Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Nigeria @ 60: AFAN, agricultural sector with NABG score

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Say more what to do

By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

As Nigeria celebrates the 60th anniversary of diamond independence, the Nigerian Farmers Association, AFAN, and the Nigerian Agroindustrial Group, NABG, on Friday scored the performance, productivity and impact of the agricultural sector, expressing their expectations for improve agribusiness.

Speaking about the agricultural sector journey so far, AFAN National President Arc Kabir Ibrahim said: “A few kilometers have been covered, but we should do more to get focused and competent drivers for the various government programs.

“The various intervention windows must be institutionalized for sustainability. Good or true seeds, other inputs and mechanization are needed to increase production.

“There must be consistent policies and implementation strategies to really impact the sector. These have been the nightmare of agriculture throughout the years.

“Farmers need support and access to credit to really improve productivity and therefore affect their lives and livelihoods.

“AFAN will be in a better position to impact the food system if its members are directly involved in implementing well-thought-out policies to encourage farmers to produce more, add value to their products and prepare the market as well.”

Furthermore, NABG Vice President Emmanuel Ijewere said that “The last 60 years for me are more than history. In the early 60s, we talked about 1960 being the time when there was absolute and total food security in Nigeria as we exported many of our basic products and were the first in the world.

“Unfortunately, as we traveled we discovered oil and it began to manifest itself in the early 1960s and late 1960s. The money began to arrive in greater amounts than we imagined, but then the military took over. The military were not responsible or accountable to anyone but themselves. They gave the impression that we had a lot more money to spend and they gave the impression that farming was a waste of time.

“At the end of the 60s, 70s we entered a civil war that was disastrous, and at the end of the civil war, now we try to recover from agriculture, but doing it half because there was no need for them to spend so much energy or plan for agriculture because the money came from oil, easy money. During that period, all the infrastructure that supported agriculture, especially the railway line, the roads were destroyed.

“From then on all kinds of attempts were made, but the corruption that brought oil to Nigeria had already entrenched itself in a corruption that agriculture was not protected.

“So agriculture was not a serious problem, all governments, both civil and military, were dedicated to agriculture, they said until now we had a man named Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina.

“He came with a refreshing new perspective on agriculture. He began by saying, first and foremost, that agriculture should be a business. Second, no one should look at agriculture from the point of view of supply but from the point of view of demand. Because if you want to do any business, you are supposed to find out who buys your products. Ask yourself what kind of good they want, what quality and quantity.

“What we’ve always done before that time was want to produce. There was a time when we produce so much cassava and we never think about how we are going to export it to China; there was nothing in the value chain that prepared cassava chips for the world. That created a problem.

“The lesson we have learned is that agriculture is a business. This has slowly been popping into people’s heads, and I will say that I am lucky to have been in this business since 2000 and I have seen the whole story, and I have seen what happens. I have noticed that several people who are entering well educated because before that all the villages where agriculture is practiced have been abandoned by the young people. They have gone to the city in search of work.

“Now the traditional training they would have received has been lost. It would have been a desperate situation because these village elders who despite all the disadvantages continue to feed the country and the country never suffered from a lack of food.

“But they are getting older and older and disappearing, therefore we need to bring new technology and those who can push the technology are the educated people who left their various towns to go to the cities must find their way to learn to do modern agriculture because the population has grown tremendously and the case of the people, unfortunately, has changed.

“In the 60s, Nigerian rice was not the staple diet of Nigeria, but today rice and we cannot change this overnight, so we need to grow more rice, more yams, cassava and others because the population has increased.

“So the food security situation in Nigeria, God has been kind to us; on every piece of land in Nigeria you can grow something. So where we are today is because God has been kind to us, but we must take over now by complementing the very structured work in the agricultural space.

“What is happening in the last 24 months has been encouraging led by the Central Bank of Nigeria. They came up with the Anchor Borrower Scheme, and a number of other commercial farm schemes, those are fantastic schemes, and the last one, the Anchor Borrower Scheme, gives us great hope.

“My conclusion is that agriculture has a great future. However, we may have a setback due to this unfortunate flood that is happening, but nonetheless, it is already on the right scale. More people from the private sector are coming and taking their position and asking the government to change their mindset.

“When you do something for agriculture, public officials are warned not to believe that you are doing the farmers a favor, but rather that they do the work. Those who do the work must actually be in the field; farmers, transporters, conservationists and others. All these people in the value chain are the ones at the forefront. The government must listen to them, discuss them and help them achieve their goal.

“Ultimately, the rail system will be vital if we are to be successful in the agricultural space.

“In research, what has happened is that research in the past has been based on the civil service mentality; they ask for money to research and accumulate it; go to international conferences and write reports and accumulate them. They are not working with the players, the players are the private sector.

“Those are the people who should be related to our research institutions. Our research institutions should deal with them and not go to the government that does not have agricultural or agricultural activities. The government is supposed to help finance them to research and improve the quality and quantity of the product that comes out at the end of the day.

“Therefore, research institutions must be reoriented, they have an excessive mentality in the civil service, they are supposed to be seen as companies; A number of large companies are supposed to contract with them and say they will help me research how I’m going to improve on this issue and they can pay for and subsidize that research. They should work in the private sector.

“Research institutions as they are currently together and why do we have so many proliferated everywhere and most of the money spent on overhead than on actual research work, why not bring them together like the Brazilians did?

“They did it 22 years ago and that’s why he’s working for them. Nigeria needs to bring the research institutions together and they all work together under one umbrella in various departments, and they must tell us that whatever they have discovered is made public so that it is not kept in the closet of the research institutions because they do not research for them. themselves, but research for Nigeria, the private sector and those in the agricultural space. That is what you have to do “.

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