Buhari launches farming programme for Nigerian youth

Source: Premium Times

President Muhammadu Buhari Tuesday in Abuja urged agencies involved in agriculture to further streamline their priorities in the inclusion of youth in driving modern methods of farming while assuring all those interested that an enabling environment will be created for full participation.

In his remark at the launch of National Young Farmers Scheme, designed by the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) to spur more youth interest in farming, the President said agriculture remains the backbone of the Nigerian economy, being the largest contributor to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“We will do more to expand, modernize and revolutionize our agriculture, which is our most important asset.

“I have directed that all NALDA’s abandoned farm estates be retrieved to enable thousands of our young men and women to be engaged in farming. This Administration will be achieving agricultural mechanization through this scheme and I am confident that Nigeria under my watch, we will achieve food security in producing most of what we eat. In good harvest years we may even export our surpluses and earn foreign exchange,” he said.

President Buhari noted that the resuscitation of NALDA will make Nigeria food sufficient and in a few years begin to earn more revenue from export of agricultural commodities.

“By virtue of my passion and desire for agriculture and also as a farmer myself, I am directly supervising NALDA as an authority under the Presidency.

“I am asking the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and State Governments to give full cooperation to NALDA in its activities. With the success of Anchor Borrowers programme spearheaded by the Central Bank of Nigeria and new programmes to revive cotton, palm products and cocoa, the next few years will see a vast difference in our agricultural performance.’’

The President said all the necessary approvals that NALDA requires for effective take-off, beginning with areas of adequate land preparation for crop farming and livestock rearing, had been given, charging the Executive Secretary/CEO of NALDA and his team to continue to live up to expectations and increase their activities in local communities.

“I am told that, so far, 4,333 families have benefited from this scheme and it is expected that many more individuals and families will benefit as the programme is rolled out.

“I now flag off the National Young Farmers’ Scheme. It is my expectation that the Scheme will take in young Nigerians, graduates and non-graduates alike, and be part of this Government’s effort to reduce unemployment and contribute to the regeneration of agriculture and our economy.’’

The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, commended the President for his steadfastness in repositioning the agricultural sector since coming to office, opining that the country had already felt the impact of the policies of the administration.

The Senate President said there was a need to encourage agricultural agencies, like NALDA, to work closely with the research institutions in Nigerian universities.

The Executive Secretary/CEO of NALDA, Paul Ikonne, said the discovery of oil in the country hampered the growth of agriculture and increased poverty in rural communities, assuring the President that the concerted effort to revive interest in farming will tackle poverty and create wealth.

Ikonne said the resuscitation of NALDA after close to 20 years of abandonment will go a long way in reducing unemployment in the country, especially among the youth.

“Our focus is to engage 1,000 farmers from each of the 774 Local Government Areas, thereby creating 774,000, direct employment annually,’’ he added.

Goodwill messages were given by a representative of the Young Farmers, Fatima Usman Musa and Denmark Ambassador to Nigeria, Amb. Jesper Kamp.

Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, Kebbi State Governor, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu and Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, also participated in the event.

Nanono seeks youths, women involvement in agriculture

Source: pmnewsnigeria

By Okeoghene Akubuike

Alhaji Sabo Nanono, the Minister, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, has called for a greater involvement of the youth and women in agriculture.

Nanono made the call on Tuesday in Abuja at the “Debriefing of Outcomes of Socio-economic Surveys in Nigeria’’ led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and its partners.

He said that there was a need to address the issue of the micro level value chain being practised in Nigeria by aiming for a higher one which would help engage more youths and women in agriculture.

“I hope this meeting will also address the link between agriculture and industrialisation and look at the value chain by looking at a higher level of value chain.

“We have to start thinking along that line and see how we can remove a large number of youths from our streets.

The minister said Nigeria needed to look at crops such as soya bean and sesame seed which, according to him, are crops with good potential for export.

He also said the crops had the potential to create jobs for the youth.

