Nigeria: Promoting Agriculture Production Through ICT

According to FAO, agriculture remains the largest sector of the Nigerian economy and employs two-thirds of the entire labour force. Production hurdles have much stifled the performance of the sector. Agriculture is increasingly becoming knowledge-intensive and millions of smallholder farmers around the world are confronted by constraints such as poor access to farm input, funding, poor road network, lack of storage facilities, markets and financial services, low levels of human capital, poor access to education and weak information flows. With missing markets, low skills and weak capacity, agriculture across the developing world will have to overcome a number of challenges in the future and with current world with food insecurity looming.

The Food and Agriculture Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations, estimates that more than 860 million people in the world today suffer from hunger including Nigeria. Utilization of Information and communications technology (ICT) can ease access to prompt and correct information for an improved agricultural production. ICT is an umbrella term that includes any communication device or application, encompassing radio, television, mobile phones, computers and network hardware and software, satellite systems, and so on.

We are in a world where technology is everything. Access to information is crucial to smallholder farmers. In Nigeria, 85 percent of the farmers are smallholder farmers with great numbers of women that are greatly contributing in production of highly diversified products, and limited access to productive resources.

World population is expected to surpass the nine billion mark by 2050, and agricultural production will need to increase by 60 percent. ICT applications can make significant contribution to meet this future global and national food needs. Information and communication technology can do so by collecting and sharing timely and accurate information on weather, inputs, markets, and prices; by feeding information into research and development initiatives; by promoting farmers cluster, by disseminating knowledge to farmers; by connecting producers and consumers, by connecting farmers and their target, and through many other avenues.

Creating the enabling environment for rural ICT connectivity through sound policies and strategies and ensuring thereby affordable and quality access to the technologies, especially in rural areas, will support smooth exchange of agricultural information for smallholders’ farms. ICT strategies and platforms that increase involvement of farmers’ organizations in policy development, policy debates, and influencing policy implementation have to be promoted.

Information and communication technologies especially mobile applications are playing key role in facilitating access to these resources by the farmers living in rural areas. With the increasing penetration of mobile phones in remote parts of Nigeria, efforts should then be made to strengthen the innovative use of mobile technologies by smallholder farmers. Combination of mobile technology and geographic information system offer correct, specific/micro information of farm activities, soil, water, nutrient, food safety tracking, etc., on farmers’ field for decision making.


UN agency, AUN distribute farm inputs to 100 farmers

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), in partnership with American University of Nigeria (AUN), has distributed farm inputs to 100 farmers in Yobe State.

The inputs included tonnes of fertiliser, insecticides and knapsack sprayers to prevent pre and post-harvest losses.

While inaugurating the distribution at the weekend in Damaturu, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr Mairo Amshi, disclosed that “the distribution of farm inputs to 100 farmers in Yobe State was to commence this year’s planting season.

“The UNHCR and AUN also targets 450 farmers across the state to restore their means of livelihood destroyed during the decade-long Boko Haram insurgency.”

She said the state government was also to distribute tonnes of fertiliser and other farm inputs to 33,000 small-scale farmers.

The delay in distribution was caused by the ministry’s inconclusive elimination of fertiliser merchants and middlemen in the distribution channels, she said.

“We’ve to identify genuine farmers with collaboration of their traditional leaders to check diversion of farm inputs,” she said.

She assured that the state government would commence distribution of fertiliser to farmers soon, and that 33,000 small-scale farmers had been registered for the distribution for the season.

While speaking on distribution, she said: “We’ve identified their locations in various communities, including their phone numbers and other verification exercises to distribute fertiliser and other farm inputs. We have screened them to be sure they are genuine and practicing farmers.”

According to her, the screening exercise was to eliminate middle men in the distribution of fertiliser and other farm inputs.


