Women in Agriculture: ‘How I left U.S. to build tomato company in Nigeria’

Source: Premium Times

Mira Mehta is the CEO of Tomato Jos in Kaduna State. The firm has received $10m (N4 billion) worth of investment. Ms Mehta says Nigeria needs infrastructure to boost agriculture.

Aside from tomatoes, she grows corn and wheat.

In this episode of our Women in Agriculture, she shares her experience on how she engages rural farmers.

PT: Your farm is located in Kaduna not Jos, and your farm is called Tomato-Jos. Why is not Tomato-Kaduna?

Ms Mehta: The name came before the location in 2013 when I first came about the idea. I was thinking more of the company, the brand and the product. And the tomatoes from Jos gets the premium in the market. They usually sell at a higher price so I wanted to mark my product with that quality, that when you buy my product you’re buying a high-quality product.

Another thing is that the name grounds the brand in Nigeria unlike other top tomato brands in Nigeria with Italian sounding names but I really wanted to make the name Nigerian and the last thing is that the name is like the Igbo slang to a girlfriend “my Tomato-Jos” which means very clean; very fresh; when we were looking for land, Kaduna ended up being the best part for us.

PT: Aside from this, what actually inspired you to go into agriculture?

Ms Mehta: I wanted to do something that was going to be highly impactful for a rural community and basically, I had been working for four years and I had done a lot of healthcare-related work and what I saw travelling around these clinics and hospitals, how poor most of the patients coming to seek medical attention are and I wanted to make a profit while touching lives so that was why I was drawn to the sector.

Mira Mehta, CEO of Tomato Jos
Mira Mehta, CEO of Tomato Jos

PT: You established this company since 2014, how has been the journey so far?

Ms Mehta: It has been quite uneasy and there are times when people don’t really understand what you’re trying to do and nobody else has your back through your ups and downs. Even up to our first production till now, there have been ups and downs. It has not really been easy.

PT: Capital for Nigerian farmers is usually difficult. How much did you invest when you started in 2014?

Ms Mehta: I can’t really say now but since then till now we’ve raised the capital to about $10 million. It has been quite difficult though.

PT: Having a capital of $10 million in Nigeria is big for an individual. Are you in partnership with anybody?

Ms Mehta: Well, we have investors, we are exploring a strategic partnership with other large companies in Nigeria but so far we have not made any partnership with anyone in Nigeria.

PT: Your seven years journey is long enough to be an expert in the sector, what will you say is the most difficult part of the sector?

Ms Mehta: There are many difficult challenges in the industry like having sufficient capital to work. Basically, we started business in 2014 and we’ve not yet launched a consumer product and have not started making a reasonable amount of money so I have investors that are super super patient and willing to give me the time to build all the infrastructure that I am trying to build. The bulk of the capital goes into infrastructure due to the lack of infrastructure in Nigeria. No good roads, no power supply, no network where we are, with very bad Internet.

All those basic things that are supposed to be in place are not so you’ll have to provide some fire yourself. Another challenging part of agriculture is figuring out how to source materials, how to get farmers to do something that they’ve never done before, change their behaviour, getting our staff to do what they’ve never done before. The way we operate is different from the way even a professional farm operates.

PT: What are the sizes of your farm?

Ms: Mehta: We have about 500 hectares but we are not cultivating all that. We are cultivating about 60 and 220 over the next 12 months.

PT: You run a large farm that requires both manual labour and machines. How many employees do you have and how are you able to manage them?

Ms Mehta: We have about 60 permanent employees to add 15 more soon and is pretty hard to manage people, to even get an effective manager too. Something I’ve learned over the years is that to be a good manager you have to be a good listener and possess good communication skills.

PT: How do you manage issues with fertilizers, seeds and inputs which are the basic necessity for cultivation?

Ms Mehta: There are frequent national shortages in Nigeria of things like fertilisers and other inputs that we take for granted in the US. So what we do is make purchases of thing we need over time due to the chances of scarcity when needed.

We get to build a long time line into our purchasing plan and it’s had taking us time. Before we buy fertilizers from the retailers but now we buy from the distributors directly.

PT: You started in 2014, there were already security challenges in the country and you definitely saw more coming. Why did you choose Nigeria, not other countries?

