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Dry season farming: Stakeholders speak on deepening food insecurity

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Most small-scale farmers in Nigeria rely on rainfed cultivation and do not have access to adequate water sources to engage in large-scale dry season production, leading to local shortages of important crops and high market prices in the dry season due to the lack of technique to cultivate them when the weather condition becomes harsh.

The unpredictability of rainfall patterns and amount in northern Nigeria implies the need for farmers to engage in dry-season farming to boost their incomes.

With the growing population of the country and the realisation that importation of any major food item will continually drain the country’s external reserves, export its jobs to countries where those food items are produced and the need to be food-secure, President Muhammadu Buhari established a National Food Security Council to address challenges in the country’s food and agriculture sectors.

So, in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari flagged off the dry season farming campaign in Kebbi State with active support from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN’s N20 billion Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, ABP.

Ever since then, the CBN has supported hundreds of farmers through the ABP, providing them with loans to initiate dry season farming after they must have learned the practice. As of January 2021, The Central Bank of Nigeria has disbursed N554.61 billion to 2, 849,490 farmers to boost food security under its Anchor Borrowers’ Programme beginning from 2015.

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In a communique issued in Abuja recently, Mr Godwin Emefiele, the CBN governor explained that out of the amount, N61.02 billion was disbursed to 353,370 dry season farmers.

“Of the CBN’s real sector interventions, under the ABP, N554.63 billion was disbursed to 2,849,490 beneficiaries in 2015, of which N61.02 billion was allocated to 359,370 dry season farmers.

“Indeed, total disbursements as of January 2021 amounted to N2 trillion.

“We have also disbursed N106.96 billion to 27,956 beneficiaries under the AgriBusiness Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Scheme,” Emefiele said.

While most governors are keying into the programme, Governor Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe State speaking at the commemoration of the national rice festival and the flag-off of the North-East 2021 and 2nd cycle 2021 dry season rice cultivation programme and 2020 wet season harvest aggregation and sales of paddy rice to millers held in the state, said but for the policy direction of President Muhammadu Buhari and the sound support of the CBN, the heaps of rice pyramids on display would not have been possible.

“The pyramids are back and we are happy to see this and let me recall that only in January, the management of the Central Bank with the National Cotton Association were here in Gombe and they kick-started the aggregation process of cotton farmers who equally paid the facilities they took in kind to signal the return of cotton production.”

He said Gombe state was a shining example in the Anchor Borrower Programme of the Central Bank of Nigeria because farmers in the state were poised on taking advantage of the programme to boost agricultural production and eventually pay in kind facilities obtained to maintain sustainability.

He added that his state had a favourable climatic condition for the production of sorghum, sesame seeds, and other agricultural commodities, making it a perfect destination for agriculture revolution in the North-East sub-region.

Also, the National President of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, RIFAN, Alh Muhammad Goronyo, commended the CBN for supports for rice farmers under the scheme, adding that rice farmers plan to achieve five million metric tones under dry season.

He said, “If our consumption capacity is about eight million metric tones, it means we have enough to consume locally and export the excess we produce.

“That is why the CBN partnered RIFAN to come up with the strategic dry season farming and we can achieve it.

“In the North, we have a long dry season period of between seven to eight months, so we can comfortably cultivate rice twice in one dry season.”

However, the growing embrace of dry season farming in Nigeria has not come without its challenges. For farmers who cultivate perishable crops like tomatoes, watermelon and other fruits, the loss of a huge amount of the produce can be discouraging.

For instance, tomato farmers in northern Nigeria report losses of over 40 per cent of their yield due to poor storage and processing facilities. For those among the farmers whose farms were financed under the ABP, it is a misfortune that will affect their relationship with the apex bank.

A farmer, who does not want his name in print, said “The introduction of dry season farming in Nigeria is a development that its yield will result in food security and employment. However, preservation of crops and farm produce is necessary for sustaining the idea. A provision of sustainable storage system or subsidy of farm yields will alleviate the vulnerability of individual farmers who cannot preserve their crops.”

The President, All Farmers Association Of Nigeria, AFAN, Arc Kabir Ibrahim, said the impact of the dry season farming is not being felt in terms of prices of food items.

He said “ From the records of farmers involved in dry season farming we don’t have appreciable farmers being supported to do it.

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“Dry season is regional. In the Southern part of the country raining season farming is already on, but in the North here it is not raining, so we must identify regions and crops and then do it seriously so that it can augment what we produce during the wet season.

Wale Oyekoya, CEO, Bama Farms, said if the dry season project of the CBN is working, the prices of food items in the market would have shown as prices of food are on the high side in the country at present.

Oyekoya said the intervention by the apex bank in dry season farming is not working as continued attacks on farmers in the north have made it impossible for farmers to go to their farms, while in the south, the intervention is targeted at the political farmers.

“The only way the intervention can make an impact is to target stakeholders and the real farmers in the business. They know the real farmers and not the political farmers we are talking about.

“We have associations, we have co-operatives and what happened to the Bank of Agriculture that is supposed to channel the money to the right people? The BOA has been crippled.

But, The president of Hope Concept Cooperative, Mr Akin Agboola, said they received bags of maize seeds, sprayers, herbicides, insecticides and fertiliser, among others, at Mologede, near Abeokuta, Ogun State, to boost maize productivity.

He said the intervention came after about three years of failed attempts to secure support from the ABP scheme but commended the CBN for granting the facilities through EcoBank.

Another farmer, Idowu Asenuga, echoed the same sentiment on security as he said nothing can be achieved when farmers can no longer go to their farms.

“Issue of security is number one to have any impact of dry season farming intervention in the country. How can you end insecurity if 33% of Nigerians are unemployed?”

But, the chairman of the Maize Grower, Processor and Marketer Association of Nigeria (MAGPMAN), Ogun State, Prince Adefioye Ahmed, said expanding ABP operations in the southern zones by the CBN is more reasonable in the face of insecurity in the north.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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