Nanono called on women to wake up and come out of their closets, be aggressive and proactive in participating in farming business.

He urged women and the youth to be involved in agriculture to move the nation forward.

The minister noted that though sorghum was becoming an industrial problem the seeds planted in Nigeria were not standardised.

He advised that the issue should be addressed through education and massive orientation programmes to enable the people to understand the importance of standardising sorghum.

Pushing rural prosperity through agriculture

Nigeria has an ambitious target of reducing extreme poverty as envisaged in the Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy. To achieve this, stakeholders say the solution lies in promoting rural agriculture. They suggested multifaceted approaches, including policy changes to promote  job growth, infrastructure improvement, technological innovation, energy security and improving quality of life in rural communities, DANIEL ESSIET reports.

 

The founder of Hastom Nigeria, an agricultural firm, Debo Thomas, is one promising young farmer in Ogbomosho, Oyo State.  Unlike young Nigerians who abandon farming and rural communities, choosing to migrate to urban centres in search of white-collar jobs, Thomas chose to remain and make a difference. Today, he  is a successful crop and cattle farmer.

He noticed that people interested in agriculture were mostly from the city and their major problem was farmland, while in Ogbomosho, they have abundant land. He started helping people to purchase farmlands.

Similarly, he has achieved success in cashew farming. He has cultivated cashew trees on more than 550 acres. According to him, ensuring access to nutritious and affordable food is essential to achieving inclusive and sustainable development in Nigeria.

Those who make this happen, he noted, live in rural areas. He has seen first-hand the powerful role agro entrepreneurs can play in transforming communities, but lamented that farmers were facing unique challenges.

Most of them, according to him,  struggle to earn enough income He urged the Federal Government to enact economic policies that will drive growth and development while calling for the provision of vital infrastructure to enable young entrepreneurs to succeed in agriculture.

He said there should be enough government support to ignite activities across the food and agriculture value chain, provide reliable, consistent credit and financial services, empower communities and strengthen agriculture development in states throughout the country.

Speaking with The Nation, a professor of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development, Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension, Federal University Oye-Ekiti, Ikole Campus, Ekiti State, Akinwumi Moses Omotayo, said Nigeria‘s rural  agricultural transformation could help the  ongoing fight against poverty, urging for collaboration to strengthen  the vital sector of the economy.

The sector, he further noted, has the potential to reduce poverty and continue driving economic growth, but that emphasis ought to be placed on increasing productivity and competitiveness in the rural areas.

The campaign, Omotayo added, should involve putting  high yielding seed varieties in the hands of farmers, accompanied by investment in rural roads, irrigation, and agricultural extension.  He stressed that boosting productivity in rural areas could lead to more jobs.

His words: “The means of becoming a millionaire in the next decade is by becoming a farmer.”

Omotayo said Nigeria’s agriculture has a strong, diversified base yet it still lags behind other developing nations, largely due to technology gap. He said there should be facilities for rural farmers to get all the information they need to thrive.

According to him, the internet is a great tool for learning and will help farmers seeking ways to increase production. He said there should be loans and grants to help farmers expand economic opportunities.

The Group Managing Director, Gerar International Limited,   Prince Ojiefoh Enahoro, is an agro exporter. He is a supplier of grains and oil seeds to big companies such as Flourmill, Rom Oil, Apple and Pears and Olam Nigeria and Osun Commodity Limited. His biggest achievement was that he first tried everything, gained experience and then advised others. He now offers consultancy services to people involved in rural farming, and has continued to make a difference.

Speaking with The Nation, Enahoro said rural farmers were not having the best of times.  “We face a lot of problems as rural farmers and exporters. The government has not been intentional about developing rural agriculture.”

According to him, farmers are worried about the unsustainable development of the economy and high inflation, adding that policies for agricultural production and consumption have not been paid enough attention.