Ms Mehta: I was already here in Nigeria before starting the company. I lived in Nigeria from 2008 to 2012 so I already knew Nigeria pretty well and I went back to the U.S. for business school and when I finished, the business I had in mind I was like starting it in Nigeria or Ghana but honestly, there is a much bigger market in Nigeria as the population is larger and it’s a wealthier country. And also I’ve lived here before and had the connections that were useful for me to start a company here in Nigeria than in Ghana.

PT: Kaduna is a state suffering from a high level of insecurity. So how are you able to manage it?

Ms Mehta : I think about security all the time and it is getting worse all across the country. It’s quite difficult to recruit staff from other parts of the country because they’ll first say “these things that are happening, there’s no way I’m going there”. We try to make our environment safer through working with federal operatives like the military and NSCDC that are within the area.

We make them know about us and be aware of who we are and what we are doing. We are also in touch with the community and the local vigilante group. We’ve been fortunate over time. We try to make it safe for our staff that we have escorts accompany the staff bus to the farm. It’s quite expensive but I care a lot about my staff very much and I want them to feel safe coming to work every day, so security is a priority for me.

PT: Have you ever been harassed because you’re a woman because there’s this belief in Nigeria that agriculture is for men and women should not meddle into it?

Ms Mehta: I think the fact that I’m foreign, that has been cancelled out but I get a lot of sayings that goes like this which is supposed to sound as a compliment but I don’t take it as such; “You’re stronger than a man”, “you’re a man in woman’s body”, etc, but that’s not a compliment and guess what?

Women are capable of doing these things. I try to make it balanced though, that it is a male dominated thing and I don’t have a lot of women on the team who are more in the labour management team and I know how hard it is to do it at all and do it in a male dominated area.

PT: It’s pretty difficult for women in Nigeria to own land. Being a foreigner, how are you able to acquire land?

Ms Mehta: I don’t own any land, it’s the company that owns the land. We have a lot of farmers and women in our programme and they don’t have access to their own land so we have special point of trying to bring more women in our programme and letting them use our land to farm and learn all the techniques they need to learn on how to farm. When they graduate, we help them lease land because a lot of the community don’t lease land to women. So we are trying to support women farmers in our community to be able to learn and continue farming.

PT: When these women graduate and begin their own farming, are you in any kind of agreement with them?

Ms Mehta: Before they start training with us we get into this contract with them. After training, we help them with loans which includes the inputs they need on their farms, the education and extensions services we provide to them, and at the end of the season they pay us back in tomatoes or maize.

They pay back with a certain tonne of produce and anything they grow above that, we pay them in cash. We put a small markup on the products to enable us do the programme but to really make money we are going to process those tomatoes into paste to give us the revenue that’ll make us sustainable. The farmer programme that we do is just a way to help us get the required raw material to make our consumer products.

PT: Before the training begins, is there any financial commitment?

Ms Mehta: They enroll with a commitment fee of N10,000 which makes them liable for a loan of N300,000 after the training as well as many other inputs they’ll get from us. The training lasts as long as a season which is about 4 to 5 months. So over the course of the season, the farmer will get a lot of different types of training.

PT: As a commercial farmer, have you gotten any form of support from the government?

Ms Mehta: Presently, we are in the middle of finalising and drawing down a loan from the Central Bank of Nigeria to support the construction of the factory. That is the only form of support we have gotten and are appreciative of the government of the state for allowing us operate with ease in the state.

PT: If the Ministry of Agriculture were to empower the industry, what recommendations would you give?

Ms Mehta: Irrigation infrastructure should be one of the major things they should really invest in. Irrigation is probably the biggest challenge in tomato farming and farmers really struggle to get the resources to irrigate their tomato farms.

PT: Has family life slowed you down in any way since you started?

Ms Mehta: Yes, there are people who are distractions who do not want to see me succeed but there are situations where I need something urgently from someone but he doesn’t see the priority in that, not that it is intentional though but something that is super important for me will end up not being achieved because the other person felt it was not a priority.

PT: The present administration wants young Nigerians to venture into agriculture, some of them usually don’t have the knowledge of what they are asked to do. Let’s say a young person walks up to you seeking advice on how to go about agriculture, what advice would you give the person?

Ms Mehta: For me, you’ll have to have a vision in mind of what your goals are. Is it something you want to do full-time or just like a side hustle for supplementary income, or something you want to grow into something big? So what your goals are, is really important.

