On the whole this administration has done very well in agriculture but more needs to be done to attain food sufficiency
By Gabriel Ewepu
In this interview the National President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria, AFAN, Arc Kabir Ibrahim, spoke on the journey so far by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in the agricultural sector in the last six years, and made demands on vital issues that would galvanize the sector and position it for greater productivity as he pointed out other issues.
As the nation’s apex farmers’ organisation, what is your assessment and score of farmers’ access to fertilizer and other farm inputs in the last six years under the Buhari-led administration?
In the last five years, the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative, PFI, did creditably well in the supply of fertilizer but this year the PFI is in the backseat and the farmers are not getting any subsidy on the 20:10:10 which is the flagship of the government’s subsidy to the Nigerian farmers.
There is noise about supply of other inputs from Federal Ministry of Agriculture ad Rural Development, which is hardly noticeable. On the whole this administration has done very well in agriculture but more needs to be done to attain food sufficiency.
Is AFAN satisfied with farmers’ access to finance and funding from government and donors to boost their productivity?
Like Oliver Twist we want some more but the government has done a remarkable job especially through the Central Bank of Nigeria Anchor Borrower Programme.
What areas in agric value chains your expectations were not really met by this administration?
In General, value addition and general processing still need a lot more attention especially in the provision of stable and sustainable power.
On job creation, did the Buhari-led administration really created avenues along the value chains to massively engage young people?
The government is doing a lot in job creation through National Agricultural Land Development Authority, NALDA, where it is recruiting 1000 youths in each of the 774 Local Government Areas.
Everyone of the youths when properly trained and empowered will be able to create at lease 100 jobs in 10 years.
This could translate into 774,000 x 100= 70,740,000 a little short of Mr President’s wish to lift 100,000,000 people out of poverty in 10 years. This calls for taking the assignment seriously and carrying the farmers along every part of the way, though!
In terms of technology, did this administration inject this to boost farmers’ productivity to improve food production?
This is becoming jinxed as we are yet to see the much talked about mechanization by the current Honourable Minister of Agriculture translated into reality. We can say mechanization is clearly still a work in progress.
Are you satisfied with the interaction between the Ministry of Agric and farmers in terms of interventions?
Absolutely not! As a matter of fact there is little or no contact between AFAN and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development since the current Honourable Minister of Agriculture came on board. The agric policy to supersede APP is still not functional.
The CBN and other institutions like NALDA are making the FMARD toothless at it were. Thankfully the real farmers are operating their farms regardless.
What about quality seeds, did farmers have access to this important input to increase food production?
The National Agricultural Seed Council, NASC, is doing a good job in regulating the seed companies so the farmers have access to good seeds. Some us are still in denial on the choice of seeds rather that planting grains though.
Any plan to distribute seeds by anyone in Nigeria should get the nod of the NASC going forward to ensure productivity.
What about the Anchor Borrower Programme by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), what is your assessment of it on farmers’ productivity and the repayment of loans?
It is quite good but can be a game changer if it targets the real farmers transparently. The Anchor Borrower Program is a good Scheme but it needs overhaul to be the game changer that it is designed to be. It should target the real farmers through AFAN transparently.
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On the issue of border closure, what is AFAN’s assessment and score as far as food production and sufficiency is concerned?
It has made us to work assiduously to feed the entire country. The resilience of the Nigerian farmer is now appreciated against this backdrop. Indeed, there are pockets of challenges in price hike that can be attributed to the border closure but with a little perseverance we should be able to wriggle out of it.
Can you tell Nigerians that the nation has attained self-sufficiency in food production under these six years of the Buhari-led administration?
No, we are yet to have food sufficiency but we are on the way with a little more right sizing and innovation. The drivers of Agriculture should be more focused and result oriented.
What is AFAN’s concern on farmer’ plight under this government?
Our major concern now is insecurity as it deters a good number of us from accessing our farmers so urge government to do more in this respect.
This Administration/government has put agriculture in the front burner no doubt but to secure the farmers at work is absolutely necessary to attain food security.
Are you impressed with agric export under this administration?
It is not very impressive but it promises to be very impactful due to our signing up to AfCFTA.
As this administration winds up in less than two years ahead, what do you demand should be vigorously done in the agric sector to really achieve diversification of the economy which is this administration’s target?
As this administration winds up it should design a policy to replace the defunct Agriculture Promotion Policy, APP, and actualize the mechanization it promised to do via the $ 1.1 billion loan from Brazil as well provide stable and sufficient power to support processing and value addition sustainably.