Agriculture which in recent time has become a hub for economic activities, has been tipped by stakeholders to take over from petroleum as the major export commodity for Nigeria which will boost the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Furthermore, government over the years have embarked on series of programmes and interventions targeted at changing the perception of agriculture which is widely seen as a stressful venture rather than a viable business.
Agribusiness, therefore was introduced in Nigeria to attract youths into agriculture by providing necessary farm mechanisations which makes farming less stressful and more profitable.
This economic improving activity was however copied by the Oyo state government when it gathered its indigenes in the northern part of the country to train them on modern agriculture practices, food safety and agribusiness.
The training workshop which took place at the Oyo State Liaison office in Abuja was targeted at equipping the participants with basic knowledge of agribusiness, loan access and food safety practices.
Speaking with Nigerian Tribune, during the workshop, the Senior Special Assistant to the State governor on Intergovernmental Relations, Dr Olusola Falana, said the government will do a follow up on the training to see areas of interventions.
She noted that the State government will also make arrangements on how the trainees will access some of the Federal government loans and other intervention aids in agriculture to assist them in engaging in agribusiness.
“The Oyo state government is going to follow up on the training workshop, for instance they already have a group, so when they do things in a group it would be easier for them, so maybe they will form a cooperative, so that they can access different kind of benefits from the Federal government, already the Federal government have systems in place where they can rent out tractors and other farming equipment that are affordable and at reduced cost.
“So what we will do for them is to first of all link them up with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in Kano, Kaduna and other northern states where they can go to rent farm equipment, good seedlings. So we will act as a intermediary between them and the Federal government ministries in their states.
“If we are able to do that, it means from now on they will have access to reduced cost of equipment, they will have access to affordable seeds, livestock feeds. From what they were taught it shows that farming is also for those who are educated, you don’t have to bend down and start cutting grass or weeding, there are simple equipment that are not heavy, those things are available for them where they can work for minimum amount of time on their farms and yet have a lot of returns.
Meanwhile, the trainees expressed delight over the training, they also expressed high hopes on the training workshop, calling on the state government to ensure that they are linked up with financial institutions to get loans to start up agricultural activities.
Prince Oye Adeagbo of the Oyo State Descendants Association in Kaduna, said “my expectation is very high because we came here with high hopes of how we are going to improve our knowledge, especially the way out financially, because we have many of us that are serious about going into agriculture, many of us want to venture into animal husbandry, but without financial support there is nothing we can do.
“So after the workshop which as it is going we are actually impressed, but after all said and done, it is still going to come to access to fund, so the expectation is the knowledge that will come out of the workshop, then the finance that we will be expecting from government.
“Apart from the financial assistance, first of all the workshop as it is going, we are going to get more exposure into the nitty gritty of agricultural practice, what we learnt today, 75 per cent is strange to us.
“I want to venture into animal husbandry generally, rearing of goats and grasscutter, snail, then I will also venture into cultivation and processing of shea butter.
Dr Falana further said that there are loan facilities in the state, adding that the trainees will be qualified before they can access the loan. She also said that subsequently, the Commissioner for Agriculture in the state will be invited to address the trainees on some of the agricultural activities in the state which they can benefit from.
She said: “There are other loans they can access from the state, but they have to qualify for them, so basically when we do a follow up training is when we are going to bring the Commissioner to guide them on how to access loans and other incentives from the state.
Furthermore, the Dr Falana said that an expert was invited from the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) to train the trainees on how to handle agricultural products to avoid infection.
She said there were plans for some of the trainees, agricultural products to be exported, hence the training was important to teach them how to avoid contamination of the products.
“We have also invited representatives from UNIDO to address them on food processing and food safety. They will be trained on how to get certification from relevant authorities on food safety so that at the long run, they can export their agricultural products.
“So they will be trained on how to buy agricultural products, carefully process them or store them for them to be exported or sold locally.
“So basically what we have provided for them is for them to be able to hire or purchase equipment at reduced rate, to get seeds that are good for their soil, that are certified and can yield good returns at reduced rate and also to teach them how to access fund either from the Federal government or the state”, she noted.
To this effect, a National Expert on Food Safety John Tehinse, from the UNIDO Implemented Project; National Quality Infrastructure Project ( funded by the European Union), was invited to train the participants on food safety.
According to Mr Tehinse, “what I want to tell them is the importance of food safety as it relates to agribusiness. Food safety is key to commercial agriculture, if your food is not safe, nobody is going to buy, so we want to talk to them what is food safety, how to ensure that your food is safe from farm to the table and food safety starts from the farm, so the farmer must understand the concept of food safety.
“Everybody along the chain; the processor, caterer, the transport, everybody must understand the concept of food safety, so that we have a safe food supply chain.
“Once there is a break, then we have food contamination, and if we have food contamination, which can lead to several diseases which include lassa Fever, Diarrhea and others, now we have a lot of Nigerians suffering from cancer and it is food related, so these are some of the things we want to talk about.
“Nigeria is under ban now, about 67 agricultural products, we cannot export, and the reason for that is contamination, food in Nigeria is contaminated and nobody wants to go near it until we are able to preach the gospel of food safety, people accept it, people still talk about food security, if your food is not safe, your food will be dangerous for consumption, so if we understand the concept of food safety, we will now begin to build a culture to practicing safe food healthy practices, and of course we will now begin to talk about agribusiness, so we are laying the foundation”.
Other members from the Oyo State Indigenes Association, Kano were also at the 2-day Argo-Economic Seminar for Oyo State Indigenes, Northern Nigeria.