For me, it is trying to build a business worth over a hundred million dollars, and to get that I have to work in things that have a really big market. But generally knowing what you want to do is very important. Secondly, starting small and you know agriculture can be super expensive so experience is key which when you start small, you can learn and understand before increasing your value.

PT: So as a commercial farmer, you should have attended many international events, considering the events you’ve attended, do you think Nigeria can compete globally when it comes to agriculture?

Ms Mehta: Honestly, in today’s environment it’s very difficult. But I think there’s a world in which Nigeria can be competitive in agriculture but there are a lot of policies and infrastructure that have to be in place for our farming to be competitive. I’ll give you an example. Besides road and power I said earlier, even just having access to agricultural companies, the support services, will improve our system.

A tractor broke down and we could not get the repair parts in Nigeria so we had to order for in America. It took us three months to get the machines back to work on what should have been in three days. So to compete globally, Nigeria must put infrastructure that supports agriculture in place.

PT: You mentioned using tractors. So aside tractors, what other machines do you use on your farm?

Ms Mehta: We have made big investment security and I’ve talked about irrigation earlier as one important part of agriculture in the dry season. Even though it looks like a bunch of pipes sitting on the ground, it’s quite expensive. It costs about $4000 per hectare to get irrigation access. We also have machines in our factories that also cost a lot. Also, tractors because they pull most of the other attachments that carry out different other functions.

Mira Mehta, CEO of Tomato Jos
Mira Mehta, CEO of Tomato Jos

PT: You earlier said your crops are seasonal and there are times when you wait after cultivation for plants to grow before harvest. During these times, what do you do?

Ms Mehta: We don’t just wait around to see them grow. Tomatoes are one of the hardest crops to grow and they have a lot of things that could go wrong. You have to irrigate the crop at least once in three days depending on the type of soil you’re cultivating. So you have to have people moving the pipes around, weeding, checking for abnormalities, applying fertilizers etc, a farmer is expected to be in the farm every day to check on his plant. We actually have a farming protocol that explains to the farmers what they are supposed to do at each point of the plant cycle.

PT: At that time you’re not selling anything so what are the financial implications?

Ms Mehta: It’s hard because in farming you literally have to put all your money into the ground and wait for your money to come back from the ground. It is really quite capital-intensive and also difficult. There is this cash cycle, how long do you put your money in the ground before you begin to get it back? In farming, it is very long but then for processing it becomes longer because you take the cultivated tomatoes for processing into paste and then sell for a very long time. From the time of cultivating to actually selling the last product can take up to 18 to 24 months.

PT: Can you give us an overview of your company? What else do you do?

Ms Mehta: We are a farming and processing factory. We farm tomatoes and process them into retail packaged tomatoes and we start selling them in the market. We grow maize and cereals. We do farming and processing.

PT: Assuming you’re not into agriculture, what other line of business would you have ventured into?

Ms Mehta: When I was in business school I was looking at different opportunities post graduation. Real Estate was one among other opportunities.

PT: Can you give us a brief background about yourself?

Ms Mehta: I grew up in Boston, I went to Brown University where I got my first degree, I was a student athlete and was a member of the team and became a captain where we were doing well. That really shaped a lot of my college year being an athlete and a very competitive person. After graduation, I worked in a financial institution for two years and in 2008 I moved to Nigeria to work for the company.

But my work was not really impactful as I wanted with my life. So after working for four years, I went back to the U.S. in 2012 where I went back to school to acquire my MBS, Masters in Business Studies. That was when I started to consider what it will require to develop tomatoes into a company. I had the idea but I never had the courage to start anything at that time but going to school helped me gain confidence and courage to start the company.

PT: Do you belong to any association or cooperative?

Ms Mehta: Yes I do. I belong to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and we are in a tomatoes policy group through the industry trade investment.

PT: Your journey looks like it just started, where do you see yourself in five years?

Ms Mehta: Well, hopefully in five years, Tomato-Jos will be a household name across Nigeria as I’ll love to see this compost reach that in Nigeria. That’ll be the dream.

Buhari: The future of Nigeria is in agriculture

Source: The cable

President Muhammadu Buhari says his administration’s investment in agriculture has yielded visible results.

Buhari said the future of Nigeria is in agriculture.

He said this on Wednesday during an interactive session at the African Finance Summit in Paris, France.

Buhari explained that the policy on border closure to neighbouring countries was to protect the economy and improve security.

“The future of Nigeria is in agriculture,’’ he said.

