From all indications, the Federal Government has been striving to promote the food security of the country.
Observers say that the government has demonstrated its determination to boost food production in the country via its sustained support to the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation (NCAM), for instance.
They note that the government’s efforts are essentially based on the fact that no nation can satisfy the food requirements of its citizens it solely relies on subsistence farming.
NCAM was set up by Degree No. 35 of 1990 (now an Act of the National Assembly), with the overall objective of accelerating the pace of mechanisation in the agricultural sector.
Speaking on mechanised farming, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, maintained that it was only mechanised farming that could guarantee Nigeria’s food security.
The minister made the assertion recently in Ilorin during the launch of some machines developed by NCAM.
Adesina stressed that mechanisation services were included in the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GES) of the Federal Government’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) because of the importance of mechanised farming.
At the event, NCAM displayed some of its innovative fabrications like Tricketor — the first made-in-Nigeria tractor.
The minister gave the assurance that the machines produced by NCAM would be distributed to 18 states across the country for endorsement and subsequent commercialisation.
However, Adesina used the occasion to assure the country’s farmers that tangible efforts were underway to supply them with quality equipment and mechanised services.
He said that the Federal Government had been able to attract AGCO, the world’s leading manufacturer of tractors, to invest about $100 million (about N16 billion) in the country.
Besides, the minister said that an all-inclusive private sector-driven equipment hiring scheme had been introduced to improve the farmers’ access to affordable mechanised services.
Adesina said that the hiring of machines would be subsidised and managed through private sector-driven Agricultural Equipment Hiring Enterprise in “priority’’ sites across the country.
He pledged that 60 of such enterprises would be established across the country and equipped with 300 units of tractors, 1, 590 planting, harvesting and post-harvesting agricultural equipment.
Adesina said that the Federal Government, in partnership with the Bank of Agriculture and the private sector would provide N3.5 billion for the programme’s implementation.
“The Federal Government will provide 35 per cent of the funds; the Bank of Agriculture will provide 35 per cent, while the private sector will provide the remaining 30 per cent as equity contributions.
“We expect that the private sector will deploy 10,000 units of tractors, planting implements, harvest and post-harvest equipment between 2013 and 2015.
“The mechanisation approach of the ministry is structured to ensure 25 per cent local content of these tractors, while 75 per cent of the parts will be imported. They shall be locally assembled on Semi-Knocked Down (SKD) and Completely Knocked Down (CKD) bases,’’ he said.
Adesina expressed the hope that the tractor hiring centres would provide about 2,000 job opportunities for the youth, while expanding cultivated land area by 150, 000 hectares.
The minister projected that the venture would add about 600,000 tonnes of food to the country’s current food stock.
Mr Ike Azogu, the Executive Director of NCAM, said that the three-wheeled mini-tractor was developed in collaboration with Bespoke Design Concept Company.
He said that most of the components of Tricketor could be locally sourced.
Azogu solicited the Federal Government’s financial support to enable the centre to duplicate 10 prototypes of the machine in the various ecological zones of the country.
He also highlighted the other achievements of the centre, which included the development of cassava peeling machine, motorised sifter, pelletising machine, cassava screw press and direct discharge multi-purpose milling machine.
Some of the machines fabricated by NCAM include maize sheller, modified multi-crop thresher, melon sheller, oil palm processing line, combined cassava grating and chipping machine, as well as motorised groundnut decorticator, among others.
Besides, Azogu said that NCAM was able to adapt and improve on some imported machines such as rice mill, oil and filter press as well as hammer mill without sieves.
Experts believe that the government’s efforts to promote mechanised farming and the achievements so far recorded by NCAM would rekindle the interest of the youth in agriculture.
The need to promote mechanised farming is, however, not a country-specific challenge, as the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) says that in sub-Saharan Africa, over 89 per cent of farm power is provided by human labour.
Observers note that most Nigerian youths have jettisoned farming for other professions because of the labour-intensive nature of agriculture in the country.
However, they urge the government to sustain its efforts to boost food production in the country via sustained investment in modern farming equipment.
They add that this will not only aid Nigeria in efforts to achieve a robust agricultural sector, it will also engender food sufficiency and job creation in the country.
Dariya writes for the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
IITA Develops New Potato Variety
Empowering, Novel, Agri-Business Led, Employment, Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (ENABLE TAAT) has recently developed Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) species to tackle malnutrition and reduce diabetes in Africa.
The ENABLE TAAT Field Trainer of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Mr Murtalab Adedamola, made this known in Ibadan yesterday.
He said that the development of the potato species was one of the plans of IITA, aimed at combating malnutrition and attaining food security in Africa. Adedamola said that OFSP was different from the Irish potato, adding that it contained a lot of water, Vitamin A, high carotene and low level of sugar. “It has two varieties – King J and Mothers’ Delight, and it can be used for baking cake, snacks and bread.
