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Govt policies on rice do not encourage local production’

Dr. Abdullahi Adamu is an administrator, politician,  a lawyer and a farmer. The immediate past Governor of Nasarawa State is today the Chairman, Board of Trustees, National Agricultural Foundation of Nigeria (NFAN) as well as the National President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN).

In this chat with Jimoh Babatunde at the just concluded National Agricultural Show organised by  National Agricultural Foundation of Nigeria, Dr. Adamu took out time to explain the reasons for the show and other issues as they affect Nigerian farmers and the agricultural sector in the country. Here is an excerpt

On the motives for setting up Agricultural Foundation
Well, like I did indicate during my address at the opening ceremony, the motivation that gave birth to the national agriculture foundation of Nigeria emanated from the fact of the pathetic situation we find facing the fortune of agriculture.

We have been talking over the years about the fact that our agriculture has not attained certain height it was before independence and immediately after and that since independence agriculture fortunes have been downward. This is particularly so, the moment we discovered oils which was giving us cheap money and we started moving backward to a point we almost abandoned agriculture which used to be the mainstay of Nigeria economy.

So we decided to mobilize people and organizations that share our attitude, that share our thinking and those that are of like minds with us. Those who have the commitment to contribute their quota to the issues of repositioning agriculture again, so that it can be seen as the main plank of the economy pursuit and regeneration of this country.

We now formed the Nigerian Agricultural Foundation and the primary partners in this are the Nasarawa state government, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Federal Ministries of Commerce, Industries and Education. We also brought in stakeholders from the six zones and some individual farmers.

On the Agricultural Show
The reason we decided to  make it the flagship of the activities of the foundation is because we need a forum. A forum where farmers can express themselves practically, where you can have a practical impression of what Nigeria produces from the various part of the country.

Where you ill get the out come of researches by various research institutions and bring together people who manufacture agriculture equipment, machineries; bring together people who manufacture agro inputs like fertilizers, herbicides, among others as well as potential exporters of Nigerian produce and of course those who market finish products, like processors. We also have the general public, the consumers who are there to get things for themselves in mind
On the need to have organised farmers body

Nothing good comes easy. We appreciate the fact that in the 50 years of our independence a lot of ground that have been yielding dividends has been lost. It is pathetic that 50 years after independence we are still involved in very rudimentary method of production on our farms.

You still see farmers working with hoes, cutlasses, you still see farmers without water for irrigation, we are crying of floods now, but by January see people looking for water to drink not to talk of water to farm; we lack energy to initiate value addition in our farms properly and effectively.

The farmers have no access to funds so that they can get themselves involved with the method of mechanization. The farmers have not got the right education for commercial agriculture. I don’t know how many farmers have basic knowledge of book keeping for their farm operations. These are the problems and this is what they have been living with over the years.

So,  what we at the All Farmers Association of Nigeria have been trying to do in the five years of its existence is to try to begin to impact knowledge positively in the minds of our peasants’ farmers. AFAN is advocating and wanting to enlighten our farmers to take interest in their farms and also to remind the government of its responsibilities   to provide the infrastructure that will make the farming environment conducive for both the old and the young.
On the championing of provision of seedlings and equipment to small holder farmers

Well it is a very pathetic situation again what we have in our hands. The planning has been a little bit defective. I am happy to hear the minister of agriculture say at the world food day seminar that they have made mistake and that there is a lot of disconnects in policy implementation, this means we have not had policy consistency, no continuity over the years. He believes these are mistakes and even went as far as apologizing for this on behalf of the government.

The issue of fertilizers is too simple, here you are, you have convinced farmers to appreciate what fertilizers can do and those who have seen the importance have become addicted to fertilizers application on their farms.

Now they don’t have the fertilizers. If they have it, the price is so exorbitant that they may not have the power to buy the quantity they want. Even when they have the money to buy, the fertilizers do not come on time.
A lot of policies have been tested, there is the fertilizer voucher that is being introduced in some states, we are hoping that by the time it gets to all the states may be it will be easier to procure fertilizers especially fertilizers produced here in Nigeria.

But one thing, which we cannot run away from, is the fact that everybody knows the planting season sometimes commences around April, so what sense does it make to bring fertilizers around August? . Are they bought for dry season farmers alone or generality of Nigerian farmers? .  This has been on for years.

The issue of subsidies, why is government running away from the issue of subsidies? . America welfare as it is, as simple as it is,  still subsidized its farmers till tomorrow. We have said it time and again. I have heard leaders say that the new world order will not allow them what they are doing for their farmers.

If your  people know what you are doing is good for them, they will stand by you, but this is not happening.  What is the ratio of tractors to Nigerian farmers? ,

Recently there has been this talk about big time farmers,   I am not a big time farmer but at least by Nigeria standard I can say I am a commercial farmer but how many of us are commercial farmers in Nigeria population of farmers.
On importation of rice into the country

I have said it before that we are not just patient. You can go to the archives to see the number of policies on rice production, anybody who  is seriously into agriculture or studied agriculture know which part of Nigeria produces rice and the areas with the potentials to feed this country and all of west Africa with rice.

Policies have come in that regards. What has become of them? We have the river basin authorities. We have the various Agriculture  projects.

Virtually every state has the world bank-assisted programs.  We have got several agriculture institutes. They come with policies, you don’t know where the public sector starts, where it ends, where it is public private partnership. What success have we made out of it and the failures?

That is why we will continue talking about rice production and here they are. The Nigeria rice is good, nutritious but because of the method of production it has stones, but you can bring de-stoners under deliberate policies and locate them in strategic places, put them in private hands, make profits pay you back.

If they bring them, they will give to those powers that be and they will take these machines away and the actual farmers will not have access.

So rice production can be done, we have capacity, but the policies are such that instead of encouraging rice production are actually serving as a deterant.

What sense does it make when Nigerian farmers are busy tilling 10-20 hectares of rice and they have got several of them in different geographical location in the country and why they are doing this you go and bring 500m metric tonnes of rice into the country?

The family should see it as its duty as the public sector must show the way, and if  the private sectors see it, they will buy into it. Now unfortunately we don’t see that.

On where he wants to see agriculture in the next decade.
It may hope and prayer is that we binging to put to practice all these advocacies. All these papers we have had through workshops, seminars and what have you, they  are there in their thousands in various shelves across the country.
Go to the federal ministry of agriculture and just do a project, believe me you can do a PhD with the number of papers, suggestions on how to move agricultur

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