• FG still to establish grazing reserves
The Federal Government has denied imminent famine in the country as reported by some United Nations (UN) agencies early in the year.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, denied imminent famine in Nigeria when he featured at a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) forum in Abuja, at the weekend.
Three UN agencies; Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), had recently reported that Nigeria would suffer famine, food shortage and malnutrition.
UNICEF had also reported that 1.4 million children were at risk of dying from severe acute malnutrition.
But, Ogbeh said it is impossible for Nigeria to face famine or starvation because the country remains a major source of food for other African countries like Sudan, Libya and Chad.
Ogbeh, who said the situation in the North East was being generalised to mean all parts of the country, cautioned the agencies to be careful with their predictions.
“I think there’s a danger of mixing the situation in the North East with the situation nationwide. I have seen that on CNN, starvation in Somalia and Nigeria and then they go on to talk about civil commotion in the North East.
“I don’t think the rest of Nigeria is facing any threat of famine. That is not true and I think these agencies have to be a little more careful in their prognoses. I think there are challenges in the North-East because this is a huge part of Nigeria which, for five years, has not engaged in food production.”
At the same forum, Ogbeh said a bag of fertiliser will soon cost less than N6,000 and added that there are efforts to establish extension offices in all the local government areas of the country.
“We’ve just signed an agreement with Morocco, the president and a few of us went to Morocco and had a good agreement for phosphate imports. Morocco has the largest deposit of phosphate in the world.
“And, with potassium, those two form the three major ingredients in agriculture, although the soil contains 16 nutrients for the plants, the three big ones are nitrogen, potassium and phosphate.
“Adding all these up with the fertiliser we are getting from Morocco, we will put fertiliser on the market now for less than N6,000.”
Ogbeh also disclosed that the Federal Government is working towards setting up grazing reserves across the country, to curb incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
He said for many years, Nigeria failed to realise that herdsmen were also farmers.
“When we were busy making plans and supporting cassava and maize farmers, we did not make any provision for herdsmen.
“Ironically, as far back as 200 years ago, Sultan Mohammed Bello of Sokoto expressed fears on what is happening now.
“He said roaming of Fulani herdsmen, to look for grasses for their cattle, was not a way that could be sustained.
“We had grazing reserves in this country before and the cows were then properly fed and taken care of.”
“When I was appointed as the minister, I suggested grass planting by importing grass, but I was called all sorts of names. But you can’t have grazing reserves without grass.
“Brazil took grass from Africa 25 years ago and now, they are exporting same grass to Saudi Arabia. South Arabia has the largest dairy farm in the world; they have about 135,000 cows in one farm. They have the most comfortable cows in an air-conditioned environment…”
“The blenders will ensure the distribution and the new scheme we are going to embark upon from the middle of this year is that there should be an extension office in every local government area.
“The office would be a depot for inputs and also an office for scientists who help the farmer when the farmer has problems.
The minister, however, assured the farmers of early distribution of fertiliser, particularly for those who would engage in this year’s dry season farming across the country.