Help for Nigerian small-scale farmers to improve food security and combat poverty in face of COVID-19

Source: Mirage News

The Federal Government of Nigeria and the International Fund for Agricultural Development of the United Nations (IFAD) are working together to lessen the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on small-scale farmers’ activities and domestic food supply in northeastern states of Nigeria.

IFAD has provided a first grant of US$900,000 through its Rural Poor Stimulus Facility (RPSF) to support the worst affected small-scale producers and rural households in the North through the COVID-19 crisis, as well as to rebuild and recover in the post-crisis period. The grant agreement, signed by Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, Minister of Finance, budget and National Planning and Nadine Gbossa, IFAD’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa, will help vulnerable small-scale farmers in seven northern states (Borno, Jigawa, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara).

Under the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, more than 8,000 vulnerable smallholders in Northern Nigeria will receive an agricultural stimulus and resilience package composed of climate resilient seeds; these are high yielding, and high nutritional value varieties that will help farmers achieve good production and secure their incomes. IFAD’s support complements the United Nations Nigeria COVID-19 Basket by earmarking resources to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on smallholders’ farming activities and domestic food supply.

“We both recognize and appreciate IFAD’s support to our quest to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s economy, particularly on the agricultural sector,” said Mohammed S. Nanono, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Nigeria. “This support strengthens my Ministry’s COVID-19 Agricultural Mitigation and Sustainability Plan, which aims to address the impact of the pandemic on Nigerian agriculture and food security.”

The government will procure 80 metric tons of seed – maize, rice and vegetables – and 722 metric tons of fertilizer that will support the most affected small-scale farmers. About 50 per cent are women, 25 per cent men and 25 percent young farmers who are already participating in the ongoing IFAD-funded Climate Adaptation and Agribusiness Support Programme.

“I am very happy to be among the beneficiaries who will collect rice seed and fertilizer. This will enable me to cultivate the half hectare of rice I have under irrigation for this year’s dry season. I will be able to increase my income and food security despite the COVID -19 pandemic,” said Ige Abdullahi Yarkofoji, a farmer from the Rini Community, Bakura area in Zamfara State.

There will also be training for communities on improved food production practices, including effective application of fertilizer and agro-chemicals, farm management and climate-smart agriculture. These activities are intended to safeguard smallholders’ pre-COVID gains in food security, better market access and increased income. Activities would also sensitize small-scale producers to COVID-19 security measures they should follow to stay safe during their farming activities.

“This funding from IFAD’s Rural Poor Stimulus Facility will ensure that farmers have timely access to inputs, information, and markets. By supporting smallholders to mitigate this crisis through a market-led approach, basic farming activities will be sustained, facilitating post-COVID-19 crisis recovery and resilience,” said Nadine Gbossa, IFAD’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “IFAD is committed to leave no one behind and will ensure that women and youth in Nigeria have an equal opportunity to benefit from this funding.”

Since 1985, IFAD has financed 11 projects in Nigeria for a total of $ 1,136.8 million, including $ 510.5 million from IFAD’s own resources, directly benefitting nearly 3.9 million Nigerian rural households.

In Ogun, It’s Seamless Season for Agriculture

Source: This Day

In December last year, Ogun State helmsman, Prince Dapo Abiodun, breezed into the conference room of Sheraton Hotels, Abuja, in a blaze of glory. And local and international stakeholders in agriculture stood still as he was decorated with the Best Governor of the year award in Agriculture, a fitting tribute to months of endless toils and triumphs in a pandemic year. The innovations in farming, farming techniques and technologies and agribusiness deriving from Governor Abiodun’s (ISEYA) mantra of infrastructure, social welfare and wellbeing, youth empowerment, culture and religion had not gone unnoticed. The year had been rough but as the old saying goes, a golden fish has no hiding place…

As is well known, the state is very competitive in arable crops like cassava, yam, maize, sweet potato, and cash crops like cocoa, oil palm, timbre, kolanut, cashew and rubber. In actualizing its objective, the government embraced an integrated approach to production, processing and marketing through land provisions/inputs distribution, processing and marketing with individuals and corporate organizations. There is of course the African Development Bank, World Bank/Ogun State Economic Transformation Project (OGSTEP) for 40,000 farmers in nine priority value chains cassava, maize, rice, soybean, tomatoes and pepper, sesame, fishery and poultry), among many others.

