As the New Year begins, Daily Trust on Sunday sought the views of farmers and experts on areas they think government needs to invest more in the sector.
Dr Samaila Aliyu, an agronomist based in Abuja, said government should look more into the dry season farming activities. He wants the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to partner with the Ministry of Water Resources to expand dry season growing areas.
In addition, he says there should also be a conscious effort to bring in affordable smallholder machinery for land preparation, planting, harvesting and threshing.
Dr Salisu Ahmed Gusua, who has 41 experiences in the sector, in a similar view, admonished the government to think on how to improve on farming cycle in Nigeria to allow farmers go into production all-year-round. “Every farmer is waiting for the rains to come. We have dams in this country, which we can transfer to dry areas for the purpose of farming, but we are not doing that and the big dams all over the country are left idle.
“You have the Ministry of Water Resources, but where are they sending the water to? I have gone round all the northern states and none of them are without dams, but are they using it? Go round and see. Who are the people farming and doing irrigation around those dams? They are very few. Farmers have to buy generators for themselves for the irrigation and they do not find it easy considering the money they spend on diesel or petrol. So, by the time you buy diesel and pump water to your onions, pepper or tomato farm, before you know it, it will cost you a lot of money; and at the end of the day there is no profit because fuel has taken all the profits. So we should think of how to do farming all-year- round as it is the only way we can improve on agriculture,” he said.
He wants government to look into two key areas: irrigation and seed productivity. If you have one hectare of land and a very productive high yielding seeds, you can generate 12 tons in a hectare.
Dr Gusua also wants government to look into other areas like access to capital because smallholder farmers don’t have capital and they don’t have collateral for bank borrowings. He added that they didn’t have money to buy most of their seeds, and as such, they resort to small-scale farming that lowers their productivity.
On his part, Adams Peter Eloyi, a young farmer and the executive director, Youth Programme on Agriculture and Entrepreneurship Development (YPAED) based in Kaduna, said government needed to invest more in young people in agriculture, as well as keep to the promises they made in Maputo Declaration for 10per cent and step up our budget. They can also slash unemployment by 40per cent.
“By this I mean that more young people will be engaged in agricultural activities and value chains. And this will slash unemployment and poverty in Nigeria.
“Other countries that have done it in Africa succeeded. In Nigeria we are still behind, but if our government can do more in agricultural value chain to create employment for young people, it would go a long way in stabilising the economy. It will also address the issue of rural urban migration,” he said.
He said that if government invested more in rural agriculture, people would not see reasons to migrate to urban communities in search of greener pastures. He added that it would address the issues of unemployment, poverty, conflict, Boko Haram and kidnapping in Nigeria.
Professor Daniel Gwary of the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Maiduguri, said the Federal Government should be reminded of the collective vision of being among the top 20 economies of the world under Vision 2020.
He highlighted the areas that need more attention in the sector from government to include “increased mobilisation of our youth into the sector. This can be achieved through existing government initiatives and new ones that empower the youth with capital and access to inputs.
” He said increase in production this year would, however, largely depend on assurance of security for farmers nationwide. He, therefore, called on government at all levels to address all forms of insecurity in the country, such as herders-farmers clashes, kidnapping etc.
The professor also advised government to modernise agricultural production through mechanisation, saying this will attract more youths to agriculture. This will, in turn increase production, sourcing and development. Considering the literacy level of majority of smallholder farmers, there is the need to introduce new technologies for different production systems and regions, as well as strengthen agricultural extension.
“Exploitation of Fadama resources for increased food production in 2020 should be pursued in the light of dwindling rainfall patterns in the country and the North in particular, in the face of climate change,” Prof Gwary said.
Alhaji Abdullahi Ringim, the national chairman of Tomato Producers and Processors Association of Nigeria, wants Nigerian land borders to remain closed until all the country’s neighbours respect ECOWAS protocols. He believes that no country has the right under the ECOWAS protocols to import rice or tomatoes and smuggle into Nigeria. What the protocols allow is what you produced and processed in your country, not what you imported from another country.
Alhaji Ringim also wants government to liberalise land allocation and documentation. According to him, agricultural estates should be given one certificate, which would serve as a collateral for each cooperative member as done in housing.
The leader of tomato farmers also appealed to government to discourage the approval of packaging companies this year. He said that until recently, there were not up to three functional tomato processing companies in Nigeria. But there are 150 packaging companies between Lagos and Ogun states.
“The reason is because as they set up a packaging company, they smuggle or import tomato paste, repackage it and sell. They call themselves tomato processing companies, but they are actually packaging companies. “Once you close the borders, those companies will make arrangement with cooperative societies to off-take and process Nigerian made tomatoes,” he said.
A veterinary expert, Professor Mohammed Bello Agaie, the national president of the Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association, the umbrella organisation of all veterinarians in Nigeria, thinks government needs to review its National Livestock Transformation Plan because for now, it is still within the government circle and has not majorly involved farmers and professionals in the livestock industry.
We also need to do a lot to begin the improvement of local genetic resources of our local breeds available in this country. Ninety per cent of the Nigerian livestock is predominantly in the hands of local farmers. We must get those people to grow with such indigenous breeds. And government needs to start a robust genetic improvement programme.
“If we must succeed, government needs to reintroduce the National Livestock Extension System. We did that for the crop sector, but there is nothing like that for the livestock sector.
“The extension system in the livestock is like non-existent at all. This is simply because you cannot use the agro extension system to work in the livestock system.
“Those who undergo extension training in school are probably focusing on foods of crop origin. So, for you to be able to translate new development in the livestock sector, you need people who have basic knowledge of the sector who are trained on what should be done so that they can take that knowledge to the farmers and help them with what should be done to attain a good new management system,” Alhaji Ringim said.