By Jimoh Babatunde
ILORIN—The Federal Government says to bring about the needed change in agriculture that there is need to focus energy more on developing and creating enabling environment for the rural areas to grow as the nature of the new growth in Nigeria is one that is inclusive and opens up the rural economy.
Speaking at the flag off of the second phase of the Agricultural Equipment Hiring Enterprise, AEHE, yesterday in Ilorin, the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, said it would be unthinkable and counterproductive, to think of developing agriculture in Nigeria by continuing to distribute hoes, machetes, axes and ordinary and low yielding seeds to farmers.
“Capitalism puts wealth in the hands of the drivers but the time to democratise capitalism, especially in the Nigerian agricultural sector is now. This government is committed to achieving an all-inclusive growth,” he said.
While noting that agriculture has regrettably been seen to be synonymous with poverty, the minister of agriculture said no country can practise agriculture sustainably without agricultural mechanisation.
“Although over 50 million hectares of arable land are presently not in use, the 40 million hectares in use are poorly developed and not very tractorable.”
Ogbeh explained that the low level of mechanisation limits the ability of farmers to expand cultivated areas, perform timely farm operations and achieve economies of scale in increasing food production.
He added that Europe today is over-mechanised, USA is completely mechanised, but regretted that in African countries, including Nigeria, only five per cent of farm labour is done using tractor.
“Although Nigeria, for a very long time, has not conducted a valid inventory of our tractor density, this may be less than five tractors to 1,000 hectares.”
Audu Ogbeh noted that with the renewed commitment of the present administration to end unbridled importation of all kinds of food items and make the country self sufficient in food will deepen and widen the Private Sector-driven Agricultural Mechanisation Framework, PSDAMF, strategies in partnership with local fabricators and manufacturer representatives.
“This flag-off serves as the commencement of the Buhari Administration’s vision to aggressively commercialise and mechanise Nigeria’s agriculture by introducing about 2,000 units of tractors and various kinds of harvesting and processing equipment to mechanise our farming annually, while also building Nigerian local content and capacity to sustain and advance mechanisation to suit best practices worldwide.”