Agriculture, Still Room for Improvement as Sector Grew by 2.2% YoY in Q1 2020

The latest national accounts show that the agriculture sector grew by 2.2% y/y in Q1 2020, compared with 2.5% recorded in the previous quarter. Crop production accounted for 88% of agriculture GDP and grew by 2.4 y/y. We also note that the forestry and fisheries segments grew by 1.7% y/y and 1.5% y/y respectively, but each from a low base. Over the past eight quarters, agriculture has grown by an average of 2.1% y/y. The ongoing pandemic (Covid-19) has resulted in supply chain disruptions, particularly across the food sector which has a direct link with agriculture.

The temporary lockdown in some states across Nigeria has harmed farming activities as well as the distribution of agricultural products. Transport restrictions have impeded farmers’ access to markets, resulting in upward price adjustments of farm produce such as rice.

Over the past six months, there have been steady upticks in the rate of food inflation. The latest report from the NBS shows that in May food price inflation was 15.04% y/y. The highest increases were recorded in meat, oils and fats, tubers, bread, cereals, potatoes, fruits and vegetables.

The CBN’s anchor borrowers’ program (ABP), launched in 2015, has supported increased agricultural output. The CBN has disbursed about N190bn in loans under the ABP since its inception. Through the ABP total loans worth N432bn are expected to be disbursed to 1.1 million farmers across the country.

To combat the current economic headwinds, the CBN has rolled out stimulus measures including a reduction in interest rates from 9% to 5% on its existing intervention programs (ABP inclusive) over the next year.

In June the CBN announced plans to fund 1.6 million farmers in the 2020 wet season across the country. This scheme falls within the ABP. The director in the CBN’s Development Finance Department disclosed that cotton farmers would also be included. As at last month, at least 250,000 such farmers had been identified for this initiative.

The general assumption is that better access to credit would enhance the agricultural value chain. However, farmers are urged to take loan repayments seriously so as to give room for new debtors within this scheme in 2021.

Agriculture has benefited from several FGN interventions. However, there seems to be a misalignment when we consider the investment injected into the sector and the sluggish pace of growth exhibited. Notwithstanding, steady investment will assist with repositioning agriculture as a backbone for the economy.

The heavy reliance on one commodity for its export earnings has resulted in significant macroeconomic slippage for Nigeria. Agriculture provides an opportunity for revenue diversification. According to the Nigeria Export Promotion Council, agricultural exports have the potential to generate US$30bn per annum.


Ekiti Govt, CBN to Empower 1,000 Cassava Farmers

The Ekiti State Government in partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has entered into partnership to empower 1,000 farmers in the state for commercial production of cassava.

For smooth take off of the cassava model farming, the state Governor, Kayode Fayemi, has released over 6,000 hectares of land to the Nigeria Cassava Growers’ Association, Ekiti State chapter.

Speaking while flagging off the programme in Ado Ekiti yesterday, Fayemi, who was represented by the state Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Folorunso Olabode, said the cassava production value chain would help in propelling industrial development in the state.

Fayemi said the government had secured a sum of N1.9 billion to prepare lands across various locations in the state to encourage farming for massive employment and availability of raw materials for agro allied industries.

“The value chain in cassava is inestimable. It has over 50 products. Cassava had graduated from the Garri to high grade starch, syrup, flakes, Fufu paste, cassava bread, biofuel. In fact it has transformed into a golden crop that can transform any economy.

“The Fayemi administration has been rendering helps to farmers. It has encouraged the siting of cassava mill at Ipao Ekiti, which is producing 350 metric tons of cassava daily.

“Dangote and Stallone Rice Mills are doing great in rice production. The production plants had been installed. About 1,500 hectares of land has been prepared across the state to boost food production with close to N2billion to be spent on land clearing that will help the farmers.

“The government has also facilitated about 6,000 bags of fertilizers that were sold to farmers at a subsidised rate. The fact that Ekiti is one of the five pilot states shows that our efforts were being noticed at the national level.”

Fayemi said the state played a prominent role in the formation of the Western Nigeria Security Network codenamed Amotekun, to end the destruction of farmlands by marauding herders.

