use the platforms provided by these laboratories to learn and acquire modern skills in soil analytical services and GIS.
He stated that the GIS facility is equipped with real-time data storage, processing and mapping software. Its high-capacity dedicated server will enable the ministry to store, manage and take custody of all forms and categories of data that are generated by departments and agencies under the ministry.’’
Earlier, the director, department of agricultural land and climate change services in the ministry, Engr. Shehu Bello, in his opening remarks, said the laboratories in Abuja will also service the needs of adjoining states in the north-central region while the other laboratories as presently situated will provide the needed soil analytical services for the south-west, south-east and north-west regions of the country.
A statement by the ministry’s director of information signed by Obe Mbosire, said Shehu added that the facilities will ensure that farmers have access to crop and site-specific fertiliser which are important for sustainable soil productivity.
In his goodwill message, the ICRAF lead resource person, Mr. Wullow Elvis, lauded the government for acquiring world-class facilities for the laboratories. He commended Nigeria for its huge investment in the facilities and pledged his support to ensure that the laboratories are put into optimal usage for the benefit of the Nigerian farmers.