During the 2020 planting season, 40,000 smallholder farmers were supported with inputs such as seeds, cassava cutting, insecticide and herbicide, just as 10,000 farmers were given fertilizers palliatives and continued support across the state. The administration supported young farmers with over 900 hectares of land preparations in 17 locations, with some 2,500 unemployed youths and farmers engaging in cassava production. In addition, it set up strategic partnerships with international development partners and farmers in large-scale cultivation of rice and cassava in 36 locations in 11 local government areas.

It cannot be a moot point that the broiler scheme of the state empowered 54 pilot youths who had successfully completed three cycles of broiler production with each making profit of N150.000 per cycle for three cycles. If the administration achieved success with the linkage of 4,462 participants to inputs and credit to the tune of N700 million in the cassava value chain, and 1,065 participants to inputs and credit to the tune of N300 million in the rice value chain through the CBN/Ogun State Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), the linkage of 800 participants to inputs and credit to the tune of N360 million under the Ogun State Government/Federal Government/IFAD Assisted Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) took things to another level entirely. But that was not all: 394 maize farmers, 54 rice farmers and 21 poultry farmers benefitted from the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) through the CBN.

To be sure, the construction of 20km access roads in Obafemi-Owode, Yewa North and Ijebu North East, 14 solar-powered water schemes in Ijebu North East, Obafemi-Owode, Yewa North, Ifo, Ijebu East, Odeda and Odogbolu LGAs, four cassava processing centres at Baara, Alapako-Oni, OkeIyemi and Ayetoro, not to mention the rice processing centre in Eggua, is all part of the scheme to make farming great again in Ogun State.

What is more, innovations such as the CBN Cassava 5-Star Programme, Cocoa Development Initiative and Oil Palm Expansion Programme) and the Federal Government/Ogun State Government/IFAD Assisted Value Chain Development Programme for over 3,000 farmers in 11 local government areas in the state are gradually turning the fortunes of farmers and farming around in the state. This, of course, is in addition to the World Bank COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (CARES) Project; World Bank-Assisted Agro-Processing, Agricultural Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement (APPEALS) Project; EU/GIZ/Federal Government/Lagos State/Ogun State Nigeria Competitiveness Project (NICOP) for 3,000 farmers including youths, in tomato and chilli pepper value chains; International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)’s technological innovations and support to farming and related activities, including technical backstopping, demonstration farms and enterprise development in Ogun State. The list is virtually endless.

But here’s the real deal: the glory season is in fact only just beginning. For one, irrigation farming and weather-smart agricultural practices are in the pipeline.

The Ogun State Economic Transformation Programme (OGSTEP) targeted at empowering over 40,000 farmers is scheduled to take off even as the administration has concluded plans to link farmers with tractors, planting material palliatives and help them reduce the cost of production. An Ogun-Kebbi Joint Commision on Rice Production is set to be unfolded to meet the increasing demand for the staple food across the country.

That is not all: rice farmers in the state are set to experience a marvel as the government deploys drone technology to scare away predatory birds, and will be linked with mechanical rice harvesters at the mere payment of a pay a token.

Given the foregoing, it did not come as a surprise that a delegation from the Federal Capital Territory Agricultural Development Programme (FCT-ADP) and the Agric and Rural Development Secretariat (ARDS) recently visited Ogun State on a share-learning mission.

According to the leader of the delegation who doubles as the Director, Planning, Research and Statistics, ARDS, Yahaya Hussaini, the seamless land acquisition process, land management, farm settlement and farm estate operations of the state informed the choice of Ogun.

His words: “We are here because of the various success stories of Ogun State in terms of agriculture. It was indeed a fruitful visit, we have been to other states but what we saw in Ogun State is a wide margin, and we came to the conclusion that agriculture is the way out of our challenges.” Yahaya added that the Ogun Broiler Project and fisheries production would be replicated in the FCT-ADP. The Ogun State government is in fact working with the Federal Government and the private sector to promote the consumption of the Vitamin A and bio-fortified food.

As noted by the Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. Adeola Odedina, “We are privileged to be in charge of food security, industrial linkage and land administration, among others, accounting for the influx of investors into our dear state.”

Given the innovations highlighted above, you would be forgiven for thinking that nothing further is in the offing. But you would be wrong: this month, Prince Dapo Abiodun disclosed plans by his administration to have an agro-allied based airport—yes, airport– to aid the development of the state as a destination of choice for agriculture in Nigeria.