He said what Nigeria needed was a pragmatic development plan to stimulate growth in  rural areas, including  expanding agriculture, the success of which would be seen in the emergence of exports as  the highest source of foreign currency for the nation.

The wide variety of agricultural produce, according to him, is one of the nation’s major strengths, a result of the country’s different climatic and geographical zones.

His words: “Oyo State can generate over N200 billion annually from cashew nuts. Same thing for Edo and Kogi states. “In Taraba, they have more than 23 flowing rivers across 11 local government areas. The water is not being well utilised. No irrigation, nothing. If we are bringing produce from rural areas to the capital, we have to cross rivers. We have water, we have good soil, and we have population. Things are not working. Rural farmers are suffering. We spend millions purchasing herbicides and seedlings for the farmers.”

High transport costs, according to him, are a big issue that should be addressed as they are undermining competitiveness.

According to him, rural agriculture has continued to lag significantly behind, hindered by logistic challenges. In the longer term, he said there should be programmes to ensure smaller producers are integrated into the attractive export industry.

The Programme Director, Development Dynamics, Dr Jude Ohanele, said rural farmers needed to be empowered to bring productivity back to the agricultural landscape.

In Imo State where he operates, Ohanele has been part of efforts to midwife small agricultural businesses to revive the economy. He has been explicit about his increasing efficiency and food production to replace imports that cost Nigeria hundreds of millions of dollars yearly.

The fact that his   biofortification campaign has produced a number of small agro businesses is a clear sign of how much lack of extension support has held down the progress of rural businesses not exposed to such services.

Ohanele said by most measures rural farmers were not doing well because of waste, poor management, policy constraints, transportation limits, and other problems.

According to him, most farm produce are  wasting because of lack of transportation to bring them to processing centres.

He  was  also worried that the bureaucrats responsible for managing the complex mix of state-run and private agriculture lack the knowledge needed to make the system work.

For a lecturer at the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ibadan, Dr  Kehinde Adesina Thomas, Nigeria  presents a unique case study of a developing country that  has not successfully invested in its agricultural sector and boosted its economy.

Thomas said empowering and investing in rural  farmers was a  pre-requisite to fulfilling the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals that aim to end poverty and hunger.

He was, however, concerned  that rural agriculture has not  shown any  record of tremendous growth. He  attributed this to under  investments in the sector.

With limited non-farm employment in rural areas, he noted that  a vast majority of rural labour force relies on agricultural work for income.

Farmers, Thomas noted, want to see significant improvements in livelihood and rural economy.

The knowledge gap is one of the issues, Head, Operations, Anastasia Marie Nigeria Limited, Sunday Etimensi, wants addressed as rural farmers require training on how to restore productivity using better farm management methods.

Etimensi said operators needed to know the productive protocols and  land management techniques to use, how to scale, and even what crops and animals to farm.

For Nigeria to reduce extreme poverty by 2030, stakeholders called for increased efforts to secure a better standard of living for the people. They believe agribusiness has the potential to boost the livelihoods of ruralites.

According to the Executive Partner, Alfam Insurance Brokers, Gbolahan Adu, prosperity will come from an accelerated transformation of the agriculture sector in the rural areas.

In his interaction with farmers, Adu saw record post-harvest losses and this has a negative impact on their income.

While the provision of reliable storage facilities  could  help reduce  perennial post-harvest losses, improve food security and alleviate poverty, Adu  said implementing agricultural insurance was vital to reduce community vulnerabilities to crises and disasters and to better prepare farmers for future shocks.

He said agriculture insurance has a role to play in easing access to finance and credit by farmers, and cushioning them against losses induced by disasters or diseases that affect their crops and livestock.

He urged the government to encourage rural farmers to adopt insurance policies for crops and livestock.

A crop and social scientist, Ige Oluwaseun, said there was the need to support rural farmers to sustain their businesses. He said there should be programmes to support rural households to improve their food and nutrition security and reduce rural poverty by combining agriculture and social protection.