On its own, the CBN Branch Controller in Ekiti State, Alhaji Ganiyu Atobatele, described agriculture as the largest employer of labour in the country, saying no effort must be spared to revamp the sector and return it as the mainstay of the economy.

The CBN Chief regretted that the discovery of crude oil caused a major setback for the agriculture sector in Nigeria.

“The inability to meet our agricultural local demands has affected our foreign reserves and foreign exchange causing free fall of our currency in the international market.

“The CBN is protecting the cassava value chain. The MOU signed included land utilisation which specified five hectares per farmer for higher production and to increase annual revenue and generate raw materials for industrial development. “The CBN will also make credit available to farmers under the ‘five star’ cassava project,” he stated.


Royal Exchange Creates Awareness on Agric Insurance

Royal Exchange General Insurance Company (REGIC) recently held series of agriculture insurance Webinar aimed at increasing the awareness and perception of agriculture insurance in Nigeria.

The underwriting firm, used the forum to educate members of the public on how agriculture insurance could impact positively on the business of farmers, agro-processors, agro-preneurs and other stakeholders in the value chain.

The four-part webinar anchored by the Head, Agribusiness and Business Development of REGIC, Mr. Chukwuma Kanu, looked at the various aspects of the agriculture industry in Nigeria and the role insurance plays in developing and deepening access to financial services to operators in the agricultural sector.

The first in the virtual agric insurance seminar series titled, “How Farmers can leverage on Agriculture Insurance to de-risk their business during COVID19 Pandemic Times,” witnessed paper presentation by Kalu and Royal Exchange’s Agric Insurance technical consultant, Mr. Agrotosh Mookeej, a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries, UK and Managing Director, Risk Shield Consulting Actuary, Zimbabwe.

The second edition looked at agriculture insurance as a key driver of inclusive finance for farmers, agribusiness SMEs and agro-processors in Nigeria.

This, looked at the concept of inclusive finance to farmers and the role of insurance in supporting farming operations, as well as crowd-funding requirements in raising capital for farming in Nigeria.
The third webinar was on the Ginger value-chain and explained how weather index insurance (WII) could be used to protect businesses and livelihoods.

The company, held the third edition of the seminar in conjunction with the GIZ Nigerian Competitiveness Project (NICOP), a partnership between the German Government, the European Union and the federal government.

The fourth and last in the series, to herald the start of the planting season, focused on using agriculture insurance to digitise farming operations and featured Agritask (REGIC’s technology partners, based in Tel Aviv, Israel) as well as representatives from the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) and Royal Exchange General Insurance.

Speaking on the reason for the webinars, Managing Director/Chief Executive, REGIC, Benjamin Agili, said, “these agriculture insurance webinar is the company’s way of expanding the frontiers of agriculture insurance adoption in Nigeria, making it easier to be understood and accepted by farmers, agro-processors, agro-preneurs, farming cooperatives, off-takers and other stakeholders nationwide.

“Our goal at REGIC is to deepen agriculture insurance penetration and understanding about the values and usefulness of insurance to all Nigerians. Recall that REGIC was among the first three insurance companies to obtain NAICOM approval for WII and we have also recently obtained approval for livestock, poultry and fish farming insurance which is already being taken up by livestock farmers in the country.”


COVID-19 : Nigeria distributes free seeds, fertilizers, to Kogi farmers

As part effort to ensure food production is not affected by the devastating effect of COVID-19 and ensure a more sustainable and resilient food system in the country, the Nigerian Government Thursday handed over farm inputs to Kogi state farmers.

Minister of Agriculture Sabo Nanono, while Speaking during the flag-off ceremony at the Ministry’s Warehouse at Okene road, Kogi State, said the distribution of the free agricultural inputs to smallholder farmers was to enhance food production, create employment and enable farmers to recover quickly from sudden shocks of the COVID-19 Pandemic as well as sustain food supply in 2021.