Speaking during the inauguration of Agbeloba Aquaculture Hub in Owiwi, Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area of the state, Abiodun said the agricultural sector remained a sure way out of poverty and the unemployment ravaging the country. As he pointed out, this year, at least 5,000 young people in the state would receive mentoring, support, and linkage to profitable agro-investment firms, as a prelude to setting them up in their respective businesses. In his view, “We now need another Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) more than ever before.

This time, it has to be urgent and with home-grown initiatives.” Nothing could be more apt at this time when the nation faces threats to food security in form of bandits and terrorists exterminating farming communities in the North-East and cutting down farmers in cold blood across the country.

Gov Bello Promises To Improve Agriculture Sector

Source: Tribuneonline

Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, has promised to improve the agricultural sector to attain food sufficiency and revenue generation.

Governor Bello stated this in a message to the inauguration of Kogi State Executive members of the AMANA Farmers and Grains Supplied Association of Nigeria (AFGASAN).

The Governor who was represented by the State Head of Service, Mrs Deborah Ogunmola, said agriculture is one of the major priority of the present administration noting that farmers in the state have been assisted with farm tools and other imputes to assist farmers at both subsistence and mechanised level.

While congratulating the newly elected executive members of the group, the Governor promised to partner with them for the realisation of their objectives.

He further explained that his administration recognises the position of women in the society noting that the party has mandated women to contest as Vice Chairman across the twenty-one Local Government Area of the state.

In a remark, the national President of (AFGASAN), Alhaji Haruna Hamed, said the Association which cut across the thirty-six states has assisted farmers in the aspect of finance and modern farming be the technique to improve their yielding.

He said the state is suitable for both cassava and cashew production emphasising that efforts will be heard towards improving production capacity.

In a paper presentation, an APC Chieftain from the Eastern Senatorial District of Kogi State, Doctor Halima Alfa, said the Association with over eighteen million members has continued to promote agriculture both nationally and internationally.

She commended the State House of Assembly for giving Governor Bello the impetus to contest Presidential election in 2023 emphasising that nobody in the north-central has been by elected to the exalted position.

Also speaking at the occasion, the Ohinohi of Ebira Land, His Royal Majesty, Alhaji Ado Ibrahim, who recalled that agriculture was the mainstay of the economy before the discovery of fossil fuels urged Nigerians to revert back to the old order to tackle the realities of the century.

Obaseki woos U.S. Govt, private sector for direct investments in agriculture

Source: Vanguard

To further strengthen the economy of the state, Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki has engaged the United States government in the oil palm and cassava sub-sectors of the state for the manufacturing of high-value Consumer-Packaged Goods (CPG). The governor is also partnering with the private sector for optimal actualisation of the objective.

Obaseki unveiled the plan at a virtual meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Honorable Mary Beth Leonard and some foreign and local agribusiness investors in Abuja on Thursday. The meeting which held on the heels of the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as US President and Vice President respectively attracted the presence of the U.S. Consul General, Claire Pierangelo, U.S. Embassy Economic Officer Richard Michaels and Brandon Hudspeth, U.S. Embassy Political Officer. Obaseki said that efforts to galvanize the sector began by instituting the framework for Edo State Oil Palm Programme (ESOPP) in his first term. He said: “At the sub-national tier of government, we focus on moving from lamenting to executing; we are focused on getting the job done. “This paradigm shift in the establishment of the ESOPP will now include a move towards a renewed focus on Cassava Industrialisation Programme through our land administration and civil service reforms.

“We want to build the capacity of our people to attract private investments in agro-industrialisation”. The Governor expressed satisfaction with the support and commitment of the ambassador to the plight of farmers and value chain development in the state. He committed to continued support for Fayus Inc, an agro-processor and distributor based in Sacramento, California for its investments in Edo and Nigeria. He, therefore, pledged additional allocation of 5000 hectares of land for the firm, emphasizing the need for human capacity development to engage the people of Edo. On her part, Amb. Leonard who led the team of U.S. officials commended Obaseki for his expression of interest to attract U.S. agri-business investors in the cassava and oil palm value chains. She pledged to spur other U.S. food and agribusiness companies to invest in Africa.

“Fayus Inc.’s $43.7 million investment commitment in cassava new food products development serves as an example of the synergy of goals in value creation to drive food security, economic diversification and jobs creation under the Prosper Africa Initiative and DFC project financing in support of US-Africa investors,” the ambassador said. Leonard also thanked Fayus Inc., AfricaGlobal Schaffer (AfGS), ShineBridge Global (SBG) and local partners in Nigeria for investing in the country. In his remarks, the Chairman of Fayus, Inc, Mr Fatai Yusufu said they were ready to revolutionize oil palm and cassava value chains in the state. “We are ready to get the job done in Nigeria and in Edo; over the next four years, I promise you, we will be milling palm oil in Edo from our investment in the 5,000 hectares of land recently allocated by Governor Obaseki’s administration. “Fayus, Inc. is one of six new oil palm investors in Edo with state-of-the-art nurseries boasting of over 600,000 high-performance seedlings ready for planting in 2021.

