Musa Aliyu, 55, regrets that although he has been farming all his life, he has remained a poor farmer.
He is among many rural farmers in Kogi who moved to neighbouring Edo to form cluster-farming communities with a view to benefitting from modern agronomic practices and access to farm inputs.
Aliyu attributes his plight to lukewarm attitude of some stakeholders towards modern agricultural methodology which, he says, hinders ability of rural farmers to access fertilisers and other inputs.
Analysts note that Aliyu’s case typifies the experience of many rural farmers who take farming as a way of life, but cannot be helped to become commercial agriculturists.
Mr Michael Onotu, a retired civil servant who manages a small farm in Okene, notes that Nigeria is blessed with resources to develop agriculture, but lacks capacity for modern farming.
Analysts agree that the Federal Government’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda is aimed at revolutionising agriculture and reinvigorating the morale of farmers to meet the nation’s food needs.
They say that the agenda may not achieve its targets if it is not supported by various stakeholders, especially non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the sector.
They note that NGOs are private outfits whose structure and activities are based on the initiative of individuals or institutions to complement government’s effort in good governance.
Mr Albert Alabi, an Abuja resident, says involving NGOs in the agriculture transformation programme will enhance government’s initiatives.
“Involvement of NGOs is necessary because they realise that no government can provide all the necessities of life for the wellbeing of its citizens,” he said.
In the same vein, Mr Ibrahim Anas, Executive Director of LOGADEF, an NGO, wants similar organisations and youths to be assist government in transforming agriculture for food security.
LOGADEF recently organised the “All Nigerian States and Local Government Agricultural Development and Rural Transformation Trade Fair 2013” in Abuja.
“It was organised in collaboration with the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) and supported by the Federal Government. It featured many farmers from many states and local government areas,” Anas said.
According to him, produce exhibited at the fair included yams, cassava, legumes, poultry products and agro-allied chemicals, among other agricultural equipment.
The Minister of State for FCT, Chief Olajumoke Akinjide, expresses optimism that the efforts of NGOs will go a long way in complementing federal government’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda.
But critics have noted that besides organising agricultural fairs and shows, non-governmental organisations in the sector can do much more in the agriculture transformation agenda.
Mr Mohammed Abdulkadir, a farmer who exhibited produce at the fair, commended the role of NGOs, but urged them to further complement government’s efforts.
Dr Tunde Arosanyin, Financial Secretary of All Nigeria Framers Association (AFAN), says that NGOs can do better by going beyond organising trade fairs.
According to him, AFAN has taken steps to identify genuine farmers in various towns and villages, as well as collated reliable data on farmers across the country.
Arosanyin says that the association has helped government agencies to achieve success in data capturing of farmers through its farmer registration exercise.
He notes that registration of farmers and agro-allied produce dealers is a veritable way of assisting transformation in agriculture.
According to him, NGOs should serve as a link between government and farmers to ensure effective delivery of farm inputs and popularising new farm techniques and methodologies.
“When the value of agricultural produce is enhanced, the quality improves, patronage will increase; this will affect the price value and farmers will smile.
“It is only when these roles are played effectively that the Agricultural Transformation Agenda of the federal government will be meaningful to the life of poor farmers, and add value to national economy,” he said.
Experts in agriculture are of the view that Nigerian youths can be encouraged to organise themselves into community-based organisations to educate farmers on need areas and methodologies if they are trained.
They also agree that NGOs can be useful to farming communities through establishing more rural agricultural cooperative societies to provide access to loans without collateral for poor farmers.
Mr Mathew Ochu, a retired agriculture officer in Lokoja, thinks that such cooperatives will ensure that poor farmers also have access to other inputs that can enhance food production.
“I want to see many NGOs complementing government’s efforts in reviving agriculture extension services by going to rural farming communities to teach farmers modern techniques of farming, fertiliser application and food storage,” he said.
However, analysts hold the belief that farmers are among the most productive segment of the Nigerian population who deserve necessary assistance from government and non-governmental organisations to sustain food production and fight hunger.
Ahmed 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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