As part of commitment towards diversification of the economy, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday flagged off the 2021 wet season input distribution in the south-west geo-political zone under the CBN-Rice Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti state.

On security, Buhari said all the service chiefs were changed in order to inject new energy and ideas into protecting the country, adding that the security chiefs were also given clear targets and timelines.Advertisement

In his remarks, Kayode Ibrahim Laro, Nigeria’s Ambassador to France, appreciated the president for always creating time to interact with Nigerians, describing him as the “most friendly President to Nigerians in Diaspora’’.

At the meeting, according to the presidential aide, Nigerians in Paris raised issues with the president on security, voting in elections, economy and education.

How African food systems continue struggle to meet most basic need

Source: Daily Monitor

As African leaders spoke at the High-level Virtual Dialogue on Feeding Africa last week, one thing stood out; Africa knows its food systems are caught in a mare’s nest.

Nonetheless, the 17 heads of state attending the event organised to galvanise action around ending hunger and malnutrition on the continent by investing more in agriculture said they would “eliminate hunger within the next 10 years”, in a statement of commitments that will be forwarded as Africa’s commitment towards the UN Food System Summit 2021.

The contradictions

But Africa has made a lot of promises about ending hunger in the past. And even though the continent is said to be producing more food than it has ever done before, still, not much seems to have changed in the way of persistent hunger for more than 250 million Africans who often find themselves with no access to proper food.

According to CGIAR Special Representative to the United Nations Food Systems Summit, Kanayo Felix Nwanze, at the heart of Africa’s struggle for economic growth and food security is the contradiction of evidence that shows a great return of investment from agricultural research and development than any other sector, yet, countries continue to prioritise investment in other sectors.

“As of 2019, only four African nations were on course to meet agricultural development targets by 2025, while food imports continue to rise every year and are projected to reach $100 billion by 2030. Bringing forth the second contradiction of an Africa that has historically relied on external partners for its agricultural development,” he said.

“Over the past five to seven years, research institutions across the continent have had to contend with shortfalls in funding, putting Africa at a critical juncture in its goal to accelerate progress towards greater food security.”

Despite 60 percent of the world’s arable uncultivated land being in Africa, the continent remains a net importer of food with an annual import bill of around $80 billion.

Also, 70 percent of Africans could not afford a healthy diet, even prior to the Covid-19-related health and economic crisis. Africa is facing a looming food crisis with 55 percent of the world’s hungry domiciled on the continent.

With a current population of 1.3 billion people it is anticipated Africa will have a population of two billion by 2050.

The High-Level Dialogue on Feeding Africa virtual forum, attended by among others global representatives Tony Blair former British Prime Minister now founder of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, highlighted the same old systemic bottlenecks and vulnerabilities ranging from hitches from land tenure, deprived soils, poor rains and changing weather patterns, low levels of agro-processing, poor post-harvest handling, lack of adequate resources, etc.

According to the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, the agriculture sector in Africa (excluding North Africa) is expected to need eight times more fertiliser and six times more seed than it currently uses in order to fulfil its yield and production potential.

The research paper also says Africa still has the lowest levels of agro-processing anywhere in the world because of its reliance on the export of raw commodities. Agro-processing gross value added as a share of total GDP in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda is only between three and four percent.

Furthermore, post-harvest losses and wastage during and after food processing also represent a major loss for African agriculture. It is estimated that 48 million people every year south of the Sahara could be fed on the post-harvest wastages alone. Even if crop yields increased, significant investment needs to be channelled into post-harvest handling, including storage and processing for local food supply to be resilient.

While weak infrastructure and poorly functioning food markets add on to the rising price of food for consumers, a key challenge for farmers to access markets for their products is often the weak state of roads and infrastructure on most of the continent that goes unattended.

But limitations span too, complex political systems, powerful lobby groups with vested interests and the presence of multiple uncoordinated actors.

This meeting explored the vulnerabilities and called on African governments and the global community to take a different approach to transform the sector.

Concrete suggestions

Senegal President Macky Sall, said Africa’s ability to achieve food and nutrition security hinged on moving from traditional farming methods with basic tools to a system of modern production supported by research, productivity, sustainability, diversification and local infrastructural transformation, as well as access to credit for farmers.

Ethiopia President Sahle-Work Zewde said prevailing circumstances had steeped 16 countries into acute hunger. She said her government was advancing programmes to reform agriculture to deal with the issue of chronic hunger.