“Fayus, Inc. is committed to sustainable cassava supply chain infrastructure development and value creation in Nigeria to meet the company’s latent demand of 50,000 tonnes of High-Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) for in-country manufacturing of CPG in Nigeria and export to North American, European, and Australian markets. “U.S. companies, Fayus Inc., AfGS and SBG committed to investing $43.7 million in industrial food ingredients and CPG cassava value creation, food science and technology knowledge transfer and increased trade and investment inflows between the United States, Nigeria and other ECOWAS countries. “Fayus, Inc. plans to invest over $32 million in cassava value creation in Nigeria and an additional $18 million in Ghana and Togo, and has approached the USAID funded West Africa Trade and Investment Hub (WATIH) for support,” he said. Also, the Chairman of Shine Bridge Global Inc., Dr Tony Bello, said that the market size of gluten-free and grain-free CPG is estimated at $4.5 Billion by 2025. Bello said that value-added HQCF or tapioca flour served as functional food ingredients for making ready-to-eat consumer new food products.

He explained that Fayus, Inc. was the manufacturer of the famous “Ola Ola” brand of poundo yam flour and is expanding the brand to include Cassava Flour Mixes for making baked goods such as crackers and pizza crusts, snacks, shawarma, noodles, and the likes. The aim, according to him was to meet the growing demand for gluten-free and grain-free consumer food products in North America and the world. Similarly, Dr. Mima Nedelcovych, the Chairman of AfricaGlobal Schaffer (AfGS), an agro-industrial company operating in Africa commended Obaseki for the opportunity to invest in the state. He said the job will be done by leveraging on US Departments and Agencies such as USAID, USTDA and the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC). Nedelcovych also underscored the need to take advantage of the U.S. Exim Bank, African Export-Import Bank (AfreximBank) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) alongside the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for food and agricultural industrialisation.

According to him, the aim was to rapidly reach 15 states of Nigeria on large scale commercial cassava production, HQCF processing and CPG manufacturing with planned investments of $250 million up to $500 million. Nedelcovych who is also a co-facilitator of the meeting appreciated all the participants and Obaseki’s Special Adviser on Agriculture and Food Sustainability, Prince Joe Okojie, for their efforts in developing the state. Other participants at the meeting included Pacific Ring West Africa, Elephant Group Plc., and Von Foods Limited under the Project BOLT initiative on “Industrial Cassava Manufacturing Programme” in Africa.

Non-oil sector is critical to Nigeria’s economic recovery in 2021 – Cordros Capital

Source: Nairametrics

Nigeria’s GDP growth and eventual recovery in 2021 is expected to be heralded and driven by the Non-oil sector of the economy.

This disclosure was made in the presentations at the e-press conference titled “Positioning in the new normal” by Cordros Capital.

According to the report…

  • In 2020, the Non-oil GDP dipped by 2.5% year-on-year which was attributed to the lingering impact of the pandemic on business activities, with partial easing of lockdown restrictions.
  • The Oil GDP also dipped by 13.9% year-on-year as a result of 18.1% year-on-year decline in crude oil production, as Nigeria fully complied with the OPEC+ agreements.
  • In 2021, the Non-oil sectors are expected to spearhead the economic recovery with the Services sectors growing by 2.69%. The Agriculture sector is expected to remain as resilient as it was in 2020 and grow by 1.89%, but the Manufacturing sector will dip by 0.89% as a result of weakening demand as well as limited FX supply constraints.

Why this matters

Nigeria’s economy has been quite monolithic since the 1980s and this has been persistently threatened by the instability in crude oil prices in the international market.

The need for the diversification of the Nigerian economy from over-dependence on oil cannot be overemphasized, especially going by the unstable and fluctuating global oil prices. This is aimed at minimizing the country’s vulnerability to macro-economic risks, such as production fall, fall in demand and price, and also a run out of reserves.

In the early ’60s, agriculture was a booming sector – Groundnut, Cotton, Cocoa, Palm-kernel, etc, coupled with other mining activities were the major sources of the booming tradable goods before the advent of oil and its predominance in the Nigerian economy.

