THE smallholder farmers have been advised not to give in to politicians’ empty promises, but to vote based on issues in forthcoming elections.
Teaching a select group of farmers’ cooperatives at the weekend in Owerri and Asaba, Executive Director of CARA Development Foundation, Mrs. Nnennaya Enyinna Emeremadu admonished the farmers to “do issue-based voting.” In her words, she told the farmers: “Identify your needs and present your expectations to politicians. If possible, make them sign. You can use your voice to change things. You can come as communities or as cooperatives.
During the event, jointly organised by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in Asaba in Delta State and Owerri in Imo State, Emeremadu advised the farmers to get interested in the three bills on seeds, fertiliser and warehouse receipt system and ensure they participate in the process of their passage by tasking their lawmakers.
Speaking earlier, the Chief Executive Officer of Contact Consulting, Mrs. Folusho Olaniyan, told the farmers that AGRA and NESG are working together to see how laws can be enacted to regulate quality of the inputs (seeds and fertiliser) and to avoid duplication of oversight functions in the warehouse receipt system. These bills, she said, “are the vehicles that will take you from pain to gain. This is election time, when your state and federal lawmakers come asking for your votes. Ask what have they done on the bills?
Olaniyan explained that low yields, poor harvest, diseases, pest infestation, adulterated fertiliser, reduced soil fertility, poor soil health, post-harvest losses, low profit due to losses, poor storage facilities are causes of pain to the smallholder farmers. The pain, she said can be turned to gain through factors that will enhance the income of smallholder farmers. Such factors, she noted, are high yields, disease resistant varieties, unadulterated fertiliser, increased soil fertility, improved soil health, longer shelf life, increased and sustainable profit, improved and affordable storage facilities, availability of agricultural produce all year round.
The Seed Bill being currently promoted by the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), Emeremadu added, “will provide an opportunity to align Nigerian seeds system with ECOWAS seed regulatory framework and will also ensure regulation of foreign bred varieties for release on domestic markets.” In addition, the Fertiliser Bill will “safeguard the interest of farmers against nutrient deficiencies, adulteration, misleading claims, short weight, etc. According to her, it will also safeguard the interest of fertiliser enterprises, contribute to the creation of enabling environment for private sector investment in the fertiliser industry and improve the productivity of the entire agricultural sector.
Emeremadu lamented the predicament of smallholder farmers in post-harvest storage and pricing of their harvests. She observed that farmers lack access to credit to meet the needs of increased adoption of improved seed and use of fertiliser, and farmers are often forced to sell at lower prices immediately after harvest. Accordingly, Olaniyan reinforced Emeremadu’s view, stressing the benefits of warehouse receipt system, such as quality control, clearing house, source of supplies to processors and access to international commodity prices.
Olaniyan said that individual farmers are not good traders, but explained how they could benefit from the warehouse receipt system. Both Olaniyan and Emeremadu therefore urged the farmers to support the Warehouse Bill. In their views, through the warehouse receipt system, farmers will leverage as collateral for loans from financial institutions, it will encourage farmers and processors to store their grains in standard storage facilities with proper collateral management solutions in place, thereby reducing post-harvest losses.
Mr. Apapa D. Apapa, Programme Manager, Rivers State Agricultural Development Programme (ADP), who taught the farmers on appropriate farm practices, laid emphasis on weed management and application of farm inputs, particularly on appropriate use of fertiliser. He urged farmers to weed their farms and apply fertilisers properly.
Mark-Thompson Ifeanyi Eke from Mezie Umukabi Ogodo Farmers’ Multipurpose Cooperative Society Ltd. Ngor Okpala local government of Imo State, remarked on the sensitisation training on the three bills at the national assembly. He said, for “the smallholder farmers, after the sensitisation, we understand that it is very good for us to go into our various communities and local governments to meet our people, join together and meet our representatives, either from the House of Representatives or Senate, to tell them the need for the passage of these bills. It is very important for us to meet them so that they will help to pass these bills.” According to Eke, “the passage of these bills will enable us to get good varieties of seeds so that when we plant them, they will help us to have very good yields. The fertiliser bill will help us to get good quality fertiliser from the producers and the marketers.”