This year’s edition of the National Agricultural Show, the 10th organised by the National Agriculture Foundation of Nigeria (NAFN), which ended on Friday October 20, 2017, unlike the last two editions, witnessed a more significant turnout and participation by stakeholders in the sector.
These include policy makers, farmers’ associations, research institutes, technology developers, fertilizer companies, will-be farmers, state governments, agro allied companies as well as the traditional institution.
Although, some observers stressed that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development could have done more by mobilizing all its agencies, research institutes, departments among others to participate actively in the annual farmers’ fiesta, the show resuscitated hope for a brighter future for the nation’s agriculture.
Many of the indigenous technologies that were hitherto not known to farmers were brought to the exhibition arena and generated significant interest among farmers as Daily Trust on Sunday observed.
For many farmers, the age of Nigeria’s agricultural mechanisation could be barely a stone’s throw from now. This is because these technologies developed by the nation’s research institutes, which could be affordable by smallholder farmers if they organise themselves together into cooperatives, will make farming fun, attractive and a huge money-spinner.
Even the medium scale farmers could single-handedly afford some of the equipment.
Many of the participants who spoke to Daily Trust on Sunday expressed satisfaction with the level of participation and interaction with farmers in this year’s agric show.
“A lot of farmers were surprised that we could produce some of the technologies we assembled here,” a technician with one of the research institutes who sought anonymity told Daily Trust on Sunday, adding that “most of these people do not even know we have this technology.”
Many new entrants into agro processing and or value chain development were seen at every nook and cranny of the event ground, trying to expand their marketing networks and business reach.
For Linda Sini, owner of fish farms and Paul Anza who is into oil palm, mango, banana and coconut seedling development, the event provided the platform to connect with other stakeholders in the sector.
Kebbi State Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, who spoke with Daily Trust on Sunday shortly after inspecting various agro products technology on exhibition on the second day of the event along with Senator Abdullahi Adamu, noted that there has been renewed interest in agriculture as a very important occupation.
“We have to thank our senior brother, the former governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, for the innovation and all the participants for sustaining the interest over the years. This certainly provides a lot of motivation, particularly for the nation under our able leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, who is working hard to regenerate interest in all aspects of agricultural production,” Governor Bagudu said.
Speaking on the turnout, he said: “I am glad that a lot of research institutes are here, a lot of technology companies are here and states are also here to showcase their products. They are all coming together because no one is in any doubt that Nigeria is getting its act together. We are doing the right things and the policy frame work is getting better.”
Governor Bagudu stated also that though the national agricultural show was initiated years before this government came in, effort is being made to create an enabling environment and strengthen the policy instrument to generate interest in the sector.”
He noted that when that happens “all of us can appreciate that when we say agriculture, we don’t mean drudgery. You can be a technology provider, you can be a seed provider, you can be a researcher; there are many elements of it that you can play a part in. It can be animal husbandry or it can even be honey production for industries in all parts of the world.
“Young men and women are invited to appreciate the fact that the space is quite huge and certainly it provides the avenue and it has demonstrated that in the last 12 months. We exited recession largely because of agriculture,” he said.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who was on hand on the third day of the exhibition along with Senator Abdullahi Adamu was also overwhelmed with joy and declared that the revolution in the agric sector has started in earnest.
“The great news is that each year I come here I get excited because quite frankly, a revolution is taking place here and we are very happy to see it. You saw the mini tractor. About two years ago they developed the tricycle and they told me that they were going to do the four wheel drive; they’ve built it.
“I don’t know if you showed the machine they developed for making yam heap. Believe me this idea came to me as far back as 1980. I did not know our local engineers could design this,” he stated.
Speaking further on the newly-invented yam heap making machine and the mini four wheel tractor by the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation, Ilorin, Chief Ogbeh declared that, “now I’m happy to see that a yam heap making machine has emerged. Without that, in another few years, yams will begin to disappear because young boys would not be able to use the hoe and cutlass to cultivate it.”
On the four wheel mini tractor, which will cost less than N3 million when mass-produced, the minister said “this is what most farmers need because an average farmer does not need a N14 million tractor and if we can make them here, the spare parts will be available. This is how industrialization takes place.”
He applauded the foundation for organising the event, saying, “this is what you see in every other country – there is always an agric show – UK, US, China and so on. They do these things and I’m happy the revolution has started. We have been giving little support to them but we have to increase the support.
“We are happy that we are meeting with all segments-researchers, producers, marketers and farmers. What I have noticed is that there is too much of a gap between us and them. We need to get closer, we need to have more data on them, we need to meet them more often and then extend a request to them to do certain things”.
Regarding states’ participation, Kano in its usual tradition, stormed the event with all its 44 local governments and no state could challenge them in showing strong presence with array of indigenous technologies across all the value chains.
Besides Kano, many states that showed their presence sought to attract investors to their respective states based on crops that give them comparative advantage.
Unlike previous editions, top military officers who are farmers and or will-be farmers were seen negotiating business interests with agro companies that caught their attention.
While the 10th edition might have come and gone, the benefits in terms of bridging the knowledge gap and building business network for many participants cannot be over-emphasised.