The Chief Executive, A.K&F Agro Tech and Agro S-ervice, Osuwa Abdullahi, urged the authorities to scale up investments  in rural areas as part of efforts to eradicate poverty.

He implored the government to prioritise the development of agriculture and rural areas and advance a batch of major projects to facilitate production and consumption.

These, according to him, will help to reduce rural poverty, improve food security, boost export revenue, and deepen marketing and distribution chains throughout the economy.

Source: The Nation

Embrace export proceed number, Shippers Council tells operators

The Nigerian Shippers Council has called on shipping companies and terminal operators to adopt the Nigerian Export Proceeds number for exportation.

Executive Secretary of the NSC, Hassan Bello, made the call while visiting terminal operators on Tuesday after disruption of activities during the recent protests.

The terminals he visited included the APM Terminal, Maersk Nigeria and the Tincan Island Container Terminal.

Bello explained that NXP number was produced to smoothen export transactions. He said the the Central Bank of Nigeria gave 90-days transaction period for operators to take that opportunity.

He said, “We are on this round to find out challenges of terminal operators after the disruption of service for the past six days and ensure that there is no spillover that will affect the economy as it will have adverse consequences.

“Shippers were not able to remove their cargoes so there is need to think about it and come up with incentives so that they will be able to do so.

Customer Experience Manager, Maersk Nigeria, Yemi Adenaike, lamented their inability to validate the NXP numbers, urging the Executive Secretary to find a temporary solution until the portal was up to speed.

He said, “We anticipated the rush due to the disruption of last week and we have extended the dues of customers till the end of the month.

“Due to our inability to validate the NXP number, we have stopped loading exports and this is not good as it will impact negativity on the terminal, road and others and so we seek your help.”

Bello encouraged the management of the Tincan Island Container Terminal to come up with solutions to ensure the decongestion of people operating at the port by ensuring operations were done digitally.

He stressed that the government had begun to make transactions at the port easier by investing in the necessary infrastructure which includes an electronic call-up system and the process of linking rails to terminals.

Recently, the CBN vowed to sanction exporters who ship out goods without Nigerian Export Proceed numbers.

The regulatory body said that cargoes would be turned back if exporters did not comply with the auto system that has been put in place.

Source: Punch


Bello signs agric policy document

Niger State Governor Sani Bello has signed the state Agricultural Policy Document to improve the agricultural development.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Idris Usman made this known at the meeting of the agricultural core delivery team in Minna.

Usman said  for the past seven years, the Ministry of Agriculture has not had any policy document to direct its activities.

“With the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) support, we have been able to develop the state agricultural policy and investment plan which has just been signed by the governor.

Source: The Nation

Oxfam seeks more investment in agriculture

Oxfam Nigeria has asked the Federal Government  to scale up its investment in agriculture to ensure food security.

It said the COVID-19 period has created a better opportunity for the government to re-access its level of preparedness in the sector.

The organisation called on the government to create women centred specific intervention programs that can enhance the productivity of women since they are the major farmers in the country.

Country Director of Oxfam Nigeria, Constant Tchona said this at the World Food Day in Abuja.

The Country Director, who was represented by Olumide Ojo said: “We want to join our voices together as development partners to demand that government scales up its investment in agriculture, it is very important. We have had many treaties and commitment, the Malabo, Maputo declaration to the Abuja declaration that stipulates a minimum of 10 per cent budgetary allocation, if you can do this, it is to the benefit of the whole nation and not just for government.

“We recognise that the majority of the farmers in Nigeria are smallholders and predominantly women. From our works all over the country, we realise that a lot of challenges are hindering their full and optimal performance in the sector, so we will be glad to see some women centred specific intervention programs that can enhance the productivity of these population in agriculture.

“Lastly, I want to call on the Senate that we have the right to food bill that we have been pushing as Oxfam since 2010/2011.’’