No doubt, the non-oil sector has what it takes to unlock the economy of Nigeria and position it on the path of resilient and sustained growth, if optimally harnessed.

Nigeria to get five new cassava varieties

Source: Premium Times

Five new cassava varieties developed with support from NextGen Cassava have been approved for release in Nigeria.

This was contained in a recent report by NextGen Cassava Breeding Project, an international partnership led by Cornell University.

According to the report published Thursday, these next generation varieties deliver promising options for smallholder farmers in resisting cassava diseases and marketing their crops to consumers.

It said the new varieties were named Game-Changer, Hope, Obasanjo-2, Baba-70 and Poundable.

“The five next generation varieties feature high yields and robust disease resistance important for farmers and characteristics sought by consumers,” the report said.

It noted that “Poundable” is the first fresh market variety released in Nigeria, while ‘Hope’ and ‘Baba-70’ have excellent gari and fufu quality to address the processed food market.

The report, however, said ‘Game-Changer’ and ‘Obasanjo-2’, have high and stable starch content, which is desired by industrial processors for flour, starch and ethanol.

“The varieties were approved December 17 by Nigeria’s National Variety Release Committee,” the report added.

Sabo Nanono, minister, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), was quoted to have said “The foundation of a solid crop value chain is based on best-bet varieties,”

Reactivate Marketing Boards

Source: Leadership

Nigeria’s food inflation has more than doubled in the last seven months. There is currently an unprecedented rise in the cost of food, especially staple foods and consumables.

These categories of food are completely out of the reach of majority of Nigerians economically, thanks to poor government policies, insecurity and the coronavirus pandemic. Today, only a few Nigerians can comfortably afford a three-square meal.
What is more, the global economy, Nigeria inclusive, has been experiencing a continuous downward drift as a result of the pandemic, resulting in upward movement of inflation rate. Nigeria’s current inflation rate is 12.69 per cent, while general food index has doubled and skyrocketed.

In the light of the current food inflation in the country we, as a newspaper, committed to the wellbeing of the people, demand that Nigeria returns to the era of agricultural marketing boards, where nation can have a guaranteed price for farm produce for farmers, and food affordability for a good number of Nigerians.

In retrospect,The powers of marketing boards range from advisory and promotional services to full control over output and sales. Marketing boards encourage low-cost production, which at the end of the day benefits consumers. This is more so because they buy farm produce from farmers and resell to others in order to prevent price instability.
We have not forgotten in a hurry how past politicians abused the old marketing boards in the country.

They found the boards as a ready‐made instrument for taxing farmers, enriching themselves and financing their political activities. The pricing policies discouraged farmers from producing enough and therefore rendered the boards redundant, which eventually led to their abolition.

But more than ever before, there is the need to bring back agricultural marketing boards in order to stabilise the price of food in the country. The current inflation rate implies that the purchasing power of consumers has worsened and their ability to afford the same quantity of goods and services they hitherto enjoyed has reduced despite income level remaining same. In some other cases, people have either lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic or have had their salaries and wages cut terribly.
Experts have, on the other hand, suggested that the best solution to the issue of food inflation in the country is to empower farmers to produce more, using technology. For now, food production in this part of the world depends largely on nature – rainfall and increased acreage.
The yield per hectare for farming in the country is well below global standards, driving up the cost of whatever is left to be sold to Nigerians. Unfortunately too, farmers also face insecurity, flooding, and sometimes famine affecting their ability to plant and harvest. Even after harvesting, supply chain challenges still persist, leaving farmers to contend with middlemen, transportation, and storage. The result is far less farm produce reaching the final consumer. And this is why as a newspaper we believe that functional marketing boards will minimise these crises.
Even for items under government control, it still cannot sorely determine the outcomes, the causes and effects. In September last year, the government announced the banning of maize, only to somersault after learning that poultry farmers lacked maize feeds to grow chickens. It quickly reversed itself and granted licences to four companies for the importation of maize.
The key drivers of food inflation in Nigeria have been identified to be insecurity in many farming communities across the country, cost of transportation, the effect of climate change, productivity issues in agriculture and the near total absence of commercial agriculture in the country and cost of farm inputs.
It is imperative to scale up productivity in agriculture, address the climate change issues and improve the security situation in order to improve agricultural output and reduce the risk of food crisis in the country.
The Buhari administration has made some concerted efforts in tackling food inflation/ insecurity. It has demonstrated its commitment in this regard in the last five years through policies on food importation and Central Bank’s intervention programmes for farmers. Nonetheless, it is only functional marketing boards with a clear mandate, in our view, that can ensure the success of these policies and programmes.
The problem can be solved when the CBN efforts at funding agricultural programmes and banning food importation is augmented by the government solving the issue of insecurity which has kept farmers off their farmlands in most communities across the country. This is aside reactivating the nation’s moribund agricultural marketing boards

