By EMMA UJAH, Abuja Bureau Chief
The African Union, AU, has adopted Nigeria’s e-wallet agriculture strategy with a view to ending fertilizer corruption on the continent as African leaders re-focus on deriving highest possible outputs from the sector as a growth-driver in the years ahead.
Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development disclosed this at the Pilot Leadership Forum on the sides of the World Economic Forum which ended in Abuja Friday.
According to him: “AU has now said it will adopt the e-wallet to stop fertilizer corruption in Africa”, he said following high level meetings involving Heads of Governments and Minister of Agriculture at the WEF. He said that reforms in agriculture were inevitable if the sector which provides employment for about 70 per cent of the continent’s population must positively impact on their living standards.
“We cannot continue with the agricultural practices as undertaken by our ancestors which was basically the agriculture of farming with obsolete tools of hoe and cutlass. Agriculture is not equal to suffering. We are transforming agriculture in such a way that we can all see that one can be in agriculture and make money and be rich like a banker.
“We want agriculture that will guarantee high yields from our crops and not just producing and selling primary products but adding value to the farm produce in such a way that we sell processed goods and make the sector attractive through the value chain,” he said.
On the controversy over the decision to discourage importation of rice, the minister said that those criticizing the policy and want rice importation to continue failed to recognise the fact that Nigeria had the capacity to be self-sufficient on rice production.
Thailand and India from where Nigeria’s imported rice come, had provided whopping $15 billion and $12 billion to their rice farmers, respectively and that by such importation, the nation was getting poorer, losing foreign exchange, but creating jobs for nationals of other countries.
He said that such a situation must not be allowed to continue by a responsible government and that the reforms by the Goodluck Jonathan administration was already yielding the desired results.
His words: “The various initiatives we have put in place are already showing in the volume of our rice production. The net value of our rice production between 2012 to 2013 increased to N79 billion and our expectation for the 2013 to 2014 season is N175 billion.
“With the Dry Season Rice farming initiative, we are building rice pyramids. By so doing, we are providing jobs, we are putting money into the pockets of farmers, we are rebating the rural economy. That is the way to go. I heard a Customs officer the other day saying that stopping the importation of rice had taken away the glory of Apapa Port. No. Rice importation is a shame and not glory.”
Dr. Adesina allayed fears that the crises between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in various parts of the country could bring about food crisis in the country.
According to him, the Federal Government was taking necessary steps to ensure the stocking of the nation’s strategic grains reserve which would be distributed when needed.
He lamented that the Fulani/farmers crises have spread to several parts of the country but assured that steps were being taken to address the problem at the bottom of which he identified climate change as a key factor.
He disclosed that although there were about 415 grazing reserves across the country only about 100 were gazette and that the movement of animals needed to be tackled in a more permanent way through massive investment in that sector.