We believe that access to food should be a right of every Nigerian and I think that it is now time, I think that COVID-19 actually brought us a better opportunity to re-access our preparedness. I think that the bill has scaled the first and second reading but we don’t know the situation of the bill for now.

“I want to pledge on behalf of my country director, the commitment of Oxfam international in Nigeria to provide technical support and otherwise to the Ministry of Agriculture, to rural women farmers in Nigeria and the generality of Nigerians.”

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alh. Muhammad Nanono who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr. Abdulkadir Mu’azu said, “Much has been achieved in the agricultural sector, first is in cassava and yam production with 59.4m tons and 7.9m tons, we also ranks 14 in maize production with 10.43 metric tons and 4th in palm oil with 7.7m metric tons in the same year. In 2019, Nigeria became the largest producers of rice in Africa, with a production level of 9m metric tons. These are indeed a true testimony of our commitment to boosting agriculture and providing nutritious food.”

Source: The Nation

Women should engage in Agro-business for healthy living Okey-Onyema

Eberechukwu Okey-Onyema is the Executive Director, Healthy Living and Women Empowerment Initiative (HELWEI), a non-governmental organisation, and member, Steering Committee, Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria. Recently, the body organised a two-day capacity building workshop in agro-technology, financial management and marketing for women in Egbe and Idimu in Lagos State. She told PAUL ADUNWOKE that women need to engage in farming to enable them feed their families and live healthy.

Why do you focus on farming and not any other field?
We set out to promote good health through nutrition, and you cannot talk about nutrition without mentioning agriculture. So, we train them because we know the role agriculture plays in overall health. If people do not have enough food to eat, they will be malnourished.

In Nigeria today, there are over 37 per cent of malnourished Nigerian children that have stunted growth. So, we train women on agriculture to enable them have good productivity, so as to have good health. When women are healthy and have good life, they will be able to support their families. As they say, he who trains a woman, trains a community. This project will give women the capacity to send their children to good schools and make good decisions about their health.

What was the purpose of the workshop?
As an NGO, we are committed to improving lives of children and women, promoting their general health and wellbeing through nutrition and positive lifestyle, advocacy and research. We work in different communities and in the course of our duty, we discovered that there are lots of knowledge gaps in activities most women engage themselves, such as farming. So, we work to bridge this gap, as well as gender gap and promote women and girls’ rights.

We are collaborating with Women’s Rights and Health Project in Lagos State. Currently, we are working with women in 12 local council development areas (LCDAs) in Lagos State to improve their lives and ensure that gender violence is reduced. The project will run for about three years.

We trained the women in Egbe and Idimu in such agro-business as fishery, poultry and livestock, among others. We add basic financial management because we understand the relationship between establishing a business and how to manage it. Many of the women were not into agro-business before. So, we support them from zero level and ensure that they grow to enable them take care of their families. The idea is to encourage them to acquire optimal knowledge of the business, as well as have exposure in the marketing of their products. This way, they will be able to find fulfillment through actualizing their dreams.

We also want them to have knowledge of food processing and not just being able to feed themselves and their families. This is to encourage them to go into exporting, as there are lots of potential in farming in Nigeria. We brought facilitators with rich knowledge in agro-business to enlighten them.

How can women maintain healthy lifestyle through agro-business?
One of the women told me she went into farming because during the COVID-19 lockdown, she could not feed her family. But she has a neighbour, who is into planting and selling of Ugu leaves (fluted pumpkin) and makes money from it and is able to feed her family. So, the neighbour introduced her into the agro-business and she started feeding her own family too.

You know that Ugu is nutritious. So, by the time you eat this vegetable, you have already provided your body with the needed vitamins to enable it function well. This is aside the monetary aspect. Women need to prioritise their health, so the training is not all about making money, but also taking care of their health.

At this period of COVID-19, there is need to boost the immunity, but the individual cannot do this without eating the right food. So, it is important that women cultivate a healthy lifestyle by eating good, nutritious food, which comprises a blend of all classes of food.

