By Franklin Alli
The Federal Government of Nigeria has been called upon to adopt The Netherland’s agricultural model to increase its food security.
Marc van der Sterren , Managing Director/CEO Farming Africa, made the call in Lagos at a workshop on ‘Sustainable Agriculture under Economic Recession.’
Van der Sterrn said “I would appeal to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, in the biggest African country, who is not only the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, but also a farmer, to focus on the empowerment of smallholder family farmers by providing them access to independent information, knowledge and education.”
He noted that the focus should not just be on economy and increasing food quantities through big industrialised agribusinesses, but the first aim should be at the smallholder family farmer, on leading subsistence farmers on a path towards sustainable commercial farming and on empowering all family farmers through independent information.
According to him, ‘Yes, our agriculture is an international economic success. The Netherlands, also called Holland is self-reliant in food production and the second agricultural exporter of the world, next to the United States.
“The Unites States is number one; The Netherlands is number two. We are not only a big exporter; we are also the fifth importer of agricultural goods in the world. In fact, we are not only a big agricultural nation, first and for all we are a trading nation.
“For example, in 2013 the Netherlands imported 3.3 billion roses worth roughly $400 million. In the same year we exported more than 3.3 billion roses worth roughly $1.1 billion. So we add about 200 percent of the value by handling, packing, transporting and processing.
Maybe a better example is protein. We import lots of vegetable protein which we turn into animal protein for export.
“Holland is the biggest European importer of soy and soy meal. Every year about 9 million tons of soy comes into the harbours of Rotterdam and Amsterdam. To produce all this soy, an area the size of The Netherlands is used in Northern and Southern America.
Roughly a third of the soy is exported directly; the rest will be crushed into meal and oil, which is also exported for the biggest part. The soy products that stay in The Netherlands are used mainly for the production of animal feed.
“With this, we can produce a lot of animal products like meat, milk and eggs. The export of meat alone mounts to $9 billion. We export mainly to Germany and the rest of Europe, but we also ship seed potatoes and unions to West-Africa, and a lot of milk goes to china, but also to Nigeria. You know about FrieslandCampinaWamco. Most of the Peak milk comes directly from our country,” he said.
Our country is very famous in the world for our agricultural knowledge and innovations. I think many of you have heard about Wageningen University. It’s proclaimed the best University of The Netherlands and even more: it’s the best agricultural University of the world.
On challenges, he said “In the past 35 years, half of all the farmers in The Netherlands have stopped, while agricultural production didn’t decrease. This means, every day, more than 6 farmers stop. Still a lot of money is made in Dutch agriculture. But it’s the small scaled farmers who are in an economic recession for the last decades.
Farming is not popular anymore. But also this is something that goes up for every country in the world. It’s not typical Dutch. Farmers have a bad image everywhere in the world. Also in Africa young people are attracted to cities and leave the countryside. The age of a farmer on average is 60. This is really a threat for food security.
Because we need smallholder family farmers, those people are the most important people in the world. 80 percent of all the food in the world, and almost 100 percent of our healthy food, is produced by those smallholder farmers.”