Funmi Ogundare writes that to ensure a holistic approach to food security in the country, agricultural production must be refocused and sustained

The food question will always occupy an important space in public discourse because of its centrality in people’s lives. The problem of food security in the developing nations such as Nigeria is very germaine. This is more so by virtue of the peculiar nature of things in Africa in general and Nigeria, in particular. Factors making these problems more pronounced are the general demographic trends in the third world nations meaning that more mouths has got to be fed.

However, Director-General of the NISLT, Dr. Ighodalo Folorunsho Ijagbone believes that if the country must make progress and develop, support must be given to the government and focus shifted to developing agriculture.

He disclosed that the institute would be holding its 29th annual national conference/scientific workshop with theme, ‘The role of science Laboratory Technology (SLT) in Food Security: Adding Value to the Food Chain’, at the Main Auditorium, University of Ilorin, adding that this would also be followed by a conferment of honorary awards and induction of new fellows.

He said aside focusing on the conference; the meeting would also provide them with the opportunity to deliberate on the general activities and progress during the past one year, adding, “the institute’s core mandate is to advance science laboratory technology profession in Nigeria.”

The choice of the topic, he said was influenced by that fact that agriculture is a core component of the transformation agenda of the federal government and Kwara State is known to have invested so much in agricultural programmes and projects. According to him, “We believe in the national efforts to ensure food security in the nation. Our national discourse on it during the conference will focus on the role science laboratory technology play in adding value to food security in the country.”

The institute’s roles he stated, include, laboratory investigations and analysis of soil fertility, quality of soil fertilisers , monitoring growth of crops, nutritive values of various food products, effects of pesticides as food residues and food poisoning, among others. The purpose of agriculture aside providing food for all, the DG affirmed, is also to create jobs for the youths, adding that the laboratory is very vital, to monitor everything that goes wrong in the investigation of the soil.

“The soil has to be fertile to make crops to grow, and that is very important. If you have the plant, you still have to monitor the growth and check the food products and its nutritive values through laboratory investigation. We believe that government is in the right direction and all hands have to be on deck to ensure that we succeed in that area,” he said

Ijagbone said the institute planned to establish a forensic science laboratory to assist in criminal investigations of cases requiring laboratory input, while expressing hope that the facilities needed for the laboratory would be ready by the first quarter of next year. “We have the multipurpose science laboratory equipped with appropriate science equipment for services, research and training in the areas of biological and chemical sciences, but the issue is getting the police involved, it is a delicate security issue. We have written consent note to seek government approval to do it and we are getting a positive response on that. On the issue of expertise, we have scientists on ground and we will also partner other experts outside but most important is to get specific equipment for the job.”

In enhancing science and technology education in schools in Nigeria, Ijagbone said, “In science generally we always try to improve products because it is dynamic, you must move with the trends. The results of our students in public examinations are not what we expect especially in the area of sciences and that is the major reason why we are having laboratories in the institute. We have found out that in secondary schools, there are no well equipped laboratories so what we are trying to do is to come up with an affordable design and local content.

“Science Laboratory Technology (SLT) is capital intensive; we need a lot of facilities to design the laboratory to meet some standards. We need the personnel. We are trying to put our heads together to provide the design as part of our own input. We also have some agencies that manufacture some science equipment and also ensure that we have enough technologists to go round the schools, and see how we can engage them in secondary schools. Our role is to ensure standards, “the DG stressed.

In curtailing the activities of quacks in the professions, the NISLT boss said as a regulatory body, it ensures that only those who are registered as science laboratory technologists are allowed to practice , while expressing regret that about those who are unqualified and are employed in various labs.

“This is where we really have problems because if you employ somebody who is not trained in the act and you are telling him to go and practice, before you know it he has done some damages. The law requires us to produce a register on an annual basis because we have to know our members. Then we also visit labs on inspections and make publications and ensure that if people are not qualified and employed, we write to the employers to check them. We want to ensure standard, “Ijagbone stated.

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