For instance, it is common knowledge that eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruits is very important to good health. So also is eating the right quantity of food at the right time, especially at this period.

Women undertake a lot of responsibilities in the family: they cook, go to farm, go to the market and attend to their husbands and children’s needs. So, they need to be in good health.

Women should not allow COVID-19 to affect their families’ wellbeing. Rather, they should go into farming to cultivate at least ugu leaves and such others to properly feed their families. Women also need to engage in physical exercise and rest well. Sanitation of environment and personal hygiene is very important to win the war against COVID-19. Aside training, we also have disbursement programme to support women with micro credits to improve their agro-business and empower them optimally.

What plans do you have for women post COVID-19?
Post COVID-19 is not going to be business as usual. We are going to have ethical farming, which means that even small spaces can be used for farming. So for instance, when vegetables are expensive in the market, the individual can pluck some from his or her farm and the food will be thus enriched.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, there were claims that relief materials did not get to women and children at the grassroots. Funds were said to have been diverted, which were meant for feeding citizens during the lockdown. Government needs to do more in terms of improving the lives of women and children. A lot of children are malnourished, which is being worsened by the increase in prices of goods. This is unbearable and something should be done urgently.

Source: The Guardian

Water Resources Bill will boost irrigation farming system– Minister

Suleiman Adamu, the Minister of Water Resources, says the passage of Water Resources Bill will boost irrigation farming system and enhance food security in the country.

Adamu made this known when he appeared at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja.

He said that the bill would enhance both domestic and non-domestic use for irrigation, navigation, agricultural and fishery purposes as well as generation of hydro-electric energy.

He said that the Federal Government has 130,000 hectares of formal irrigation infrastructure, adding that the ministry was initiating a project with World Bank on the irrigation system.

He said that the project was tagged: Transforming Irrigation Management in Nigeria project (TRIMING), adding that the project was not only about rehabilitating the infrastructure but revolutionising irrigation management.

“When I came into office, more than 70,000 hectares can be used during the dry season, and about 60,000 hectares are not being used during the dry season.

“This is because there was no maintenance, the canals are blocked and therefore we have come into a new concept we are working now with the World Bank on the Nigerian TRIMING project.

“This project will enhance the farmers in various areas as well as boosting food production in the country,’’ he said.

Adamu said that the fundamental thing about Water Resources Bill already in the National Assembly was that it would empower irrigation farmers in the country.

He said that the bill was also providing opportunities to farmers to initiate Water Users Associations as such would help them manage and maintain the infrastructures for the irrigation system.

“The bill will provide for farmers to be allowed to form water user associations so that they can collect part of this money that they are supposed to be paying for water, put it in the pool and be using it to manage the infrastructure themselves, again is another empowerment on our irrigation farmers.

“So, therefore, the idea will bring about empowerment on our irrigation farmers that way, there will be more efficiency in the irrigation system.

“This means that farmers will no longer be waiting for the Federal Government to rehabilitate the system for them because they are already being empowered,’’ he said,

Adamu said that the TRIMING project was part of the government`s commitment in enhancing food security.

According to him, the project will help to take the farmers away from a manual production system of farming.

“It is time we put in place all our investment to make sure that irrigation infrastructure is working effectively.

“We cannot as a country of 200 million people continue to rely on rainfall agricultural system. We need to be producing enough food that is one of the reasons we are looking into the irrigation system as it will boost our agriculture as well as our economy,’’ he said.

The minister said that the ministry had developed a new Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Action Plan adding, that it was launched by the president in 2018.

He said that WASH was designed to promote hygiene practices to help various communities realise and achieve greater health benefits and improving sanitation and hygiene across the country.

“We have been doing studies on our water supply sector and we realised that in 1992, 30 one per cent of the Nigeria population was enjoying pipe-borne water but as at 2015, it dropped to seven per cent.

