The University of Nigeria, Nsukka, (UNN) says it is embarking on a tractorisation project, which is aimed at moving Nigeria out of the stranglehold of food insecurity.
The Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Benjamin Ozumba, said this when he featured at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja on Thursday.
He said that the university, in collaboration with some foreign and Nigerian universities, the private sector, governments and other relevant stakeholders, would begin the project with the production of 500 tractors.
Ozumba said that the project would be executed via four platforms, adding that these included the Tractor Assembly/Manufacturing Production (TAMP) and Tractor Value Chain Support Service (TVCSS) schemes.
He said that the other two platforms were the Tractor Vocational and Entrepreneurship Programme (TCEP) and the Tractor Outreach/Extension Workshop Support Centres (TOEWSC) schemes.
“We need tractorisation.
“So, the vision is to move Nigeria out of this stranglehold of food insecurity to food security so that we can export and make money for our God-given territory,’’ he said.
The vice-chancellor, who noted that Nigeria was a commodity-based economy, said that the university was embarking on the project so as to facilitate the transition of the country from a commodity-based economy to a knowledge-based economy.
He said that the tractorisation project was introduced, as part of efforts to commercialise the institution to enable it to be self-financing, while generating revenue for the Federal Government.
According to him, “With the tractorisation, we will be able to achieve the goals of the Minister of Agriculture and the Federal Republic of Nigeria to generate more than 15 billion dollars annually to pay our external debts and run the country.
“Every other country that has made it now is able to feed itself. The big question is can Nigeria feed itself with peasant farming? The big answer is ‘No’.
“We still struggle to produce palm oil and groundnut oil, which we used to be greatest exporters, and so on.’’
Ozumba said that most of the citizens still engaged in peasant farming, adding that the farmers also relied on crude farm implements to produce food which was not enough to feed the nation.
“If you read the dailies often, you will see that the Minister of Agriculture has been repeatedly saying that if we are not able to generate 15 billion U.S. dollars through exports, Nigeria will be in trouble by the year 2020.
“The question then is how do we do that? Currently, most farmers in Nigeria engage in peasant farming.
“Peasant farming is where farmers just go to their farms to produce enough cocoyam, enough cassava, enough Ugwu (vegetable) and so on, just to feed their families.
“It cannot get Nigeria anywhere and we will just go about importing rice when we can produce better quality rice in the country.
“But can we produce rice with our bare hands as we do now? The answer is a big ‘No’; so we need tractorisation to boost mechanised farming.
“The only way this can happen is to use our land resources maximally and see how many hectares we can put under cultivation.
“But you cannot cultivate hectares of land without the use of tractors, hence the rationale behind our tractorisation project.
“Honestly, you cannot engage in large-scale farming without the use of tractors,’’ he added.