Despite its challenges, Nigeria is one of the leaders in the production and export of agric commodities in West Africa. Its agribusiness sector includes some of the largest multinational corporations.
To the sector’s advantage, the Federal Government has identified agriculture as one of the top-priorities in national development. The implementation of an ambitious plan in terms of production and food processing to help the nation become the region’s key food production centre is on course.
In line with this, stakeholders are queuing behind the government’s quest to position the country as a food hub. They reasoned that it was necessary for the country to reposition itself for future growth and greater prosperity. However, to achieve this aim, they want the government to promote research and development.
Director-General, Feed Nigeria Summitry, Richard Mbaram, observed that under-performing agriculture is stifling the effective functioning of the industrial sector; consequently, this has resulted in weak linkage between the agricultural and industrial sectors, in the face of a myriad of opportunities.
He said Nigeria has a huge potential for agro-allied transformation. This includes hosting a large spectrum of suitable agro-climatic conditions that allow a broad range of agricultural production. He is upbeat on the potential of the government achieving agricultural turnaround.
Mbaram said the key to accomplishing agricultural transformation is hinged on making modern technologies available and supporting investment in agricultural research and development (R&D).
He said the industry will grow where research knowledge is transferred to farmers, so that they can use technologies to grow more food.
In line with this, he said the National agricultural research system has to be funded to develop technologies suitable for local farming conditions.
He praised the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Muhammad Sabo Nanono for the partnership with African Development Bank (AfDB) to promote agro-allied industrialisation.
According to him, the Minister has demonstrated the readiness to work with AfDB to use agro-allied industrialisation as an effective strategy to achieve productive employment and reduction in poverty.
He said the Minister is preparing conditions for industrialisation through modernisation of agriculture that will raise incomes and productivity of poor farmers, lowering food prices, and improving nutrition.
He urged Nigerians to support the Federal Government towards achieving the agro-allied industrialisation agenda. He wants the development of value-added agro-industries to increase competitiveness in the world market.
Mbaram said AfDB Group President Akinwumi Adesina had identified Staple Crop Processing Zones (SCPZ), as potential joint venture opportunity for Nigeria’s agricultural investment. Through the initiative, he said the bank seek to transform rural areas from zones of economic misery to zones of economic prosperity.
According to him, using agriculture to power industrialisation calls for a strong public-private sector partnership that increases small farm holders’ productivity and enhances their contribution to national and regional value chains.
The Director of the Development and Delivery Office of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr. Alfred Dixon, called for multiple linkages and collaborations for the dissemination of agricultural research outcomes.
Dixon who is known as the “Father of Cassava” by his peers stressed that the churning out of innovations to boost agricultural productivity must be supported by strategic partnerships and collaborations in order for the farmers and the target population to feel the impact.
He explained that while “scaling out” entails linking with the private sector, the farmers and the markets, “scaling up” involves working with the governments and policy makers. He maintained that government would help create the right policy environment for the adoption of the new technologies by farmers and other stakeholders.
According to Dixon, who is the project leader of the Cassava Weed Management Project (CWMP), which operates under the African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI), IITA cassava projects have been able to reach millions of farmers because of the linkages made with several stakeholders including government agencies.
He cited former President Olusegun Obasanjo for the role he is playing in the cassava advocacy.
He also cited how ACAI is disseminating its research outcomes using strategic partnerships in addition to technologies, such as the Akilimo application, the Six Steps to Cassava Management Videos, radio programmes, Viamo’s 321-service, Cassava Matters website and more.
He said: “Just having agricultural productivity or increase in agricultural production will not necessarily lead to increase in income for farmers unless it is linked to the markets. When you have all that you require, you still need the policy environment.
You need the private sector that is, the processors, the agro-dealers, the famers. And you also need the government to give you the right policies and the powerful backing.’’
He added that Africa’s increasing population growth rate poses a huge challenge as agricultural productivity remains far behind.
He stressed that with Nigeria’s population expected to hit 400 million by 2050, there is need to double up on agricultural productivity.