“Very few countries have achieved middle income status without first transforming agriculture. Agriculture has been the foundation for many other sectors to grow and flourish,” she said.

The two-day event organised by the AfDB and UN agency International Fund for Agricultural Development, was meant to hatch a pan-African framework to food security post-Covid-19 and ahead of the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit in Rome on July 19-21, launch bold new actions to deliver progress.

Rwanda President Paul Kagame said encouraging young African graduates to engage in farming could unlock the potential of Africa’s agriculture to achieve food security.

According to President of Zambia Edgar Lungu in his country, like in many others on the continent, in spite of work done in the area of research and development in the sector, “most of their findings end up collecting dust on shelves and the ordinary farmers do not benefit from their findings.”

Out of the 49 Member States that reported on progress in implementing the Malabo Declaration during this 2019 biennial review cycle, only four countries including Rwanda, Morocco, Mali and Ghana are on-track to achieve the Malabo commitments by 2025.

‘We want to boost Nigeria’s food security’

Source: The Guardian

AGRO-ALLIED firm, FarmFix, has reiterated its commitment to boosting food security with investment management in cultivation, processing and marketing.

Speaking to journalists during a virtual press briefing, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the company, Damilola Oladehin, said the company was determined to play its roles in food cultivation and value-chain.

“FarmFix is a leading agribusiness offering diversified farm products, services and profitable projects. Our vision is to be a leading player in the agricultural industry space and investment destination for individuals and organisations that want to be involved in farming. Our mission is to increase the nation’s food security while creating wealth for its people,” he said.
  
Highlighting the potential of the Nigerian agricultural market, the business development manager of the company, Bisi Adeyemi, said all activities necessary to bring about the transformation of the nation’s agriculture hinges on agribusiness, spanning services from production to manufacturing of agro-inputs, packaging and distribution, as well as extension of credit facilities for agricultural investments.

FG trains 40 rice farmers in Edo State on value-addition, a feature lacking among many Nigerian producers

source: Business am

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) has trained 40 rice farmers in Edo State on rice value-addition, a feature grossly lacking among many Nigerian producers.

Through the Department of Agricultural Extension Services, the training is on rice production, processing and marketing, with the objective to enhance productivity. To create jobs as well as develop rice enterprises in Nigeria, said Frank Kudla, the Director of the department.

At the macro-level, Nigeria posts miserable statistics about manufacturing in value-addition (MVA) status, which drives trade. For example, Nigeria’s share in world trade is mere 0.33 per cent, while its share in African trade is only 19 per cent below its share of Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In logistics, it currently ranks 103 out of 167.

The agric ministry noted that the training was geared towards enhancing rice productivity among farmers in the state, and getting them earn improved income via value-addition.

Kudla said the empowerment of women and youths on rice production was due to high consumption rate of rice in the country, which has led to over-dependence on imports.

Nigeria, with 21 rice mills, cannot meet its rice demands due to unserviceable machines, lack of access by rice farmers to equipment required for rice production. Importation to meet growing has been rising since 2015. Between then and 2019, the country spent $4 billion on rice import. The US Department of Agriculture said it expected Nigeria’s rice importation in 2020 to rise by 9 per cent to 2.4 million metric tons.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) since 2015 has spent N40 billion as loans to small holders to boost rice output, a move the Presidency said boosted production to 9.2 million metric tons by 2019, from 7.2 million in 2015.

Kudla said the ministry also distributed 40 bags of 25 kg Faro 44 rice seeds and two litres of glyphosate chemical each to the rice farmers across the three senatorial districts of the state. to enable them up their production capacities.

He noted that the training would go a long way to reduce poverty, increase food security, create jobs, and accelerate income generation and economic growth on a sustainable basis.

“The efforts to improve and increase rice production will invariably contribute to the attainment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s desire to ensure easy access to quality rice,” he said.

Peter Aikhuomobhogbe, programme manager of Edo Agricultural Development Programme (ADP) urged the beneficiaries to cash in on the training to enhance rice production in the state. He said the ministry had trained extension agents in the state to assist farmers on modern agricultural practices.

One of the participants and rice farmer from Illushi in Esan South-East Local Government Area of the State, Monday Nana, said the training and the rice seeds would help him and other farmers to improve on rice production in the state.

