Farmers have a right to be informed of available government funding for agriculture. These should be posted openly on the website of the ministry…
Nigeria with its abundant natural resources should be self-sufficient in food production but the reality on the ground is terrible hunger and poverty.
The key to solving the problem is the setting up of multiple farm clusters and cooperatives that can access funding, trading and markets etc.
As a Nigerian in the Diaspora, and one that has had opportunity to interact with agricultural entrepreneurs, I got fresh insight to their challenges as I listened to speakers at the recent two-day conference on food security held in Abuja. Solutions were proffered to the various challenges faced by farmers. I also had opportunity to visit farms in the Federal Capital Territory, to have further interactions with farmers.
One thing I have observed is that successive governments in the country both at the federal and state level say so much about agricultural policies, but not much has been done in real terms to make agriculture attractive for young entrepreneurs. Alongside this deficiency is the key problem of lack of funding for those who show interest in agriculture. That is why one is quite pleased that the National Agricultural Insurance Corporation has mapped out a programme aimed at encouraging farmers to get insured as a way of ensuring food security. Interestingly too, the digital powerhouse, Google, has upped the ante by showing Nigerian farmers how they can deploy digital marketing to improve the agricultural value chain in the country. The Country Representative, Mr. Kaosiso Anaekwe, who presented a paper on behalf Google Nigeria great justice to his topic.
What I saw at the conference has reinforced my conviction that there are great opportunities for Nigerians in the Diaspora to invest in the development and growth of agriculture in the country.
The strides achieved by the Central Bank of Nigeria in the area of rice cultivation under the Anchor Borrowers Scheme is extremely commendable. If we apply the same template to other aspects of agriculture in the country, the country will definitely be on the way to attaining food security.
However, for this goal to be achieved, the Nigerian government, working through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and rural Development (FMARD), should as a matter of urgency, work out strategies for improving service delivery by transforming its internal processes and providing exemplary leadership to the people.
FMARD should liaise with state ministries of agriculture to set up satellite offices where farmers can seek advice regarding their crops and livestock, receive training and obtain assistance to apply for government funds.
The ministry should partner with organizations such as New Generation Consulting to continuously find solutions relevant to farmers. They should pair farmers to various consultants for training, direct access to funds and other resources as needs arise. It bears repeating that governments should adopt best practices in promoting transparency and accountability in the ministries. Farmers have a right to be informed of available government funding for agriculture. These should be posted openly on the website of the ministry, specifying step-by-step requirements and guide on how to apply and obtain these funds.
There have been occasions when people heard about loan schemes, which were often mere schemes for ‘settling’ party men. Towards attracting Nigerians in the Diaspora to invest in agriculture, the government should encourage commercial banks to substantially reduce their interest rates for agriculture and make access to loans for agriculture easier for farmers.
There is also clear and present need for the government to encourage research and development in agriculture. Special grants should be given to the Federal Institute for Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO) Lagos, to conduct research that would support agricultural findings and promote food security. Furthermore, the federal and state governments should develop smart strategies for formalizing the agricultural sector and provide active support to both small and medium enterprises as well as large-scale farms, to develop value chains that would attract investors among Nigerians in the Diaspora. This would improve revenue mobilization and fiscal independence. Among the areas that Nigerians in the Diaspora can invest are establishment and management of cattle ranches, grazing fields, production of high quality fodder, cross-breeding of cattle to enhance milk and beef production, beef processing. In addition, the government should encourage the American corporation, SOOUM Corp to hold deliberations on construction of hygienic slaughterhouses across the country and also get involved in the establishment of commodity trading entities. These are additional areas Nigerians in Diaspora could take active interest in if then government would actively to entrench the Ease of Doing Business Initiative, with a view to attracting Nigerians to think home and invest in the growth and development of the agriculture sector.
In this regard therefore, the government should encourage organizations bringing in agricultural equipment and machinery by waving 100 per cent duty on such products, to make them affordable by farmers.
► Dr Njideka Kelley, a Nigerian in the Diaspora and principal consultant at New Generation Consulting LLC, wrote from Houston, Texas, United States