The Minister noted that “the decision of the Ministry to support the smallholder farmers with various inputs especially improved seeds of some priority crops namely; cashew, sesame, soybeans and potatoes through farmer associations, women and youth groups and cooperatives nationwide is to avert food scarcity in the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Part of the free inputs distributed to the farmers included 38,142KG of improved cashew seeds for distribution to 3,798 of cashew farmers across the country for the 2020 cropping season.”

Others included 27,000kg of certified sesame seeds to about 5,400 sesame farmers, 50,000kg of soybeans seeds for to soybeans farmers and 12,000 bundles of Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) for 1,200 farmers, 15,000 sachets of red force, 3,000 sachets of glory crop protection, 580 litres of soil amender and 500 litres of organic fertilizer to potato farmers.”

He disclosed that while the ministry is providing the seeds to the farmers free, other inputs are given at 75% subsidy.”

He stressed that “in our input distribution efforts, at least 35% of the inputs are targeted at women and youth farmers in line with the targets set in our National Gender Action Plan for Agriculture and Policies aimed at ensuring increased opportunities for women. This has been communicated to the Farmer Associations accordingly.”

In his remarks, Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, represented by the deputy governor, Edward Onoja, thanked the President Muhammadu Buhari for the diversification of THE economy of the country with robust Agricultural policies, which would ensure food security and increase the revenue of the nation.

In her vote of thanks, Director, Federal Department of Agriculture, Mrs Karima Babangida, appreciated the Kogi State Government and other Relevant Stakeholders for their collaboration with the policies of the Ministry in mitigation of the effects of COVID – 19 Pandemic in Nigeria.


Oyo farmers get subsidised inputs as Makinde wants transfer of dam

Various smallholder farmers in Oyo State have received different categories of Kenaf, yam and cocoa seedlings as part of the Federal Government’s coronavirus pandemic palliative.

Just as the Anambra State chairman of the Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN), Mr Simeon Nwafor, has assured that 535 farmers in the state will receive inputs worth over N89 million for 2020 wet farming season from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Anchor Borrowers’ Program (ABP).

The distribution in Ibadan at the Federal Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development office, Moore Plantation, Ibadan, was supervised by the Minister of State for Agriculture, Mr Mustapha Baba Shehuri, accompanied by Oyo State governor, Mr Seyi Makinde.

Shehuri said the distribution of farm inputs was to cushion the effect of COVID-19 on smallholders’ livelihood and avert food scarcity in Nigeria by 2021.

Shehuri said the ministry’s intervention was part of the Federal Government’s plan to sustain agricultural production, increase the resilience of farmers and enhance the national food systems.

Items handed over to the state government included 19,672 kilograms of Kenaf foundation seeds, 12 metric tonnes of foundation seeds for yam farmers, 18,000 kilogrammes of organic insecticides for maize farmers and part of 66,000 cocoa seedlings being distributed to farmers nationwide.

Shehuri, however, pointed out that while seeds were being given to farmers free of charge, other inputs were being distributed at 75 per cent subsidy.

Governor Seyi Makinde lauded the decision of the Federal Government to support the state farmers, especially when they grappled with the effects of COVID-19 on their means livelihood.

Meanwhile, Nwafor who gave the assurance in Onitsha, Anambra State, during the inauguration of inputs distribution by the CBN-ABP, appealed to the government to ensure early release of inputs to the state.

He commended President Mohammadu Buhari and national president of MAAN, Alhaji Abubakar Funtua, for supporting farmers in the state, rejoicing that the figure of beneficiaries has increased since 2019.

Head, Development Finance Office, CBN, Awka branch, Mrs Bridget Okparaeze, expressed satisfaction that more farmers were taking advantage of the opportunities in the agricultural value chain.

As part of the government’s intents, Makinde said the state was determined to revamp the Eruwa and Akufo farm settlements, finance the construction of silo in Awe and construct several rural roads, especially those that would enhance agriculture.