New reports from AfDB, FAO, CGIAR showcase digital agriculture opportunities for Nigeria, Rwanda, Côte d’Ivoire, S’Africa

Source: Business am

Should Nigeria, continental economic giant, and countries like Rwanda, Côte d’Ivoire and South Africa deploy drones, satellites, geographic information systems, weather stations and advanced analytics, then they may just be on the way to providing solutions to Africa’s agricultural challenges, which has been bedevilled by droughts, inundations, flooding, no value-addition.

A new joint digital profile done by African Development Bank (AfDB, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), said, the above “are some of the most promising technologies for providing solutions to Africa’s agricultural challenges.”

“The future of agriculture is data-enabled. Conventional approaches to food production are no longer able to keep up with Africa’s fast growing food systems demands and the impact of climate change on agriculture. Technological innovations and digitalization offer an opportunity to transform African agriculture to produce higher yields, increase value addition and ensure more nutritious foods on a wider scale,” said Martin Fregene, director for agriculture and agro-industry at the AfDB.

Clearly, agriculture in Africa today, potentially offers massive investments in climate-smart crops to build more resilient food systems, climate-resilient infrastructure and energy transition combine to offer investment potentials of between $130 billion and $170 billion, according to a recent report by AfDB.

Meanwhile, the continent faces the vagaries of climate change at the cost of between $7 billion and $15 billion – and could rise to $50 billion by 2040 according to the IMF.

The profiles, covering Côte d’Ivoire, Rwanda and South Africa, map the challenges and opportunities to scale the adoption of innovative digital technologies in the agriculture sector. These include: national digital technology and the policy landscape, user demands along the value-chain, and available digital agriculture services and applications. The profiles also examine the main barriers to adoption as well as the digital technologies with the greatest potential to transform the sector.

Although Nigeria was not included in the digital profiling, the country could cash in on the lucrative opportunity from the report’s recommendations. Time it brought on its NIGCOMSAT-1, a Nigerian satellite ordered and built in China in 2004, which is Africa’s first communication satellite, and Nigeria’s second satellite. It was launched on 13 May 2007, aboard a Chinese Long March 3B carrier rocket, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in China.

Fregene said, “the Digital Agriculture Profiles provide a snapshot of how a country is positioned in that transformational process.”

The series is based on the concept of the Climate-Smart Agriculture country profiles developed by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. The methodology was designed in close collaboration with the World Bank Group.

The applications of digital technology in agriculture are diverse. For example, using satellite data, farmers can monitor crop health, soil quality and water and fertilizer usage. Sensors, automation and machine learning allow for the adaptation of more precise agricultural operations for specific locations and conditions. Digital payment systems, index insurance and mobile platforms help connect farmers to markets and financial services.

According to Mohamed Manssouri, FAO investment centre director: “Agriculture’s digital transformation is an exciting and fast-moving train, and we need to make sure that small-scale farmers, women and rural youth are able to benefit from these technologies. The profiles give international and national financing institutions, policy-makers and public and private investors a good and quick overview of a country’s current digital landscape, as well as the main constraints and opportunities for digital policies and solutions.”

The profile highlights showed that: in Rwanda, up to 85 per cent of rural consumers will have access to basic mobile phone services in the next five years.

For Côte d’Ivoire: access to digital technologies rose sharply in the last decade; nearly everyone in the working-age population now has mobile phone access, and nearly half of Ivorians use the internet.

South Africa, by far the continent’s country with vastly developed systems: precision agriculture is strongly adopted by large-scale commercial farmers; blockchain, barcoding and fleet tracking solutions offer unique benefits for the traceability of agricultural products.

The profiles also offer analysis on the future of digitalization. Project coordination was led by the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture’s technical community, the Data-Driven Agronomy Community of Practice, with contributions from researchers at the Alliance of Biodiversity International and CIAT (International Centre for Tropical Agriculture).

“It is critical that all development partners join forces with governments, the private sector and non-state actors to accelerate agricultural digitalization and ultimately defeat hunger globally,” said Andy Jarvis, Associate Director General of the Alliance of Biodiversity International and CIAT and co-founder of the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture.

The digital agriculture profiles are part of the AfDB’s digital agriculture flagship. Profiles have also been produced for countries such as Argentina, Grenada, Turkey,

Agriculture: Kogi State secures $100 million AfDB loan

Source: Nairametrics

The Kogi state government announced that it has secured a $100 million loan from the African Development Bank (AfDB) for the purpose of funding Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZ) in Kogi.