Stakeholders list AfCFTA gains in agricbusiness despite $73b infrastructure gap

Source: The Guardian

Although Sub-Saharan Africa requires massive investment, with over $73b needed on irrigation and storage infrastructure alone to unlock potentials of agricultural sector, some stakeholders, yesterday, said with the right policies, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) may address existing barriers to agricbusiness and limit the continent’s vulnerability from excessive import of agric produce.

Currently, Africa barely trades with itself. Just 16 per cent of African exports are destined for other African countries, which is considerably less than 59 per cent of trade within Asia and 68 per cent within Europe, due to high tariff and infrastructure bottlenecks. 

Agriculture is the largest employer in Africa, accounting for 38.5 per cent of total employment, Tingo International Group CEO, Dozy Mmobuos noted, while stressing that it remained unacceptable for many African countries to continue to depend on imports from outside the continent for their food security.

Although Sub-Saharan Africa requires massive investment, with over $73b needed on irrigation and storage infrastructure alone to unlock potentials of agricultural sector, some stakeholders, yesterday, said with the right policies, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) may address existing barriers to agricbusiness and limit the continent’s vulnerability from excessive import of agric produce.

Currently, Africa barely trades with itself. Just 16 per cent of African exports are destined for other African countries, which is considerably less than 59 per cent of trade within Asia and 68 per cent within Europe, due to high tariff and infrastructure bottlenecks. 

Agriculture is the largest employer in Africa, accounting for 38.5 per cent of total employment, Tingo International Group CEO, Dozy Mmobuos noted, while stressing that it remained unacceptable for many African countries to continue to depend on imports from outside the continent for their food security.

For irrigation and storage alone, global research body, Mckinsey noted that as much as $73b would be needed in Sub-Saharan Africa, while admitting that Africa’s full agricultural potential remains untapped.

As of 2019, Nigeria was reportedly the largest rice importer in the world, importing about 3.4 million metric tons. To underscore economic losses to agric import, despite huge natural resources to address food insecurity, over $1b is spent yearly on fish import to the country.  
    
Mmobuosi, stating that there were opportunities for the sector to perform better, stressed that farmers were hindered by inadequate funding, lack of expertise and poor product quality.

“AfCFTA can play an important role in facilitating intra-regional trade in agri-food products, including from surplus to deficit areas, thereby stabilising food prices and improving food security. The AfCFTA also offers an opportunity to promote agricultural transformation and improve competitiveness through regional agricultural value chain development. For this to happen, many countries will require accompanying policies to improve productive capacities and promote investment,” he said.

Mmobusi also projected increase in industrialisation and export diversification through AfCFTA, noting that both developments are urgent objectives, going by the challenges posed by current COVID crisis. 

He said: “In addition to beginning to trade under the agreement, implementation itself may remain complicated, given the need for Customs officials to be trained and systems put in place and used. 

“Many of the benefits expected also depend on a combination of AfCFTA with other supporting policies affecting investment, infrastructures, and productive capacities within the private sector. There is also a need to augment mind-set in the private sector looking towards the African market,” he said. 

While Mmobuosi’s US, UK and Nigeria based company have offered support to about nine million farmers, provided access to market, technology and helping to improve produce, the Group CEO noted that It was essential that companies develop products, ideas and strategies to support governments and stakeholders across the continent. 
   
The National President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Kabir Ibrahim, said growing population across the world create massive opportunity for farming to address food insecurity, and that AfCFTA provides good opportunity for Africa to feed the world.

But for that to happen, he said the continent must upscale productivity and improve quality of agriculture produce to meet global standard. Ibrahim also noted that value addition should remain the continent’s priority, and that export of raw material would add little to economic development.

How Bauchi Graduates Found New Love In Agriculture

Source: The Leadership

They live approximately 100 kilometres apart, but Ishaq Mohammed and Happiness Zakka share many things in common—they are both graduates of National Certificate in Education (NCE). They both applied severally to get employed under the state’s Ministry of Education for teaching jobs, but they were not lucky to be employed by the state government, and finally, they resorted to agriculture to make ends meet.

