As entrepreneurs set to establish service centres in 774 LGs

By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

As Nigeria’s agricultural sector is seriously hit by numerous challenges, the partnership between the Federal Government and Government of Brazil has yielded €995 million mechanization loan to boost mechanization of Nigeria’s agricultural sector soon.

This was disclosed in an address by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Nanono, Thursday, at the 44th meeting of the National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development held in Abuja.

Nanono who highlighted efforts made by his Ministry amid the daunting challenges the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic, said the Meeting was held at the right time as it will serve as platform for appraising existing policies, programmes and projects at the National and sub-national levels for the purpose of entrenching synergy, best practices, entrepreneurship, livelihood and growth in the sector.    

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He said the Buhari-led government in its wisdom and strategy came up with an initiative called Agric for Food and Jobs Programme, AFJP, originally conceived as an input loan for smallholder farmers across several commodities including maize, rice, cotton, groundnut, sorghum, cowpea, soybean, sesame, cassava and oil-palm.

He also explained that the scheme was in partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Commodity Associations and Agricultural Platform Companies for effective facilitation with the aim of not only to improve production significantly but also aid in the off-taking of the produce while providing input at reduced price due to economy of scale.

According to him to ensure that farm inputs get to the intended and benefiting farmers a database was created for all the participating farmers under AFJP, where biodata of the farmers was captured and linked it with the geographical information of their farmed plots, crops  and volumes they produce.

He said initially biodata of 2.4 million farmers were captured across the country, but later was expanded to capture 10 million farmers’ biodata, which the data base will serve as platform for government interventions going forward, and he expressed optimism that it will put an end to “ghost schemes and other unscrupulous practices in the agricultural industry.”

Meanwhile, he pointed out that the National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP, has been adjudged worldwide to be a well-conceived project which seeks to transform the nation’s livestock sector from nomadic-dependent sector into an organized ranching one, which 22 States and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, have registered with the NLTP Office.

He also disclosed that out of the 22 States, 10 States have created their own teams which have been trained by the Federal Office, while seven of these 10 States have also earmarked about 19 Grazing Reserves for the implementation of the NLTP, with a total land size of approximately 400,000 hectares.

He maintained that it is safe that the NLTP when fully implemented will bring an end to the incessant clashes between the farmers and herdsmen and at the same time introduce the herders to the modern way of raising cattle.

According to him a Dutch consortium is partnering the Federal Government for the implementation of the first pilot State was able to attract a grant from the Netherlands to start-up the NLTP pilot in Nasarawa State.

He said: “Agricultural productivity can only improve through mechanization of production activities. In our effort to improve the agricultural production profile of the country, we have entered into a partnership with the government of Brazil through one of their foremost technology transfer institution, the Fundacao Getulio Vargas (FGV).

“This partnership has yielded an Agricultural Mechanisation loan to the tune of nine hundred and ninety five million euros (€995m). This shall be granted to Nigerian entrepreneurs to establish Service Centres across all the 774 Local Governments of the country, selling services to all categories of farmers and thereby helping to improve their productivity.

“The service centres shall be of either a Type 1, supporting production activities; or a Type 2, supporting processing and packaging activities.”

Meanwhile, speaking on the effort of his Ministry on capacity building and deployment of agricultural extension workers, he said, “All around growth in the agricultural sector will happen a lot faster with abundance of knowledge. In order to ensure this, the Ministry has embarked on increasing the number of available extension workers in the different aspects of our operations.

“This year, about 1, 200 extension workers have been trained. With the Green Imperative Project launching soon, there is a component of it that will see to the training of extension workers in agricultural mechanization and other important aspects of crop and livestock operations. Such extension workers will be available to support further government interventions, thereby boosting our productivity exponentially.”

According to him (Nanono) a major hallmark of government’s agricultural interventions is inclusiveness.

“We have tried to cater to youths, women and many other demographic considerations in our implementation strategies. I would therefore like to implore everyone here-present to follow suit, as well as imbibe the spirit of transparency and cooperation”, he stated.

In a goodwill message, the Country Director, ActionAid Nigeria, AAN, Ene Obi, said farmers are being supported by AAN in the state of Delta , Ogun, Kogi, Kwara, Gombe, Bauchi, Ebonyi and Federal Capital Territory, FCT.

Ene said: “On issues of public financing agriculture and women in decision making process. We are also supporting the smallholder women farmers in the 36 States of the federation through the platform of the smallholder farmers.”

She also acknowledged that the theme of the Meeting was timely amid the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges, which she said farmers made huge losses as result of no access to markets, others include the fisheries industry, where fish farmers did not have access to fish feeds as prices went up and they also suffered low patronage, which also greatly affected their livelihoods.

“The current spate of insecurity in Nigeria is holding the small scale women farmers from going to the farmers for fear of being raped. When we mentioned that 30 women were raped is in your data but when they said your daughter or wife was raped is rape and becomes personal. We need to address this as it affects women”, she stated.

She added that smallholder women farmers forms the bulk to produce food over 200 million Nigerians eat, including young people’s involvement in agriculture has contributed enormously to food production, which AAN works with.

She called on the Council to approve reasonable budget allocation to the agricultural sector at both state and federal from the meagre amount usually allocated to it but at least 10 per cent should be allocated to the sector at both the state and federal levels, and in addition, they should do timely release of the money, and specifically create budget line for smallholder women farmers.

However, she commended the Minister of Agriculture for launching the National Gender Policy, and described it as milestone for AAN including inaugurating a steering committee to implement the policy, and also called on states to follow suit, and promised to support and collaborate with the Ministry of Agriculture at both State and Federal levels.

Also in a goodwill message, Country Representative, Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, Nigeria, Fred Kafeero, said, “FAO and the UN system in Nigeria is therefore concerned with the impact of COVID-19 and insecurity are limiting agriculture and limiting the productivity of farmers and handicapping the ability of farmers to produce their food.

“On the longer term this will cause many challenges in the livelihoods of many people. This meeting is also timely as he country has placed agriculture for its economic diversification and developing value chains, increasing efforts into agribusiness, agro industrialization and tapping into global markets for the diverse agriculture products that are produced in this country.

“Needless to say, the enormous work to transform agriculture and rural development calls for closer collaborations and synergy, especially, across ministries and stakeholders.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

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