This was disclosed in a statement by Commissioner for Finance, Mr Asiru Idris, in Lokoja on Tuesday.

The Commissioner added that the project will be a boost to improving production and employment in the state for 2 million people and also open the state up for private investments, citing that 280 hectares of land would be acquired in 5 local government for the scheme

“The project will create employment for two million people in the state and by extension, curb poverty, reduce youth restiveness and open doors for private investors,”  he said.

He also added that the scheme would be beneficial for both farmers and processors which will also be an advantage for distributors in the state as transport costs will also be reduced.

Lagos agricultural sector to generate $10 billion in the next 5 years

Source: Nairametrics

The Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has projected that the agricultural sector in the state could generate as much as $10 billion within the next 5 years.

This is as the governor noted that Lagos could no longer afford to rely exclusively on other states for its food, adding that it was time to unlock its immeasurable agricultural potential through the implementation of the 5-year roadmap.

This disclosure was made by the Governor at the formal launch of the state’s 5-year Agricultural and Food Systems Roadmap, on Thursday, adding that most of the investments would be private sector-driven while the government acts as the catalyst and enabler.

Governor Sanwo-Olu opined that the Roadmap would also lead to wealth generation, value creation, food security, the industrialisation of the agricultural sector and the entrenchment of inclusive socio-economic development of the state.

He said that the roadmap essentially focuses on 3 pillars, which are: growth of the upstream sector, growth of the midstream and downstream sectors as well as improvement of private sector participation.

What the Lagos State Governor is saying

Sanwo-Olu, in his words, said, “Our strategies for sustainable Agricultural Development shall focus on three pillars. First, we will grow the upstream sector through interventions by leveraging technologies that are capable of lowering the cost of production of value chains; Focus on growing the midstream and downstream sectors that are of value and lastly, we will improve on private sector participation by developing and initiating policies that will encourage more private investments in agriculture.”

The projection is that the total investment in the Agricultural Sector from the government, private sector, donor agencies and development partners will run into over $10 billion in the next five years. While we expect most of the investment to be private sector-driven, the government will continue to provide the needed infrastructure while the private sector will be encouraged to lead the key projects.’

The governor pointed out that the state had already started the revamping of its Agricultural Land Holding Authority (ALHA) to support investment in agriculture, giving assurance that the coconut belt would also be strengthened with increased private sector involvement.

Sanwo-Olu listed some State’s landmark investments that will aid smooth delivery of the Roadmap to include the Lagos State Aquatic Centre of Excellence (LACE) that would boost fish production from 20% to 80%, the Imota Rice Mill, the Lagos Food Production Centre Avia, Igborosu-Badagry as well as other statewide agriculture-focused initiatives.

He said, “I am greatly encouraged by the interest already generated in the Five-Year Agricultural Roadmap and I hope it will be sustained and backed with concrete action on the part of our development partners and the international community. I assure you that the Lagos State Government is putting in place deliberate incentives to make your investment safe, secure and profitable.’

Sanwo-Olu, therefore, urged potential and established stakeholders in the agricultural sector to partner with the state in order to transform the agricultural sector for food security, wealth generation, poverty eradication, economic diversification, rapid industrialisation and accelerated socio-economic growth.

Bottom line

This is a very laudable initiative from the Lagos State Government especially at a time the country is looking at diversifying its economy. The successful implementation of this programme with the expected benefits from the value chain will contribute significantly to the economic development of the state and the country in general.

The investment in the transformation of agriculture to agribusiness is one way of achieving the dream of attaining self-sufficiency in food production and creating more wealth.

FG set to galvanize food production with 60, 000 tractors

Source: Vanguard

With high prices of food and subsistence farming largely practiced across the country with the least use of machines for food production, the Federal Government, yesterday, expressed readiness to galvanize food production with 60, 000 tractors and other agricultural interventions.

This was disclosed by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Nanono, while receiving participants of the Senior Executive Course (SEC) NO 43(2021) of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Plateau State, at the headquarters of the Ministry.

According to Nanono, the proposed 60,000 tractors will drive agric mechanization that would revolutionize the sector across various value chains and will attract more investments and personnel in food production, supply, distribution, and access that would lead to availability and affordability.