Ishaq Mohammed, a resident of Birshin Fulani, a suburb of Bauchi metropolis, is into both dry and wet season farming and sometimes rears animals whose dung he uses as manure for his crops. For him, waiting endlessly in search of white collar jobs in a country he described as ‘frustrating in all fronts’ isn’t the best idea for any school leaver.
He said agriculture is the easiest way to start for any graduate who does not have enough capital… “Because with as little as N10,000, one can start a small farming business and with patience and perseverance, you can grow it and make it big.”

Speaking with LEADERSHIP at his farm, Ishaq said; “Although we have no support from the government, we effortlessly started this farm and gradually, we are making progress because we plant different kinds of crops, mostly perishable crops during the rainy season.”

He said within three months, the investment would start yielding something and you can use it to reinvest in the farm by growing other varieties of crops that would later earn you money.
For Ishaq, he is not only a lone farmer, but also described himself as an employer of labour, adding, “As you can see with your eyes, sometimes I hire men to help me till the soil in order to plant the crops and water them using water pump machines and I use the proceeds from the farm to settle them.

“Sometimes I enter agreements with them to make a commitment to pay them after harvest, and you will see me paying them close to N200, 000 after harvest. With that, I think I’m invariably an employer of labour”, he said.

Ishaq who said though the government had not done enough to support youths in agriculture, he noted that lack of support was not enough reason for unemployed youths to venture into criminal activities.

“I keep telling my friends that despite the inability of our governments at all levels to invest through support and other incentives, it is not a reason for someone to destroy his life by resorting to crime.
“If you are not lazy, there are many menial jobs you can venture into that will fetch you money which you can reinvest to support your life and help people around you. When you do that, it earns you more respect, such that you don’t have to wait for government endlessly in a desperate search for juicy jobs that are available only for the connected ones,” he said.

“I studied Bio-Chemistry and my passion was to be a school teacher, but I had to jettison the idea and resort to farming since the government was not ready to employ me,” he added.

He said he refused to be employed in a private school because of what he termed ‘exploitative tendencies’, “Where you work round the clock 24/7 and be paid N7,000 at the end of the month.
“I rejected the offer and started farming with just N50,000 and now I can tell you that I have up to N200,000 invested in this farm and I did not obtain loan from anyone.”

When LEADERSHIP visited him at his farm, it was observed that Ishaq had already cultivated two hectares of land where he planted onions, tomatoes, pepper and garden eggs.

When asked whether he had access to the smallholders’ farmers’ loan being granted by the CBN, Ishaq said, “The initiatives are mostly too bureaucratic, we have written series of proposals and submitted to the CBN, but I have not heard anything from them again, and of the few of us that were called for interviews, none was granted any support.”

He expressed hope that the state governor, Bala Mohammed, would support his likes to improve their yields.
“I learnt that the state government had sent some youths to Nasarawa State where they were taught modern agriculture, but I don’t know anyone in our area who benefitted from the training.
“I hope and pray that he will remember us and also pick from among us since we are already into farming with all passion and energy,” he said.

For Happiness Zakka, another NCE holder, her major frustration with farming is lack of fertilizer, saying the government had not done enough to support them.
“I resorted to farming since I could not get a job, and the government promised to support us with fertilizer, but here we are, we could not see anything.

“In the past, the government used to support us with fertilizer, but till now, we could not get that anticipated support from the government,” she said.
Happiness told LEADERSHIP that although their major mainstay in Bogoro for generations had been agriculture, she linked the lack of fertilizer to Hon. Musa Wakili Nakwada, the Bauchi State Assembly member representing Bogoro Constituency and Ilya Habila, the local government chairman.

She said they had not done enough to present their needs to the state government.

“They have not done much to help us in that aspect, because they have what it takes to fight for us. This is the worst farming season I have experienced for years now, I learnt that our lawmaker distributed fertilizer on loan, but it was only given to a few of his political allies,” she said.

Zakka said before the outbreak of the coronavirus, female farmers usually formed cooperatives groups “where we converged in large numbers to support one another on the farms, last year, we could not do that because of the need for social distancing,” she said.

She said although she resorted to farming in order to keep herself afloat and support her husband and her four children, the pandemic had really affected them as a household.
“We suffered two things last year- the coronavirus pandemic and lack of support such as fertilizer and improved seeds—the impact of which is very visible in our farmlands,” she added.

Zakka said during the 2019 farming season, she was able to harvest about 20 bags of rice, which was not the case last year.

