Modernising Nigeria’s Agricultural Sector

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Nigeria’s Agricultural Sector: Nigeria is on the verge of diversification, enhancing the agricultural sector as one of the key drivers.

In this report Addullahi Olesin from Ilorin writes, calling on government and agricultural developers for proper pricing of farm produce which will in turn aid the way to modernisation of Agriculture in Nigeria.

As Nigeria edges towards diversification to enhance its economy, university don, Prof. Moses Omotayo has advocated the provision of appropriate pricing for farm produce by government and development practitioners as a way of modernising the agricultural sector.

Omotayo made the call during a lecture he delivered at Landmark University’s 7th Founders Day celebration held in Omu-Aran, Irepodun local government area of Kwara state. Omotayo, a prof. of Agriculture Extension and Rural Development with the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, spoke on: “Opportunities and Challenges of Modernised Agriculture in Nigeria: The Higher Education Perspective”.Nigeria’s Agricultural Sector

He said such appropriate pricing regime became imperative in order to avail farmers with a minimum guaranteed price on farm produce to boost their morale, production, yield and income. Omotayo decried the situation whereby the Nigerian farmer subsidises every consumer to the tune of between 50 and 1000 per cent for different categories of commodities in the value chain.

He said although the minimum guaranteed price scheme is already in place, he added that such had failed to address the problem of pricing comprehensively. “The average Nigerian farmer produces a cob of maize at N20 and is forced to sell between N5 and N10.“A major problem with agriculture in Nigeria, which requires special attention by government and development practitioners, is appropriate pricing of farm produce.

“More importantly, if agriculture must be modernised,” he said. He then pointed out that threat associated with huge post-harvest losses was constituting hindrance to modernising agriculture and attaining food security in Nigeria. According to him, such losses have been estimated to be as high as 20 per cent.

The expert also called for the active involvement of the nation’s 774 local government administrations in the governments’ agriculture transformation initiative to achieve the desired result. “Some may argue that inadequate funding hampers LG involvement in agricultural development in Nigeria. It is on record that even when funds were available, local governments mismanaged their resources,” he said.

He suggested the introduction of conditional grants to allow the LGs actualise their constitutionally mandated roles and responsibilities and translate financial autonomy into active economic development at the grassroots level.

This, he said, would also ensure that funds allocated through such grants are specifically on projects they are meant for. Omotayo said there was disconnect between what tertiary institutions are teaching and the needs and demands of farmers, agro-industrialists and other practitioners in the agriculture sector.

“There are three Federal Universities of Agriculture, over 40 faculties of agriculture, about 25 colleges of agriculture and 18 agriculture or related research institutes in Nigeria. “With these in place, one would have thought that the framework for modernising the sector is firmly entrenched.

Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. “There appears to be a mismatch or disconnect between the institutions’ teachings and the demand of farmers,” he said. The Vice- Chancellor of Landmark university,Prof. Adeniyi Olayanju, in his remark, said the institution’s vision was borne out of a passion for change from unsatisfactory status quo to unprecedented transformation of the black race in the scheme of development across the globe.

“To God be the glory, Landmark University has been living its vision and has over the years, distinguished herself with respect to excellent teaching and learning facilities.

“This also includes promoting mechanised agriculture and product development as well as fostering gainful value chains in agriculture.” He listed the institution’s achievements to include deliberate expansion of the farm capacity in the areas of egg production, meat production, rice cultivation, and cassava processing unit.

Others are collaboration with renowned farmers, reputable organizations, accomplished Agripreneurs, world-class universities in driving food sufficiency agenda. Olayanju implored the gathering to make good use of the lecture for the actualisation of the sustainable agricultural practice in the course of realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.

Meanwhile, the Kwara state government has put in place, policies and programmes aimed at revamping the agricultural sector in the state and to further position agriculture as a major driver of the state’s economic growth.

One of such programmes is the Off-takers Demand Driven Agriculture (ODDA) scheme, which was launched in 2014 to improve the economic wellbeing of farmers in the state and ensure that farming is attractive. The essence of the scheme is to make sure farmers have ready markets for their farm produce, thereby eliminating cost of storage and preventing post-harvest losses. The state government does this by getting buyers for the farmers.

At inception of the scheme, the state governor, Alh Abdulfatah Ahmed approved the disbursement of a N250 million loan to over 160 lead farmers across the state to engage in the production of cassava, rice, maize and soya beans on a large scale.

Subsequently, Governor Ahmed also established the Kwara Agro Mall as a one stop coordination centre for farmers’ needs, providing farmers in the state access to farm inputs, equipment, finance and other agro-allied services. Kwara Agro Mall also assists in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers by linking them with off-takers.

Nigeria’s Agricultural Sector

Since it was established, hundreds of farmers across the state have benefited from the activities of the centre. In a bid to upscale the ODDA scheme and ensure that more farmers in the state benefit from the initiative, Governor Ahmed last year approved that the state access a N1billion loan facility under the Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme (CACS) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Upon the receipt of the loan, the state government procured farm inputs worth N360 million and were distributed to farmers to boost agricultural production in the state.

READ MORE: IFAD Stakes N2.7 Billion To Boost Rice, Cassava Production In Benue State

It is important to note that the inputs are monetized as loans instead of cash so as to prevent diversion of funds to other uses, which has been the case over the years. While presenting the farm inputs to the beneficiary farmers, the then state Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Bamidele Adegoke advised them to optimally utilise the provided inputs to boost food production; in line with the resolve of the government.

He further explained that the beneficiaries had been made to go through a thorough scrutiny to ensure that those benefitting were genuine farmers and emphasized that the scheme would not only empower farmers but also create jobs and facilitate rural development. Bamidele also revealed that more inputs are still being awaited and would be distributed to beneficiary farmers based on demand as soon as they arrived.

Additionally, the State government has under its Estate Farm Development, secured and cleared about 2,500 hectares of land in different parts of the state for farming activities.

The Estate Farm initiative is unique as it ensures ease of administration, monitoring and allows the government to ensure adequate security for the farmers and their farm produce.

According to reports, over 1000 farmers are targeted to be empowered and settled on the estate farms, adding that women and unemployed youths would be given priority.