The small-scale farmers have been advised not to give in to politicians’ empty promises, but to cast their votes based on issues in the forthcoming elections.
Teaching some members of farmers’ cooperatives at the weekend in Owerri and Asaba, the Executive Director of CARA Development Foundation, Mrs Nnennaya Emeremadu, admonished the farmers to “do issue-based voting.”
She advised, “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.”
The event, organised by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Asaba, Delta State and Owerri, Imo State, Emeremadu advised the farmers to get interested in three bills on seeds, fertiliser and warehouse receipt systems and ensure they participate in the process of their passage by tasking their lawmakers.
Chief Executive Officer of Contact Consulting, Mrs Folusho Olaniyan, told the farmers that AGRA and NESG were working together to see how laws could 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 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 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.”
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.
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.
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.