“I may not even get up to seven bags of rice this year”, she lamented.
According to her, though the cry of unemployment among youths in Nigeria is loud and clear where thousands of graduates continue to roam the streets in search jobs, agriculture according to her is the quickest solution.

“Despite lack of support, I still find comfort in agriculture since one can confidently grow crops that would feed the household for complete 12 months.
“You can even sell part of the crops to do other things, doing so is more rewarding than waiting for government jobs”, she added.

Happiness Zakka added that it was high time for Nigerian graduates to venture into agriculture as solution to the number of unemployed graduates.

“If you look at things critically, you would realise that there is a correlation between an increase in the crime rate and lack of jobs among youths in the country.

“So, if the government can do enough investment in the areas of agricultural practices, the sector can absorb most of the graduates, and by implication, we will reduce the pressure exerted on government jobs that are increasingly shrinking,” she posited.

If her words are anything to go by, the idea will help reduce the unemployment rate in Nigeria which according to experts could spell doom for the country if unchecked.

LEADERSHIP recalls that a study by the National Bureau of Statistics at second quarter 2020 posited that the country’s unemployment rate had grown to 27.1% up from 23.1% in the third quarter of 2018.

Kamal Idriss, an economic expert in Bauchi, said when the likes of Ishaq and Happiness are not incentivized by the government, the unemployment figure in Nigeria would continue to get worse in 2021 which would adversely affect the country’s social fabrics.

How Nigerian govt distributed rice seeds to companies in 2020

Source: Premium Times

As Nigeria plans to increase the production of rice, 20 seed companies benefited from rice seed distribution by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural (FMARD) across the 36 states of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory in 2020.

This was disclosed in a document obtained by PREMIUM TIMES on Monday.

Nigeria officially banned the importation of rice two years ago, to improve the local production of rice.

In 2017, the production of rice paddy rose to about seven million metric tons (mmt) under the Buhari administration, which seems to be the highest since 1999.

In August 2019, the Nigerian government closed its land borders, three months after signing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA).

The agreement was to curb the influx of smuggled goods from neighbouring countries such as Benin, Niger and Cameroon, and as well boost local food production.

This distribution of seeds is coming under the President Muhammadu Buhari’s Agricultural Transformation Policy of 2016- 2020.

The distribution is part of the Agricultural Promotion Policy (APP), which was launched in 2016 but expired in December 2020.

The policy was to consolidate on the already established Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), policy.

The new policy was geared towards the provision of a conducive legislative and agricultural framework, macro policies, security-enhancing physical infrastructure and institutional mechanisms.

This was to enhance access to essential inputs, finances, information on innovation, agricultural services and markets.

The policy was to address eight key areas: access to land, soil fertility, access to information and knowledge, access to inputs, production management, storage, processing and marketing and trade.

The 20 companies

The document said 1.4 tonnes were distributed to the companies. This means each company got 700 kg each; 14 bags of 50 kg each.

According to the document, 13 of the seed companies are located in the North West, six in the North Central, one in the South East and one in the North East.

Among the 13 companies in the North West, four companies are in Kaduna State, five of them are in Kano, one each in Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa, and Kebbi.

In the North Central, two seed companies are in Plateau, one each in FCT, Nasarawa and Niger.

However, the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) was listed as the only cooperative to be part of the sharing.

When PREMIUM TIMES reached out to some of the companies they confirmed receiving seeds from the FMARD.

The President of Value Seed Ltd (Kaduna), George Zangi, told this newspaper he got 700 kg worth of breeder seeds. That is, 50kg bags in 14 places.

Also, the acting managing director Maslaha seeds Nigeria (Zamfara) said the company got 700 kg each of faro 66 and faro 67.

Just like others, the chief executive officers of Jammy Nagari seeds (Kastina) Umaru Yusuf and Richard of Olafare of Romaret venture Nigeria said they were among the companies that received seeds from the government.

The document said the seeds were sourced from the National Cereals Research Institute of Nigeria, Niger.

The rice seeds distributed were breeder seeds, foundation seeds and certified seeds of Faro 66 and 67.

Basically, there are five different categories of seeds: Nucleus Seeds, Breeder’s Seeds, Foundation Seeds, Registered Seeds and finally certified seeds.

A breeder’s seed is obtained from nucleus seed, while the breeder births the foundation seeds and the foundation seeds produce certified seeds.

The seeds which seeds companies sell to farmers “certified seeds”.

The certified seeds which are grown under tight production requirements usually have improved traits such as resistance to pests and tolerance to herbicide and drought.