Matching food production and population growth

Saturday October 5 2019

Michael J. Ssali

Michael J. Ssali 

By Michael J. Ssali

The Washington-based Population Reference Bureau (PRB) announced last week that the world population data sheet 2019 is now available.
Natives of developing countries can obtain a free electronic copy on request. Uganda’s last population census was conducted in 2014, but PRB estimates Uganda’s current population to be 44.3 million and projects it to be 89 million by 2050. Our natural increase rate is 3.2 per cent and is nearly the highest globally. Feeding such a fast increasing population poses a big challenge, bearing in mind climate change issues, incurable crop diseases, smaller gardens thanks to land fragmentation, and overworked soils.

Banana, cassava, sweet potato, Irish potato, maize, and rice are harder to produce now due to incurable diseases, stubborn pests, and unpredictable weather patterns. Already, food prices are unacceptably high, especially in urban communities, resulting in food insecurity and malnutrition. Food production will require more than increased fertiliser usage and irrigation which, anyway, are already beyond most farmers’ means.

PRB further estimates that by 2050, Nigeria’s population will almost double from the present 201 million to 401 million people, overtaking the United States. But Nigeria is leaving nothing to chance.
Last month, according to the online Crop Biotech Update, the country hosted scientists from 21 countries for further training in modern biotechnology and its application to boost agricultural production and environmental protection ahead of climate change and food production challenges. Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, minister of Science and Technology, told the scientists that the Federal Government of Nigeria is working hard in applying genetic engineering and biotechnology.

Onu said: “The government will continue to support the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), which has the mandate to promote, coordinate and deploy cutting-edge biotechnology research and development, processes and products for the socio-economic well-being of Nigeria. Through NABDA, the ministry aims to strengthen Nigeria’s agriculture while at the same time protecting the environment, as well as guaranteeing the achievement of rapid industrialisation.”It is worth noting that while other countries are quick to take advantage of the benefits of modern biotechnology to transform agricultural production, for Uganda, adoption is still a far cry.