By Omoh Gabriel, Business Editor
Engineer Idowu Asenuga, Managing Director, Agri Supplies and a farmer, said he wants to see the new administration deepen and broaden the gains already made in the area of funding of agriculture as well as agricultural insurance. “The outgoing administration has made great effort in the area of the macroeconomic stability especially in the area of funding and agricultural insurance. Several initiatives have been put in place that allows farmers to access single digit interest facility with tenor as long as 10 years. Hence l wish to see the new administration deepen and broaden the gains already made in this area. “
While commending the Agricultural Transformation Agenda of the outgoing Administration, he said Nigeria as a nation currently needs to quickly as a matter of great urgency fix the burden issues within the agricultural sector. There is the need to move from paying lip services to agriculture to unlocking the huge potential inherent in the sector most especially for job creation.”
Asenuga said the sector can through a combined effort of the federal, state and local government create a minimum of 2.5 million new direct and indirect jobs in the sector annually with the involvement of other key stakeholders and good policy framework.
“If this is done the new administration would have created a total of 10 million new jobs in the agricultural sector in four years. Hence my number one expectation from this incoming administration is job creation. We must be able to focus more on crops and livestocks that gives us comparative and competitive advantage and can be easily intensified to boost food production.”
He said he will want to see the incoming government activate a national agricultural policy that uses an inclusive strategy that allows the creation of a land to table value. “This kind of policy must be carefully implemented in such a way that the entire value chain is covered.
While calling for technology and knowledge driven agriculture, Asenuga said emphasis must be placed on quality because this is the singular factor responsible for the rejection of the agricultural commodities in the western world, “and subsequently the disappearance of our groundnut pyramids, cocoa commodity boards, and oil palm among others.”
He added “with the production of quality exportable commodities Nigeria can begin to earn direct foreign income from other countries. I still insist that we need to learn from our neighbor across the Atlantic Brazil which was in the same agricultural export level with Nigeria in the 60’s but has over the years grown to become the third largest agricultural exporter after United States and the EU with an annual agricultural export of over $30 billion dollars which is equivalent to our annual income from oil.”
Research and Development as foundation for agricultural development
Prof. Shehu Garki Ado , the Vice Chancellor, Al-Qalam University, Katsina said Nigeria needs demand-driven research agriculture as the sector is expected to provide food security, employment, raw materials to industries and income among others.
He said Nigerian farmers and policy makers have achieved a series of significant successes in agricultural development although these successes are still inadequate in number and scale to counter its daunting demographic challenge.
Prof. Ado said Agricultural research is one of the most important drivers of growth in agricultural productivity, food security, rural poverty reduction and economic transformation. Additional investment in agricultural research and development will increase agricultural productivity more than any other form of public investments in rural areas
He said considering the vast human and natural resources endowed in the country, it is quite feasible for agricultural research to propel agricultural development, if conducive policy environment is maintained and resources are used judiciously.
“Research and focused efforts have led to sustained gains in specific commodities. Researchers have introduced a number of crop varieties and livestock breeds and fisheries as well as innovative soil and water conservation initiatives in a wide variety of locations to contend with declining soil fertility and declining fertilizer subsidies.”
Prof. Ado, who was once the Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University, Samaru Zaria, said Agricultural research can help alleviate poverty in many ways. Farm households that adopt improved technologies can benefit directly from higher yields and incomes. The indirect impacts of research such as cheaper food and more jobs can also improve the living standards of the wider population.
He urged the incoming government to fund Research Institutes in order for them to commercialize their findings like mechanical technologies generated instead of waiting for manufacturing companies to come and request for them.
He said the incoming government should focus on proper intervention in extension activities, which he said can result in doubled or tripled crop yields above the national averages giving rise to marked improvement in income and living standard. “Standards of quality, size and packing are required for various fruits and vegetables to aid wholesale marketing and export. He added that given the growing role of private research in biotechnology and hybrid breeding, incoming governments must develop partnerships and protocols for making new technologies developed in the private sector available to smallholder farmers.
He said for Nigeria agriculture to become number one national revenue earner, irrigation development should be given the needed attention, “Increased agricultural development and irrigation, enhancement of the commerce and water supply were some of the measures that must be tackled before a solid foundation for agricultural development is built.
According to the Managing Director, Accion Microfinance Bank, Ms. Bumi Lawson, “We certainly know that with the incoming government, there would be an expansion in the role of micro-finance banks. We do know that the micro finance banks truly provide financial access and when people have financial access they are able to grow their income level.
“If you look at the poverty level in Nigeria, it is quite high, so the role of MfB is to provide capital, save savings, accumulation of wealth, micro insurance, certainly needs to be highlighted. As the incoming government comes in, they need to focus on economic growth and improving the well being of the average Nigerians on the street.
“In last regime we have seen economic growth but it was not distributed across all sectors of the Nigerian economy, when you talk of income strata for people at the bottom of the pyramid, low income earners were left out. Microfinance needs to address that and I believe the incoming government needs to provide access to capitals, technology improvement and infrastructure improvement so that we can expand our reach and really address our needs and improve the lives of the average Nigeria,” she said.