He also maintained that the government has put in place measures that would accelerate food production and that the current hike in the price of food items across the country is currently being addressed, especially from the security perspective. He maintained that the mechanisation programme of the Federal Government would metamorphose into a paradigm shift from subsistence practice to commercial agro-industrial farming.

He added that the shift will bring about massive food production, procurement of agricultural processing plants, fertilizer production, enhanced value chains, and among others.

Speaking further the Minister asserted that the move on mechanization would enhance local technologies evolution with over 600 Private Sector Driven Services centers, equipped, tractors, farming implements, storage, and IT Facilities.

He said: “This would address the challenge of feeding the nation’s growing population and achieving food sustainability, create jobs for teeming Nigerian youths, and boost the economy.

“The ministry’s plans to increase agricultural extension workers to 75,000 on various value chains for efficient will make the nation attain food production and self-sufficiency status.”

Meanwhile, the leader of the delegation who is Director of Studies, (NIPSS), Prof Olufumilayo Para-Mallam, Director of Studies (NIPSS), expressed delight to be at the ministry for the interactive discourse on agricultural policies of the ministry.

“The theme for the SEC 43, 2021 as approved by Mr. President, is ‘Getting Things Done: Strategies for Policy and Programme Implementation, the ministry is critical to sustainable development and diversification of the economy.

In an address of welcome, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr Ernest Umakhihe stressed that policy and programme implementation remain the nucleus of delivering public good because the government rides on them to meet the expectation, yearnings, and aspirations of the people, as they are vital and critical aspects of good governance, especially for a country that has survived the devastation of COVID -19 pandemic, which is needed now.

While giving a review of agricultural policies in Nigeria, the Director, Planning and Policy Coordination in the Ministry, Zubairu Abduallahi, pointed the need for presidential interventions for integrating agricultural financing and inputs into an agricultural value chain development of the Ministry.

However, according to Abdullahi establishing of Food and Agriculture Trust Fund/Agricultural Development Trust Fund to support value-chain development, research will achieve self-sufficiency competitiveness in the sector including recapitalisation of the Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Cooperation and Bank of Agriculture.

FG inaugurates national committee to bridge gender gap in agriculture

Source: pulse.ng

Umakhihe, while inaugurating the committee, said that the initiative would promote and ensure the adoption of gender sensitive responsive approaches, plans and programmes in such a way that men and women would have equal access and control of productive resources.

He said that the availability of the policy document was expected to address the vulnerability of women to biases in the agriculture sector, integrate gender perspectives in national planning; create more jobs for women and financial empowerment.

The ministry is committed to mainstreaming of gender issues in the agriculture sector to achieve food Security, eradicate poverty and hunger in Nigeria,” he said.

Umakhihe said that the National Gender Policy in Agriculture was consistent with the Global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by World Leaders at the UN Summit in New York, U.S. in September, 2015 which underscored the vital role agriculture played in sustainable development.

“Also, it is importance in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of eradicating poverty (SGG-1), ending hunger, achieving food Security,(SDG-2), ensuring healthy lives (SDG-3) and enhancing the empowerment of All Women and Girls (SDG-5); to bridge the gender gap and enhance food Security.

“The agriculture sector has been repositioned as a business through the value chain development and as an alternative to crude oil, therefore efforts should be geared toward the implementation of policies and programmes for the realisation of this government’s initiatives and programmes,” he said.

He called on the committee members to accomplish the onerous responsibility assigned to them to ensure full implementation of the 11 elective objectives of this policy document for positive outcome.

The Director, Special Duties in the Ministry, Mrs Fausat Lawal, said that the policy document was a developmental strategy for poverty reduction and it was expected to empower small scale holder farmers who were predominantly women.

“Women small scale holder farmers constitute about 70 to 80 per cent of the agriculture labour force and they produced the bulk of food for domestic consumption,” she said.

The Country Director, ActionAid, Mrs Ene Obi, lauded the ministry for deeming it fit to inaugurate the National Gender Steering Committee and ensuring that relevant stakeholders were members of the committee.

Obi said that the implementation of a gender policy had been an issue with government policies and therefore commended the ministry’s efforts in identifying the gender gaps in agriculture through the document.

She solicited for the inclusion of executives of the smallholder farmers into the committee and pledged continuous support of ActionAid toward implementation of the policy.

The Chairman of the Committee, Mr Azubuike Nwokoye, thanked the management of the ministry for giving them the opportunity to serve and promised that the committee would deliver on its mandate.