Agro-allied entrepreneurs and value addition advocates have established a correlation between the Southwest’s security network, Amotekun, and agricultural productivity of farmers.
Some experts also argued that great job opportunities for young graduates and unemployed people exist in industrialisation and small-scale of most seasonal crops in Nigeria.
Establishing a link, Mr Fatai Afolabi, Managing Consultant and CEO, Foremost Development Services and immediate past Executive Secretary of Plantation Owners Forum of Nigeria (POFON), said the security network, if empowered to function optimally, would help agricultural productivity in not only the southwest, but also Nigeria.
Afolabi argued that “agriculture is part of the economy. So, if the economy of a certain part of the country is fostered by an innovation like Amotekun, the country will be of benefit.”He said insecurity had been taking a toll on agricultural production and productivity because farmers have been insecure, meaning they could not go to the farms early.
He said, “Normally, farmers should go out to the farm very early to work for three to four hours before the sun rises. With insecurity, it means you cannot go out to your farm by 5 or 6a.m.
“In fact, you allow the sun to actually come out before going to the farm. And that limits the amount of work you can do. That is, productivity becomes low. So, if you have been working late in the farm also, up till 6 to 7p.m., it means by 4p.m, you should be planning to go home. So, the amount of man-hour on your production is reduced.” He argued that with insecurity in the Northeast, northcentral and other geopolitical zones, thousands of people have left farming, taking up dangerous work like riding motorcycles, “and they don’t go to farm anymore.”
This, he added, implies less land is being cultivated and food security, job creation, and sustainable means of livelihood for thousands of Nigeria are seriously threatened. “From agricultural point of view, that is what it means. Even before full starting, Amotekun is beginning to beat the drum of security to the people. Now, with Amotekun, bandits are beginning to understand that it’s not safe for them anymore; it’s not going to be business as usual. It will slow down their onslaughts,” Afolabi explained.
Meanwhile, a value addition specialist, Mr Adebayo Osiberu, has affirmed the view that the country produces enough food crops but lose greater percentage of them to poor post-harvest management.“We, in fact, produce more than enough. Katsina State recorded a lot of losses to tomato glut at a certain period because there was no post-harvest management and this would have discouraged the farmers to not return to tomato planting for the next season because of the losses incurred,” he illustrated.
Osiberu said the same thing affects cultivation of mangoes, plantain, cassava and other food crops, adding, “You would have noticed in Nigeria that products are in large supply when they are in seasons and people enjoy their availability and affordability, but we would also realise that the products disappear in its due season. With the population growth, we would still have to ensure the availability of seasonal products while they are off-season too.”
To him, thousands, if not millions, of sustainable job opportunities are enmeshed in underutilization and poor value chain development of food crops.China, India and other countries, he explained, have been able to utilize food crops maximally, reducing losses and seeking raw materials from less developed economies such as Nigeria.
He called on the government to create more enabling environment, infrastructure, financing systems and empowerment for industrialists to add value to food crops.
Supporting the view, Afolabi said youth mobilisation in the oil palm value chain would be done in terms of programmes that would bring out innovations and confidence in youths to participate, and in terms of funding for innovations.
“Youths should be able to understand what the oil palm value chain is and they should be able to determine where they want to key into. Even media is a basic component of the palm oil value chain to disseminate information, to disseminate facts, figures, and statistics.
“These are aspects that youths should be working on, not necessarily going to acquire land which is difficult for them. We say add value. So, youths should be able to say so and so statistics is what we are suffering from, how do we help? Get your own catchment area and collate figures and come out to say, in this senatorial district or in this local government, we have worked in the last two years and this is the data or statistics that we have come up with. And as you are doing that, you are supplying the council, the council is funding it or paying you for it,” Afolabi said while explaining that youths could also render value chain data services.
The agro-allied industry consultant urged universities, colleges and institutes of agriculture in Nigeria to come up with post-harvest management and value addition technologies.“There is no how that a technology that is effective and efficient would be working but would not be taken up by end users. Normally, you don’t do something and keep it in your house. The most efficient technology is still promoted.“So, if you are a university, college or an institute of agriculture and you have invented some technologies, promote it,” Afolabi said.