“So we have to do something, we decided to work with our development partners and within a year we developed a new WASH Action Plan, which the president launched on Nov. 8, 2018 and declared a state of emergency on WASH sector.

“We all know that water and light are the basic ingredients of life, some states have not been investing enough in water supply sector maybe because they don’t realise that water is dynamic and the population is strongly growing.

“If you want to be supplying adequate water, you have to move more two steps ahead of the population.

“So before the population get to two million, you must have an adequate water supply of 12 or 13 million and by the time the population is getting to 13 million, you are already getting the facilities that will serve about 20 million people.

“I think that is the best way to enhance water supply and the facilities, but there is a lot of breaks down in certain states that today, the existing scheme that have been there for the past 30 years are the only schemes that are still existing.

“The schemes are not even being managed well and they are operated in optimum capacities because the equipment are not being replaced or maintained and that is why the systems are not working.

“So when we analyse all these challenges, we decided to have a WASH farm and through the farm, states can now draw money from it to add to their budgetary allocations so that they can invest more in water and sanitation sector.

“In that effect, we now introduced this WASH farm 2020 edition of water resources bill.

“In that, we involve all the states and various relevant stakeholders in the WASH action plan, we decided that the country must have a WASH farm as that will help the states government to be more effective in the sector,’’ he said.

Adamu, however, advised all the states government and other relevant stakeholders to support in promoting the sector to enable it to achieve global practices in water resource management in the country.

Source: The Guardian


FG, BOA train 100 women in agriculture

The Federal Government has trained 100  women on the use of Information and Communication Technology in agriculture development.

The National Centre for Women Development, a parastatal of the Federal Ministry Ministry of Women Affairs, said the empowerment with support from the Bank of Agriculture, was to enable them adopt efficient farming techniques and boost quality food production.

The Director-General of NCWD, Mary Ekpere-Eta, during the event held in Abuja in commemoration of the World Food Day, said the women were drawn from various Local Government Aeas in the 36 states of the country.

According to her, the empowerment in ICT was to ensure that Nigeria attained the Social Development Goal Five which is gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls through ICT.

The NCWD DG said 70 per cent of the country’s population which comprises women and youths, needed to harness the power of ICT so that they could participate in the programme and benefit from the information revolution taking place across the country.

She said, “One hundred female farmers from different LGAs in the country were assembled for this intensive training after a thorough screening process.

“They have been made aware of ICT techniques that can be leveraged for business development, access to finance, marketing and networking strategies, personal security, access to modern agricultural practices among others.

“It is common knowledge that the SDG-5 is aimed at achieving gender equality to empower all women and girls through the use of ICT.

“As a result, participants were introduced to the global spatial database of land use, food prices, flooding in Nigeria and many other applications, as well as resources online, through which they can gather vital and timely information as farmers and make informed decisions on what to produce, when to produce and where to sell their products at a competitive price.”

The Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, encouraged beneficiaries of the training to make the best use of the knowledge impacted on them.

Source: punchng.com

Grooming cassava entrepreneurs

THE cassava industry is growing tremendously. This follows increasing usage  and processing into various products.

Processed cassava is used in some industries, some of which include food, ethanol, paper and cardboard, textiles, pharmaceutical, glues and adhesives.

According to Cassava Processing Market: Global Industry Trends, Share, Size, Growth, Opportunity and Forecast 2019-2024 report, published by Research and Markets.com, the  food industry accounts for around a half of the total global cassava consumption followed by feed industry.

Region-wise, the report said  Nigeria is the world’s leading producer of cassava accounting for around a fifth of the world’s cassava production followed by Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, Ghana, and Congo.

Organisations are encouraging more Nigerians to go into cassava farming and processing. One of such organisations is HarvestPlus Nigeria. The Country Manager, HarvestPlus Nigeria, Dr. Paul Ilona, said farmers could make more money from the sale of cassava stem, if properly cultivated and harnessed.

He said cassava stem business in Nigeria was estimated at over N20 billion yearly.

