Food insecurity still ranks high amongst the development challenges facing Africa. Yet many of the academic institutions who can work with governments and global agencies to create the synergy needed for solutions, do not get the support they need.
Research led by African based academicians is very relevant in the fight against hunger, poverty and under development. These researchers are part of the communities, thus they know what the challenges are. With the right support - be it partnerships, collaborations, sponsorships and funds, they can forestall some of the food, hunger and development issues before they occur.
The Food Bridge vzw held a meeting in Nigeria with the Imo State University's Agriculture and Rural Development Department, to explore ways we can collaborate and work on mutually beneficial projects. The staff and students are highly motivated but can only do so little without the extra support needed, to insure the viability and visibility of their research projects . The Dean of the faculty Prof Ekenyem took the coordinator of The Food Bridge vzw Dr Maureen Duru, round their faculty and facilities to see some of the research projects they already have.
At the faculty farm and the students research area, the work and research projects by the dedicated staff and students are very impressive. They have not been deterred by the challenges they face but seek innovative ways of doing their work. Thus if equipment is lacking, they fabricate them as we saw with a project on biogas. Their small cattle ranch, shows the possibilities in livestock farming. Contrary to arguments against cattle ranches in the country, theirs are some of the healthiest looking cattle in the country. The still have room for expansion and with the right support can link this sector to the viable Nigerian meat market. Some of the research projects by the students also focus on indigenous food systems. We saw orchards of indigenous fruit trees (such as the African pear) planted by students as part of their research.
Despite this, many of the equipment like tractors and the infrastructure need repairs. Needing urgent attention too, is the fact that many of the students do not see a bright future for themselves in the agricultural sector after their study. Hence there are students leaving without completing the degree. The Food Bridge is hoping that we can find interested partners who can mentor students, engage them in their work and most especially support entrepreneurial students wishing to set up farms or other food related SMEs.
The Helping Hand Project