Nike Akande, Chairman of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Business Group Nigeria, has affirmed that adequate attention to agriculture, especially efforts that will enhance the economic fortunes of the rural and smallholder farmers will automatically turn the nation’s economy around.
She stated this while speaking at a dialogue session on smallholder farmers organised by the British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation (BATNF) in Abuja, stressing that this cannot be achieved without the development of the value chain component across the agriculture sector.
Akande who was represented by Oluwole Dosunmu, Head, NBGN Secretariat, noted that the attention given to smallholder and rural farmers at the dialogue session is appropriate, considering its far-reaching impact.
“The emphasis of the dialogue on smallholder and rural farmers is apt and right. More than half of the nation’s population lives in the rural areas. They are mostly farmers and poor.
Speaking further, he stated that through relevant investments the private sector can help develop the desired agricultural value chain component provided that government “creates a conducive environment and provides direction with proper policies and regulations.
Abimbola Okoya, Executive Director, BATN Foundation said that the dialogue session was conceptualized three years ago with the goal of making the forum the voice of rural and smallholder farmers, many of whom are often neglected.
She said the Foundation has increased support to smallholder farmers by 200 percent, improved their agricultural practices through capacity building, provided access to finance through input contribution and linkage to markets and ultimately aimed to move them from subsistence to commercial farming.
Also, Kola Jamodu, Chairman of BATNF, said that the reason for convening the session was to proffer solutions that can improve the productivity of smallholder farmers, regardless of their environment in order to drive a stronger economy.
Jamodu who was represented by a Director in the Foundation, Mr Yusuf Ageni noted that as part of its support for sustainable agriculture the Foundation constituted the BATN Executive Working Group (EWG) in 2015 to examine the challenges facing smallholder farmers and proffer solutions on the national policy framework, of the previous administration, the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA).
He added that the findings of the EWG assessment were documented in a report that was presented at the 41st meeting of the National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development in February 2016 and handed over to the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh.