Sola Ojo, Kaduna
Agriculture has been described as crucial to the future of Nigeria, with the country said to be blessed with “the 9th largest amount of arable soil in the world.”
Dr Adam P Saffer, the Chief of Party (COP), Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), a company executing a project called “Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity” on behalf of the USAID, said with population projection of over 400 million people by the year 2050, Nigeria should shift its attention from oil to agribusiness to secure its future.
The $15.7 million project targets value chains in maize, rice, soybean, cowpea and aquaculture in Benue, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Kaduna and Niger states where thousands of women and youths are expected to benefit.
The agric expert, who stated this in an interview with reporters during the official launching of the project in Kaduna, said it was one of seven states selected for the intervention, having been there for a few months.
According to him, “we are targeting women and youths through agribusinesses already formed. It is not the project to find jobs. Having said that, 40 percent of our intervention is for women and 20 percent is for the youths.
“In 2050, Nigeria is going to be 400 million plus and 70 percent of its population will be under 35. So, the future of Nigeria and future of Kaduna is really in the youths.
“When you look at the context of this project as part of portfolio of activities under what is called ‘Feed the Future’ programme which is a main US programme in Nigeria, though there are other projects like power, health, nutrition, education; but ‘Feed the Future’ portfolio is very important to the US and Nigeria because agriculture is the lifeline to the future of Nigeria.
“Nigeria is an agrarian gift from God, blessed with the 9th largest amount of arable soil in the world – sunlight, rainfall and people. Oil is going to be there but it’s going to be less of a factor…
“It is important to the US because we want to be trade partners with Nigeria. Nigeria is a very important trade partners with us. We want to export our technology in Africa and other areas; we want to import your produce that we don’t grow. We don’t grow a lot of things that you grow here because we don’t have the same kind of climate.
“We want to exchange education, peace, stability and security. We want to work in conflict areas because a stable and prosperous Nigeria is good for America. When anybody in America is talking about investing in Africa, Nigeria or South Africa are on the top of the list as opportunities that are yet to be tapped.
“I can’t speak on behalf of the government of the US, but from what I knew, what I’m doing here, and from my meeting in Washington last week, Nigeria is a priority.
“Agriculture is going through revolution. In centuries ago, everybody lived on farming and everybody was using manual. Before oil, Nigeria was food sufficient as number one in several crops.
“When we do our studies in trying to find what the problems are, one of the big problem is seed. The farmers are keeping back some of the crops with the seeds which are old and unproductive. So, there is a need to think differently about investing in high breed seeds though it costs more, but you will get more yields,” he added.
Managing Director, Da-Allgreen Veggies and Herbs, Kedenda, Kaduna, Engr. Stephen Yakubu Atar, who was a participant at the event held, agreed with the speaker on the need for Nigeria to prioritise agriculture.
“This is important to Nigeria because we are an agrarian country and in times like this when the economy is poor, you have to look inward and know where to make progress. That was where Nigeria started even before independent before we got carried away with oil.
“There is preparedness on the part of the state to ensure the success of this project, especially as the state government is working on giving agriculture a better footage. For US to be partnering with us, they must have seen something in us. Kaduna is also the number one state when it comes to ease of doing business, which means a lot has gone in to make the state viable for businesses such as this,” he added.