Dr. Ahmed Adekunle, is currently the Special Assistant to the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Adesina Akinwumi, on mechanization. He also doubles as the Mechanization team leader of the Agriculture Transformation Agenda team as well as the chairman Advisory Ministerial Committee.
In this chat with Vanguard, he gives an insight into the workings of the committee on efforts at getting farmers in the country to have access to tractors and how they are partnering with the private sector.
Dr. Adekunle said the tractorization in Nigeria is the lowest in the world. Here is an excerpt from the interview.
On the level of tractorization in the country
It is not hidden that the tractorization in the country is the lowest in the world. It is of the lowest in the world. I don’t see us getting to the FAO standard in the next 15-20 years technically and practically.
I mean practically even if the money is available we can’t just immediately bring in everything, we have to go in stages of demand of 0.027. But right now, we are talking of 0.0027 which is very low; it is of the lowest in terms of mechanization.
So, currently what we are putting is like dropping a needle in the ocean, but we have to start from there , even today, if they say they are giving us one million tractors, to mechanize the agriculture of this country right now we need a minimum of about 75,000 tractors.
So mechanization in the country right now is of the lowest in terms of density and intensity. I want to advise the vendors, the manufacturer representatives and the service operators’ providers to be in the look out for the brand new private sector mechanization .
It will be private sector driven as the banks will be running the show alongside the vendors who now play the role of leasing outfits.
On the work of the mechanization committee of ATA
The primary function of the committee was earlier on to come up with a report, a frame work that will deploy mechanization from the position that it was, that is when government was running the mechanization program to a complete private sector frame work.
Our job was to come up with a frame work that will deploy mechanization totally to the private sector platform.
On the role of private sector in the new scheme
The committee has completed the public sector mechanization framework and we have test driven it by calling few of the private sectors, not all of them, but those we know move the vehicle of mechanization equipment and hiring centres. We have also enlightened them about it. They are responding positively.
Let us look at when you talk about private sector responding, from the side of off takers, we are not approaching it properly because we have to look at it from the angle of funding.
If the private sector is not putting in money into the mechanization, the equipment will not be readily available for the farmers to take.
So the factor of funding is extremely important and that is the angle I want to take it from. I have seen greater response right from the moment we signed an MOU with the Bank of Agriculture.
The private sector financial institutions have studied carefully the dilution of the funding to see how government is coming out with their own funding. To see how service providers are coming and how the bankers are doing. They are responding positively.
In fact, I will tell you that we have ten banks that have individually pledged an average of N3.5billion to support the minister’s private sector mechanization program between 2013 and 2016. Altogether, they want to put about N28billion together to support his private sector program.
That is where I want you to look at the response of the private sector, if the banks are ready to put in the money; it means it is a viable frame work. If we look at it from the consumers, the off takers, it will look as if we are just yearning to fill the needs of the people without consideration of the financial aspect.
On how the smallholder farmers can key into the scheme
With the private sector financial institution embracing the private sector framework of the federal ministry of agric now , we have groups such as tractor owners , all farmers associations, cassava growers associations, independent individuals, service operators providers .
They have technically put in applications to off take this mechanization frame work from the side of the bank to deploy mechanization to the farmers.
This is how the common farmers will benefit from the mechanization, putting into consideration that our farming system in this country is limited due to the fact that our land is fragmented. It is not more than one hectare to three hectares.
Economically, it is not viable for a farmer to own a tractor. Practically and logistically it is not also viable, because for you to own a tractor in Nigeria context now, in terms of intensity and density, you need a minimum of 200 hectares for you to say this tractor is mine for which the tractor will work for three to four months of raining season.
Technically, it is not possible, so what the minister of agriculture did was to ask me to deploy the mechanization to the common farmer at his domain.