According to Ilona, since the country cultivates an average of seven million hectares of cassava, there is still room for expansion to end the importation of cassava and its byproducts.

“In Nigeria, a hectare of cassava farm requires a bundle of 60 cassava stems to cultivate and when multiplied by seven million hectares of cassava farm annually, that gives us 420 million bundles.

“A bundle of 60 stems of one meter-long each sells at N500. Since we plant seven million hectares for cassava annually, in monetary terms, 420 million bundles multiplied by N500, which translates to N20 billion annually.

“The cassava sector is a very profitable sector, from the stem, to the tuber and to the processed food, even to those who distribute the products.

“Farmers will make more revenue from the casava stem if properly cultivated and harnessed,” Ilona said.

He said that some investors had become major aggregators in the cassava seed sector (stem) and urged more farmers to look into it to enhance their revenue.  HarvestPlus is not alone in the campaign.

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is also involved.

Under a programme, Building and Economically Sustainable, Integrated Cassava Seed System (BASICS), the organisation has demonstrated that the cassava seeds system could be profitable for the players involved across the value chain.

The Project Director, Hemant Nitturkar, said BASICS has been changing Nigeria’s cassava seed sector and creating seed entrepreneurs for the past decade.

“In past five years, BASICS has created a viable and sustainable cassava seed system in Nigeria, opening a vista of opportunities for seed entrepreneurs and cassava farmers looking for new and improved varieties for cultivation,” he said.

Nitturkar said the project was able to link breeders and researchers, who developed improved cassava varieties and technologies; with farmers and processors who benefited from high-quality planting materials.

According to him, the BASICS project has created over 150 community-based seed entrepreneurs, who are running viable cassava stem businesses in states like Benue, Cross River, Abia and Imo.

He said it had also facilitated the establishment of two seed companies, namely IITA GoSeed located on the IITA campus in Ibadan and Umudike Seed at National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) in Umudike, Abia.  Last week, BASICS-II enlisted 45 farmers in Kogi State as cassava seed entrepreneurs (CSEs). The CSEs were drawn from across the state after a thorough screening process by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the BASICS-II partner leading the development of CSEs in Nigeria. The plan is to help Kogi State boost its seed demand for cassava production, create a new stream of business opportunities, improve the livelihoods of farmers and contribute to the overall food security in the country.

The coming on board of the new cassava seed entrepreneurs is expected to drive the adoption and marketing of the recently branded six released varieties and four yet-to be-released varieties. The released varieties and their new names are as follows: IBA961632 (Farmer’s Pride), IBA980581 (Dixon), CR36-5 (Ayaya), IBA070593 (Sunshine), IBA980505 (Fine face) and TME 419. The yet-to-be-released (pre-release) varieties and their new names are TMS13F1160P0004 (Game Changer), TMS13F1343P0022 (Obasanjo-2), NR130124 (Hope) and TMEB693 (Poundable). Under good agronomic practices, these varieties yield more than 20 tonnes per hectare (ha) as opposed to the current national average of nine tonnes per ha.

Kogi State Commissioner for Agriculture, David Apeh, said the development of cassava seeds system in Kogi state was a welcome development for the transformation of the state’s cassava sector.

“It all starts with the seeds. When you start with bad stems, you end with bad results. Therefore, we appreciate IITA, BASICS-II, and CRS for bringing this project to Kogi State,” Mr Apeh, who was represented by the Director of Agricultural Services, Mr Okolo Ichalla, said.

BASICS-II Project Leader, Prof Lateef Sanni,  re-echoed the importance of developing the cassava seed sector to catalyse the diffusion of improved varieties in Nigeria.

He noted that there was a huge opportunity in the cassava seed sector for farmers to utilise and transform their livelihoods, adding: “BASICS-II was willing to backstop farmers towards developing a sustainable cassava seed sector in Nigeria.”

Source: thenationonlineng.net