He asked the Federal Government to concede the Ikere Gorge Dam to the state for optimal utilisation of the facility for the development of agribusiness.

Makinde also demanded that the state be included in the Federal Government’s agricultural projects in mechanization and fixing of federal roads that link agricultural communities with markets.

Okparaeze, however, explained that the programme was not a grant but a loan facility granted to farmers in forms of farm inputs and cash components.


Nigerian govt distributes 66,000 cocoa seedlings to smallholder farmers

The Nigerian government says it is distributing 66, 000 cocoa seedlings and other essential inputs to smallholder farmers to mitigate the effects of the new coronavirus pandemic on the sector.

The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mustapha Shehuri, disclosed this on Thursday when he flagged off the exercise in Oyo State.

He said the seeds are being given to farmers free of charge while other inputs are given at 75 per cent subsidy.

“The Ministry is also distributing over 18,000kg of organic insecticide to combat armyworm infestation in maize,” he said.

Mr Shehuri called for a robust synergy with state governments and other critical stakeholders to avert food insecurity posed by the COVID -19 pandemic .

President Muhammadu Buhari had in his Democracy Day broadcast on June 12 said Nigeria’s revenue from cocoa and sesame seeds has increased by $79.4 million and $153 million respectively in the past year.

“Our efforts on growing non-oil exports have started to yield some results. For instance, in the past year, our revenue from cocoa and sesame seed increased by $79.4 million and $153 million,” he said.

Mr Shehuri on Thursday spoke on the need to boost agricultural production in Nigeria, noting that “a number of countries have banned or drastically reduced food exports to avoid scarcity of food.

“With dwindling oil revenues and limited opportunity to import food from other countries, one would only wonder what Nigeria would have been experiencing today, in terms of food supply, if this Administration had not taken the right policy steps and remained focused and steadfast in investing in agriculture,” he said.

The minister said the ministry is supporting breeder and foundation seeds production and linking up with private seed companies to make certified seeds available to farmers for improved yield.

He said since smallholders are the most vulnerable, the government decided to support them with inputs, especially seeds, which he called the most important factor that influences farmers’ yield. He said the support is in order to enable farmers to recover quickly from the setback of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Through this effort and other complementary interventions by different stakeholders, the government hopes to increase the resilience of farmers and the national food systems in general.’’

He said the ministry is also supporting kenaf farmers through the Kenaf Producers, Processors and Marketers Association (KEPPMAN) with 19,672 kg kenaf foundation seeds.

Mr Shehuri said yam farmers are also being supported with about 12 metric tonnes of foundation seed for the production of certified seeds through their national association and other cooperative groups.

“In our input distribution efforts, at least 35 per cent of the inputs are targeted at women farmers in line with the targets set in our National Gender Plan and Policies aimed at ensuring increased opportunities for women. This has been communicated to the Farmer Associations accordingly,’’ he said.

“The Ministry and its research institutions are working towards making Nigeria self-sufficient in good quality seeds and its availability to farmers as a foundation for attaining food and nutrition security as well as industrialisation,’’ he concluded.

In his remarks, the Oyo state governor, Oluseyi Makinde, represented by the secretary to the state government, Olubamiwo Adeosun, called for the transformation of the agriculture sector.

Hesaid “the countries that have successfully managed their own agricultural transformation have incorporated the following processes: modernizing business, strengthening the links between process, production and market.”

While appreciating the proactive move of the federal government toward ensuring that Nigeria averts food scarcity next year, he said Oyo has also adopted innovative and modern technology to ensure a data-driven process that is empirically documented and evidence-driven.

The state Commissioner of Agriculture and Rural Development, ,Ojekunle Ojemuyiwa, described the gesture of the federal government as “very apt.”

He said the COVID- 19 pandemic is a monster that all hands must be on deck to curtail and eradicate.