“It is stress-free, its cultivation cycle is within three months; it is not a tuber but a root and it does not go deep into the soil like cassava.
“The growth continues even after harvesting, it is good for children and diabetic patients because of its low level of sugar. Farmers can plant a hectare with just 500kg. vines of OFSP, which multiplies.
“They should cut the vines together, bundle them together, weigh them and then plant them. Farmers can plant at a depth of 20 or 25 cm and at an angle of 45 degrees because the spacing can determine the yield,” he said. Adedamola advised farmers to always apply MPK fertiliser to the crop after two weeks of planting, as the exercise would go a long way to improve the yield if the crop had access to water. The field trainer said that the maintenance of an OFSP farm would not require much weeding, adding that the soil would crack while its flowers would shoot out to signal the appropriate time for harvesting. He, however, warned that the King J variety of OFSP was better grown in the northern parts of the country, while the cultivation of the Mothers’ Delight type would thrive in the South.
“In Cameroon, we have four varieties of OFSP and in Cote d’Ivoire, there are six varieties. Farmers are planting it already but the produce lacks market because people are not aware of its numerous benefits. “When people learn about its benefits, they will start patronising the farmers well; we will definitely have more varieties of it in Nigeria because it is a crop that can transform the livelihood of potato farmers perfectly,’’ he added.
Assembly Approves N1.5bn Agric Loan
The Niger State House of Assembly has passed a resolution granting approval to the state government to access a N1.5bn facility for the implementation of the Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS).
The House passed the resolution yesterday following the presentation of the report of Joint Committees on Finance and Agriculture.
Presenting the report, Chairman of the Joint Committee, Alhaji Abdullahi Mammagi, said it interfaced with relevant stakeholders to ascertain the justification for the request made.
Mammagi noted that the facility was being offered at an interest rate of nine per cent per annum and 60 months repayment period by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“From the interface held, the committee found that the Federal Government had offered a window of facility to states to support implementation of AADS in states.
“The CBN, through Zenith Bank has offered to provide the of N1.5bn. The facility is offered for a period of 60 months, at an interest rate of nine per cent per annum.
“This is deemed to be highly competitive in terms of what obtains in the banking industry.
“Niger State has keyed into the programme as its implementation would stimulate and support socio-economic development in the state,” he added.
According to him, the repayment cost was manageable, adding that it would not be too much burden on the monthly cash flow of the state.
Similarly, the House commenced debate on the 2019 budget by the governor.
NGO Urges FG To Increase Agric Financing
The Fresh and Young Brains Development Initiative (FBIN), an NGO, has appealed to the Federal Government to increase its funding on agriculture, especially for women and youth farmers to increase their yields.
The Founder of the initiative, Mrs Nkiruka Nnaemego, made the call on Monday in Abuja at the Yfarm National Colloquium on Attracting Public Financing in Sustainable Agriculture for Youth and Women Small Scale Farmers.
Nnaemego said that the Nigerian government had committed to the 2014 Malabo Principles of ensuring increase in public funding to at least 10 per cent of the national budget to the agricultural sector.
According to her, this will enable the countries effectively implement their programmes to reduce hunger and increase productivity among in Africa.
She said that this commitment had not been achieved and it was affecting the productivity of small scale farmers, who consisted of about 70 per cent of the country’s farming population.
“This colloquium provides a unique platform for stakeholders in agriculture to brainstorm on innovative models and approaches for attracting public financing and government involvement in agriculture.
“From the Malabo declaration, which African Heads of State agreed to commit 10 per cent of their countries’ budgets to agriculture, it is unfortunately that Nigeria is still below three per cent.
“Agriculture is the way to go now since the country is looking for other options aside oil. We need to increase finance in agriculture.
“Although the Federal Government is trying, but it should try harder,” she said.
She explained that Yfarm project’s goal was to promote a youth/women-led agribusiness society by reducing poverty, thereby increasing active youth/women participation in sustainable agriculture by 2020.
She said that Yfarm Project had been at the forefront of policy advocacy, media engagement, capacity building and mentoring of rural and vulnerable youth/women in some parts of Africa.
“We celebrate outstanding youths and women, provide access to markets and business networking through our National and African Youth Agric Festivals and Concerts,” she stated.
The Project Coordinator, Food and Agriculture, Actionaid Nigeria, Mr Azubike Nwokoye appealed to the Federal Government to create an enabling environment to attract private investment. He further urged government at all levels to do their parts by increasing public financing on agriculture across all areas with comparative advantages.
”That is a failure in its own already.”
Soni appealed to the government to make available inputs by January not in April and May when such inputs were not needed.
The Programme Officer, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Mr Alphonsus Onwuemeka said that agriculture was in the concurrent list and urged the state governments to play their parts to lessen the burden on the Federal Government.
He acknowledged the Federal Government’s support to agriculture and urged women to take advantage of the gender unit created by government at the Ministry of Agriculture to handle women challenges.
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