Stories by Steve Agbota
despite government plan to make agriculture a major foreign currency earner for Nigeria, the industry has remained largely labor intensive, as many farmers are familiar with primitive way of farming, which yields little production.
Statistics shows that 75 per cent of farm produce across the country are produced in rural areas and Nigerian women contribute close to 70 per cent of agricultural workforce yet get less of accruing returns. It is shameful that Nigeria has less than 30,000 tractors in the farms, where it should at least have a million to service numerous farmers across the country.
But things are bound to change if the Federal Government can invest in the rural farming through mechanisation by partnering with state and local governments. Many believe this would grow the economy and boost food security and reduce over population of the urban centre.
However, mechanisation farming has had a major impact on the demand and supply for farm labor, the profitability of farming and the change in the rural landscape, including rural communities.
In order to develop the economy of rural communities, and attract youth into agriculture, there is need to increase agricultural output of food and non-food products, while at the same time improving labour productivity on-farm and in the value chains requires that agricultural manpower has access to tools, equipment and machinery to carry out farm operations efficiently from the view point of financial and capital costs as well as social and environmental costs.
To improve and maintain competitiveness and keep consumer price as low as possible, cost of production must be kept low as well and one major approach to achieving this is through mechanisation and effective demand for agriculture products improvement and greater volumes are needed to meet local and international demand for food, feed and industrial raw materials.
If government is serious about diversifying the nation economy, reduce unemployment, the rural infrastructure, domestic supply chains and service providers, and local manufacturers and world markets in equipment and machinery are all of vital importance.
What Federal Government needs to do now is to encourage sustainable private sector development that can offer farmers the right choice of technology at the right price to increase agricultural productivity to support rural economic development, contribute to local and national food security, reduce post-harvest losses and promote local manufacturing of equipment and machinery.
While inaugurating committees for the implementation of the MoU between the Federal Government, participating state governments and the China-Africa Machinery Corporation (CAMACO) on agricultural mechanisation system recently, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, lamented the shortage of tractors in Nigeria compared to farmers’ population and size of farm operations.
Ogbeh expressed concern about the hardship Nigerians are currently going through, but said all-year-round agriculture through irrigation and increased mechanisation, should put Nigeria’s agricultural output on the path of self-sufficiency.
The programme, designed to increase Nigeria’s stock of tractors and improve on mechanisation through the supply of tractors to be assembled locally, will be implemented in Adamawa, Ebonyi, Jigawa, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara states. The partnership will involve credit partnership with farmers to obtain and pay over a period of seven to eight years at a single digit interest rate.
Speaking with Daily Sun, the President of Cassava Growers Association of Nigeria (NCGA), Pastor Segun Adewunmi, said that if government wants to do real food security, even through the average local farmers, only mechanised farming can make food cheap and give Nigeria advantage to export.
He explained: “The food we are producing now is too high in crop and it cannot enter international markets. For instance, Nigeria cassava cannot penetrate into international market because it is higher than the world crop of production, so it is through mechanised farming we can have the desire agricultural produce for export purpose.
Speaking on mechanised farming, he said that apart from the tractor and other things, farmers have specialised equipments like harvesters and planters that can do what ten people or 100 people will do at time. He said this will collapse the cost of production and make production cheap.
He added: “The people that are feeding entire America, and the rest of the world are not up to 5 per cent of America’s population because they are doing it in a mechanised and civilised way. So without mechanised farming, there is no way we can achieve food security and then use our agricultural product for industrial purpose.”
He said that the northern governments are trying their best in the area of mechanised farming because they don’t have the challenge the South-South states are facing, adding that South-South has special challenge because lands there consist of bushes, which are not mechanizeable except farmers handle land clearing.
He maintained that unless the government desire to clear land and then portion it out, demarcate it and give it out to youth, that is only when South-South farmers can have mechanised farming.
He hinted that the Federal Government should collaborate with the state and local government and make sure that every local government has at least 5000 hectares of mechanised farming.
He noted: “If that happens, you will see that our youth will withdraw from the city because in our own case, Cassava Grower, just got about a 10,000-hectare in Ekiti, and we intend to clear it with the aid of the government and now demarcate with 10 hectares each. 10,000 hectares is what we have but 1,000 people will be there and each of them will make a profit of about N2 million in a year apart from the allowance they are going to get. Then in one solid year, we have 5 hectares, if we do that, we will have 25 hectares and with 25 hectares we will make a profit of N4 million.”
“And apart from that, you form them into cooperatives, so they can hold the equipments and earn money by it. If a graduate gets up to six million in a year, what is he looking for in the city? These are the way we can make it attractive. We are providing them in a way they will not be frustrated.”
Importation of rice costs Nigeria $2bn –Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari has decried $2 billion spent yearly on rice importation in the country.
Buhari who disclosed this in his Independence Day Speech recently in Abuja, said in order to achieve domestic self-sufficiency in these staples by 2018, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Central Bank of Nigeria have been mobilized to encourage local production of rice, maize, sorghum, millet and soya beans.
According to him, already farmers in 13 out of 36 states are receiving credit support through the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Programme.
“Kebbi State alone is expected to produce one million tonnes of locally grown rice this year. As part of the 13 states, Lagos and Ogun are also starting this programme. Rice alone, for example, costs Nigeria $2 billion to import,” he said.
He said Nigeria should be self-sufficient in basic staples by 2019, adding that foreign exchange thus saved can go to industrial revival requirements for retooling, essential raw materials and spare parts.
Speaking on the rural communities development through agriculture, he explained that it is in recognition of the need to reinvigorate agriculture in rural communities that his administration introduced the LIFE programme.
“Government recognises that irrigation is key to modern agriculture. That is why the Ministries of Agriculture and Water Resources are embarking on a huge programme of development of lakes, dams and water harvesting schemes throughout the country to ensure that we are no longer dependent on rain-fed agriculture for our food requirements.
“In addition, government is introducing Water Resources Bill encompassing the National Water Resources Policy and National Irrigation and Drainage Policy to improve management of water and irrigation development in the country. We are reviving all the 12 River Basin Authorities, namely; Anambra-Imo, Benin-Owena, Chad Basin, Cross River, Lower Benue, Hadejia-Jama’are, Lower Niger, Niger Delta, Ogun-Osun, Sokoto-Rima, Upper Benue and Upper Niger,” he said.
He said the intention was eventually to fully commercialise them to better support crop production, aqua –culture and accelerated rural development.
He maintained that the current administration is committed to the revival of Lake Chad and improvement of the hydrology and ecology of the basin, adding that this would tune in with efforts to rehabilitate the 30 million people affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in the Lake Chad Basin countries.