In his vote of thanks, the permanent secretary of the agriculture ministry, Abdulkadir Mu’azu, who was represented by the director, federal department of agriculture, Karima Babaginda, said Oyo State was chosen for the ceremony because the state is the hub of agricultural institutes in Nigeria and also contributes significantly to the production of yam and cocoa among others.


Nigeria, Tanzania to benefit from sustainable cassava seed project

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and its partners are working to address farmers’  problem of regular and reliable access to high quality planting materials of the newest and best varieties.

To this end, the Institute and its partners are developing a new and more sustainable cassava seed system that makes high quality stems of high yielding varieties available for sale to African farmers.

The project is predicated on the problem often encountered by African cassava farmers in accessing  such cassava stem, which they need in order to improve their yields and incomes.

This lack of access is also compounded by the fact that  Agrodealers don’t sell them, and free distributions by NGOs and government programs are sporadic and unreliable as a consequence of which many cassava farmers are obliged to save stems of older varieties grown in their own fields or buy uncertified stems in informal markets of questionable quality and unknown identity.

 This work started in Nigeria five years ago as a program called Building an Economically Sustainable, Integrated Cassava Seed System (BASICS).  Some 150 cassava seed enterprises were created in Benue, Abia, Akwa Ibom, and Imo States to multiply and sell cassava stems, following a business model that is both profitable and beneficial to its farmer clients.  A sister project in Tanzania nurtured a similar network of cassava seed entrepreneurs.  Government agencies certify the stems to ensure quality.

In June, this program benefited from a new investment of $14.3 million by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to consolidate and expand this work in both Nigeria and Tanzania under the project name of BASICS-II.R

The goal of the project is to provide farmers with access to affordable, quality-assured seeds of the cassava varieties in demand by local food and processor markets through the establishment of a commercially viable seed value chain operating across breeder, foundation, and commercial seed levels. BASICS-II will create a more efficient dissemination and trigger the adoption of new varieties to improve productivity; raise incomes of cassava growers and seed entrepreneurs; enhance gender equity and contribute to inclusive agricultural transformation in Nigeria and Tanzania.

“The approval of BASICS-II provides a window of opportunity for cassava farmers to create new lines of income while at the same time catalyzing the diffusion of new varieties,” Dr Nteranya Sanginga, Director General, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), said today ahead of the launch of the project on Thursday, 25 June 2020.

According to Dr Alfred Dixon, IITA Director for Development & Delivery, and Technical Adviser to BASICS-II, “the coming of BASICS-II would not only create seed enterprises, it would also spark the diffusion and adoption of improved disease-free cassava varieties that would offer farmers higher yield.”

“To me, this is the most exciting part of the project,” he added.

Over the years, IITA and its national partners have developed over 40 cassava varieties but the diffusion and adoption of these varieties have been low due to the absence of a functional seed system to incentivize their multiplication, distribution, and sales.

The 5-year project will be led by IITA, working in partnership with Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), IITA GoSeed, Umudike Seed, Sahel Consulting Agriculture and Nutrition Ltd., Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI), and Tanzania Official Seed Certification (TOSCI).

Lawrence Kent, Senior Program Officer, Gates Foundation, said “this new phase of the BASICS project will strengthen and expand its innovative approach to the supply of cassava planting materials, helping farmers in Nigeria, Tanzania, and eventually additional countries to access and purchase disease-free stems of the most productive, most demanded, and promising cassava varieties.”

Known as a poverty fighter, cassava is grown mostly by resource-poor farmers, but its productivity has been constrained by lack of access to improved varieties with national average yield reported at less than 10 tons per hectare in Nigeria. Even when the best of agronomic practices is employed, yields remain poor if the seeds are not right.

Through the activities of BASICS-II, it is envisaged that this narrative will be changed, says Prof. Lateef Sanni, Project Manager, BASICS-II.


