Talent and creativity are Nigerias greatest asset, the youths
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Most Nigerians work in agriculture, but few make a decent living from it. Productivity is low, by international and African standards, and despite laudable efforts to transform the sector, investments in research, innovation, infrastructure, product development, and marketing remain grossly inadequate.
Most farmers still rely on hoes and cutlasses, and long hours, hard work, and meagre incomes make small scale agriculture an unattractive career. Most farmers lack the know-how, the means, and the incentives to move beyond subsistence farming. Because there is no comprehensive land registry, titles are not always accepted as collateral, and land- related transactions can be difficult to negotiate. On the ground, irrigation systems have fallen into disrepair, and despite costly subsidy schemes, fertilisers and feedstock are often hard to get. Few farmers have access to affordable finance and insurance; there are few competitive markets for agricultural produce; no viable ways to store, transport, and trade crops; and only a hand full of processing facilities. As a result, too many opportunities are lost, and too much agricultural output goes to waste, at enormous human and economic cost.
By 1998, following years of neglect, the government once again turned its attention to the agricultural sector. It adopted an agricultural policy that had the objective, among others, of ensuring food security for the population by developing local production.
The agricultural sector, therefore, occupied a strategic poverty-reduction role in the planning frameworks under NEEDS I and II, the 7-Pont Agenda and the National Food Security Programme (NFSP). It embedded a value-chain approach and increased export capabilities. There was then a national emphasis on 7 priority products namely cassava, rice, vegetable oil, sugar, livestock, cultivated trees and dry grains. The reason for this was to take advantage of the opportunities under World Trade Organization (WTO), America’s Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA), and European Union’s Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) when current negotiations are completed. Although these measures showed that investment in the agricultural sector can have concrete results in terms of increasing domestic production, their overall outcomes were a mixed bag.
The “intensification of production” segment was emphasised at the expense of the downstream segments of the value chain (such as product processing).
Also central to previous agricultural policies is public subsidies for the acquisition of farm inputs (fertiliser, improved seeds, phytosanitary products) – an arrangement that was to be variously abused by civil servants and political leaders. It lacked effective regulation and monitoring system to address quality issues. There was also the problem of subsidy funds being diverted into private overseas accounts. Today, Nigeria remains a net importer of food with a vicious insistence by smugglers of certain commodities especially rice. We do not produce enough food to meet the demand of our people. This negatively impacts our balance of payment position, agricultural development and employment potentials.
There is less incentive for local farmers to grow local foods, when cheaper food products are imported even at the mercy of high tariffs and porous borders. This forces local farmers to reduce prices to compete, which reduces the income generated from the farm. The consequence is decreased farm production and a disincentive to continue in farming.
In a government led by Atiku Abubakar, we will mobilise a working partnership with states and local governments and support the processes of harnessing the full potential along the agricultural value chain for the creation of jobs, wealth and food security.
The Voice We Deserve
Under a government led by Atiku Abubakar, the Federal Government will:
Encourage the private sector to narrow skills gaps:
- The Presidency through the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment (FMTI) will reward on the job training and apprenticeship schemes by:
- Identifying best practices for linking career advancement (promotion, bonuses etc) to training-related performance – and offering compliant firms preferred bidder status in public tenders
- Creating tax incentives to develop onsite (firm, industrial park) training facilities organizations.
Encourage Investment in Agro-Processing Clusters Offer concessional financing, tax breaks, or seed funds for upgrades/construction of:
- Access roads, embedded power plants, water/waste management systems, · abattoirs, cold storage, packaging facilities etc
Adopt a Land Development Scheme to:
- Acquire suitable tracts of land in various parts of Nigeria for purposes of development;
- Develop and parcel out land into economic-size farm plots for distribution to farmers with the opportunity to improve and stabilize income;
- Promote and support optimum utilization of Nigeria’s Rural Land resources for accelerated food and fibre production.
- Provide general extension support services and technical information on soil types, land, capability or suitability for various agricultural purposes including livestock and arable farming to support rural farmers;
- Assist, engage in and advise on all aspects of land conservation and land degradation control
- Assist on the method of acquisition or procurement of production inputs.
- Assist in the development or provision of appropriate technology for processing.
- Engage in or assist with on-farm and off-farm training of farmer in project management
- Assist large scale farmers, where possible in the development of their lands; provided such services are on a commercial basis;
- Develop a code of sound land management
- procedures for all land resources;
- Facilitate appropriate and cost effective mechanization of agriculture and produce processing towards the attainment of food security, employment generation and wealth creation on a large scale
- Assist in the provision of social infrastructural facilities for the emergent
- growth-centres at or around farming communities.
- Engage in any other up-stream or down-stream activity necessary for agricultural development and food security.
- Offering small farmers concessional loans to purchase or lease selected durable assets such as fridges or partner in private sector established conditioning centers.
Help Farmers and Agribusinesses Manage Risk Help farmers manage risk - and cope with adversity by:
- Creating fast track procedures to clarify land titles that can be used as collateral for concessional loans
- Deploying qualified instructors to hold village training courses about issues of local concern
- Encouraging the creation of mobile-based draught, flood, and pest alerts
- establishing affordable and accessible vet test centers across the country
- Publicising and subsidising agricultural insurance schemes
- Encourage synergy between farm institutions and the Bank of Agric and Bank of Industry
Help farmers and agribusinesses market their output and boost farm incomes and reduce agricultural waste by:
- Encouraging the dissemination of localised (mobile based) real-time pricing and storage information
- Facilitating the construction of regional (private or cooperative) storage, processing, grading and packaging facilities
- Promoting agricultural export clusters with appropriate marketing and quality control capabilities to take advantage of Nigeria’s preferential market access under America’s African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and EU’s Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) (on completion of negotiations)
- Working with Nigerians in Diaspora to enter overseas market
Help farmers and agribusinesses cut their operational costs Reduce the cost of doing business in rural areas by:
- -Targeting federal funds to construct key farmto-market roads
- Removing unnecessary road blocks, levies, and charges
- Seed-funding cooperative tool-hire schemes
Improve farming productivity Modernise and mechanize (small scale) agriculture and raise cereal etc. yields to international levels by:
- Tasking the FMARD to develop and disseminate (localised) guidance on best fertilizer, feedstock, etc. use.
- Coordinating the bulk purchase and distributed storage of (non-subsidized) fertilizers and feedstock throughout the country
- Replacing fertilizer subsidies with cash transfers
Support women engaged in agricultural activities by:
- Providing basic working capital requirements for small scale farming and traditional processes as loans to the low income groups;
- Providing facility for the procurement of machinery and equipment to help them set up and run cottage and small scale industries;
- Creating employment opportunities at ward levels through the establishment of enterprises and pilot projects in the wards;
- Encouraging producers of goods and services at ward levels to form co-operative societies;
- Utilizing all available local resources for the benefit of women in agriculture through improved production, preservation, etc.
My first foray into agriculture, in the 1980s, ended in failure. I bought a large expanse of land on the Yola-Numan highway, and started farming maize. It didn’t…
Remarks By Atiku Abubakar, GCON, former Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria and Founder, American University of Nigeria, Yola, at the 10th Founder’s Day…