Nigeria: Okowa’s Giant Strides in Agriculture

Nigeria’s diverse climate, from the tropical areas of the coast to the arid zone of the north, makes the growth and production of virtually all agricultural products that can be grown in the tropical and semitropical areas of the world very possible.

Although the Agricultural holdings are generally small and scattered, farming is often of the subsistence variety characterized by simple tools and shifting cultivation. These small farms produce about 80% of the total food consumed in the country. Farmers in Nigeria engage in crop production, fishery, livestock and Poultry.

However, large-scale agriculture is not common. The economic benefits of large-scale agriculture are recognized and the government favors the formation of cooperative societies and settlements to encourage industrial agriculture.

In spite of abundant water supply, a favorable climate, and wide areas of arable land, productivity is restricted owing to low soil fertility in many areas and the inefficient methods of cultivation.

In as much as the Nigerian economy is heavily dependent on oil, the agricultural sector contributes significantly to its economy. The National Bureau of Statistics estimates that twenty-five percent (25%) of the GDP of the nation’s economy is largely made up of the Agriculture sector (a total value of N4.575 trillion) and Seventy Percent (70%) of its labor force is employed in this sector.

At independence, food export accounted for over seventy percent (70%) of Nigeria’s GNP. Forty years later, it is almost a complete reversal with food items accounting for over fifty percent (50%) of imports. The decline in food production can be attributed to Nigeria’s over-dependence on Oil while largely neglecting the agricultural sector.

Owing to the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, the price of crude oil crashed drastically.

Nigeria did not earn foreign exchange from the sale of Crude oil in the month of April as a result of this. The nation’s crude oil production has been on the decrease since January 2020 with the month of April 2020 recording as low as 1,777,000 barrels a day compared to the 1,844,000 barrels a day for the month of March 2020.

The volatility of the Crude Oil market has necessitated the need for the nation to diversify into other sectors of the economy especially Agriculture with the sole objective of becoming self-sufficient in food production and a major player in the food/ Agro export business.

Interestingly, Delta State under the visionary leadership of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, through the Ministry of Agriculture in the last five years, has undertaken giant strides in achieving Agricultural growth and development thereby, improving the Socioeconomic growth and development of the State especially the rural areas.

The aim is to provide excess food for local consumption, employment for the teeming youths of the state, industrial raw materials for agro-industries as well as alleviating poverty in the state.

The State Government while encouraging new entrants into Agriculture has empowered a lot of farmers in the state through various programs and projects.

The Palm Oil development scheme was developed to assist Oil palm farmers to increase their plantations. Over two hundred and twenty thousand (220,000) oil palm seedlings were raised and distributed to two hundred and fifty (250) farmers to cultivate five hundred (500) hectares of Oil palm in the year 2016. This created over four hundred direct and indirect jobs. Mini oil mills were equally fabricated and distributed to the Oil palm farmers in the State.

In acceding to the demand of Oil Palm farmers in the State, the Delta State Government established two new oil palm nurseries in Oleh in Isoko South LGA and Arhagba Okpe in Okpe LGA in order to bring inputs nearer to the farmers. In each of these new nurseries, One hundred thousand (100,000) Oil Palm seedlings were raised while the nursery in Ejeme-Unor raised five hundred and fifty thousand (550,000) oil palm seedlings. Four hundred (400) existing and new Oil Palm farmers were assisted to cultivate eight hundred (800) hectares of oil palm in 2018. This equally created four hundred direct and one thousand indirect jobs.

Within the same year, four hundred thousand (400,000)improved oil palm seedlings were also raised at the three nurseries in Ejeme -Unor, Oleh and Aragba-Okpe and distributed to Three hundred and fifty (350) farmers to assist them in cultivating Seven Hundred (700) Hectares of oil palm farmland. The intervention created 2,080 cumulative jobs.

The rice development program to promote all seasons rice farming was embarked upon by the State Government in 2016. Sixty (60) beneficiaries were trained and supported in cash and kind. Three rice processing mills were purchased and distributed to rice farmers in Obior in Aniocha North, Ikweghwu-Agbarho in Ughelli North and Onicha Ukwani in Ndokwa West LGAs respectively and this created Sixty direct and one hundred and Eighty indirect jobs.

The State Government further trained and empowered One Hundred and Ninety-eight (198) rice farmers in the rice development project in 2017. Farm inputs consisting of fifteen thousand (15,000) kilograms of rice seeds, Nine hundred (900) bags of NPK fertilizers, Six Hundred (600) bags of Urea, Nine hundred (900)Litres of glyphosphate and Six hundred (600) litres of Orizo plus were distributed to rice farmers. Two hundred and forty-two (242) hectares of rice farm was cultivated to produce One thousand five hundred (1,500) Metric tons of rice.

Under the Cassava Cuttings Multiplication and Distribution Programme, the State Government trained and sensitized farmers on the new improved TME 419, NR 8202, and NR 8082 cassava cuttings in 2017. A total of One Hundred and Nineteen (119) participants were trained and thereafter, they were empowered with the improved high yielding, disease resistant varieties of Cassava Cuttings. The yield per hectare is between 25 – 35 tons instead of 12 – 15 tons. So far, 176 farmers were empowered with 10,237 cuttings across the three (3) Senatorial Districts of the State to plant about 186.95 hectares of Cassava farms.

In its bid to promote fish farming in the State, fifty (50) persons were trained and engaged. The Delta State Government established two (2) fish farm clusters at Ewulu in Aniocha South and Mbiri in Ika North East Local Government Areas respectively. A total of Eighty (80) ponds were constructed at the clusters and at the first cycle of production, Sixty (60) metric tons of fish were harvested. The project generated fifty (50) direct jobs and Seventy (70) indirect jobs.

In order to close the huge gap created by the low level of livestock production in the Country, the Delta State Government has embarked on various livestock production programs.

The State Government through the Ministry of Agriculture established a rapid Goat and Grass Cutter Multiplication unit at Delta State DARDA premises in Ibusa.

In 2019, one hundred and eighty-three (183) Livestock (Goat) farmers were trained on profitable goat farming skills using best practice management systems. Seven hundred and fifteen (715) persons were trained on Goat Fattening(Finishing) Enterprise.

Pig Multiplication and Farmers Support program was also embarked upon by the State Government in 2018. The beneficiaries were trained and empowered with starters’ pack under a Youth Mentorship Scheme. Fifty-Seven (57) direct jobs and much more downstream were created during and after the implementation.

Having considered the lucrative nature of Poultry business, its potential to create jobs through its value chain development, and as a source of income to many households/families, the State Government undertook the training of Poultry farmers through its Broiler Out- Growers’ Scheme.

Sixty (60) poultry farmers were trained on modern production techniques and supported with loans to expand and improve their enterprises for sustainability at the total sum of Seventy Million, One Hundred and Twenty Thousand Naira (₦70,120,000) in the year 2019.

To ensure that farmers in the State benefit from the CBN ANCHOR BORROWERS SCHEME (CBN – ABS), over Thirty Thousand (30,000) farmers have been registered across the selected enterprises of Cassava, Rice and Fisheries. However, about Five Thousand, Eight Hundred and Fourteen (5,814) farmers met that criteria and have been fully accredited and approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to participate in the first phase of the programme. They have equally been trained.

The scheme is a financial model for smallholder farmers in Rice, Cassava, and Fish. It is designed to increase production and supply of raw materials to food processors. Through this scheme, qualified commodity out-growers are assisted to identify an anchor firm (Off taker/processor) and supported with loans at 9% interest rate by the CBN to increase their farm holdings. High-quality inputs and technical assistance are also provided for them.

CBN has set aside Two Billion Naira to implement this programme in the State in collaboration with the Delta State Ministry of Agriculture and the Bank of Agriculture.

By Nduka Omodon

Senior Special Assistant (Media)

To the Governor of Delta State