Mitigating COVID-19’s impact on Africa’s food systems

We are facing great uncertainty on the African continent. The global spread of COVID-19 and the rising number of coronavirus cases in Africa are fueling anxiety about negative economic growth, failing healthcare and collapsing food systems. We are already grappling with a locust outbreak in the Horn of Africa, drought and flood extremes due to climate change and increasing food importation costs  of more than $47 billion in 2019. The convergence of all these sets the stage for an imminent food crisis –  unless measures are taken to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

Consider also that the U.S. dollar has surged against emerging market currencies, reducing the purchasing power of countries reliant on commodity imports and sparking higher consumer prices. Inflationary pressure on food staples can breed social tension and even unrest.

Anti-pandemic measures like nationwide lockdowns and border closures compound food shortages – especially of nutritious but perishable foods like fruit and vegetables. Restrictions on movement and quarantine measures impede farmers’ access to markets. In Nigeria, rice prices are 30% higher than in January, thanks to panic buying, transport restrictions and rising global prices.

Also, foreign direct investment and aid into Africa is expected to fall, or be delayed as international investors and development partners redirect capital to their local economies and into stimulus packages to combat COVID-19.

But Africa is coming up with its own solutions for these challenges, with the African Development Bank being prominently involved. To address the threat of food security, several short-term measures are being taken:

Creation of a “green channel” for the free flow of food and agricultural inputs.

Creation of strong demand for agricultural inputs of fertilizer, seeds and agro-chemicals through smart input famer subsidies.

Measures to prevent food price hikes by releasing food from government grain reserves and implementing anti-hoarding policy.

Rapid scale up of food production technologies, including high-yielding, early-maturing, drought-tolerant, disease- and pest-resistant staple crops, livestock and fish through programs like the Bank’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation initiative. (

Feeding programs for the worst affected and most vulnerable zones.

Medium to longer-term food security interventions include:

Provision of recovery strategy support to key supply chain players like logistics companies and anchor farmers.

Strengthening food supply chain resilience via efficient production, processing and value addition.

Enforcing food safety, improved food quality and traceability policies in the post-coronavirus period.

Promoting digitalization and e-commerce in markets hit by COVID-19.

Guided by lessons learned from previous health crises, including the Ebola epidemic, the Bank has responded to the pandemic by putting together a package of support for the public and private sector. The COVID-19 Response Facility will mobilize up to $10 billion to provide financial assistance to African countries fight the pandemic. The Bank has also raised a $3 billon COVID-19 bond, proceeds of which will go to address fiscal challenges, as well as emergency procurement of drugs, vaccinations, ventilators and other health-related expenditures, as well as feeding programs, agro-input subsidies and other socio-economic interventions.

To rebound from the pandemic, Africa must maintain adequate food reserves, avoid protectionist policies and promote value chains that link domestic and international markets. As the Bank takes a key role in supporting African countries to design and implement coordinated policy responses, it will work with regional partners including the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, as well as international ones such as the World Trade Organization, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Bank, and other international partners.


Covid-19 tragedy an opportunity for a New Nigeria: Emefiele

As many people are now aware, the outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in China rapidly permeated and profoundly changed the world.

While this crisis is first and foremost a public health issue, which has claimed the lives of over 123,600 people worldwide, and counting, the economic damages are unprecedented on several fronts: Crude oil prices declined dramatically to as low as US$17 per barrel by the end of March, even before applying the discounts many oil exporters are offering; Stock valuations for the NSE-ASI, Nikkei, Dow Jones and FTSE-100 declined by an average of 23.8 percent between January and March 2020; Global airlines have lost about US$252 billion in revenues and across the broad range of industries from hospitality to services, the pain is growing.

These outcomes have expectedly thrown the global economy into a recession, the depth and duration of which is currently difficult to fathom. In fact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that the global economy would decline by 3 percent this year.

Around the world, countries have moved away from multilateralism and responded by fighting for themselves with several measures to protect their own people and economies, regardless of the spillover effects on the rest of the world.

According to the World Customs Organization, a total of 32 countries and territories, adopted stringent and immediate export restrictions on critical medical supplies and drugs that were specifically meant to respond to COVID-19. As of 10 April 2020, an updated count of total export restrictions by the Global Trade Alert Team at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland suggest a total of 102 restrictions by 75 countries.

On 4 March 2020, Germany announced an export ban that applied to all sorts of medical protection gear including breathing masks, medical gloves and protective suits.

Around the same time, President Macron announced that France will requisition all face masks produced in the country, a de facto export ban.

Between 8 February 2020 and 6 April 2020, India released eight (8) different export notifications banning several drugs and medical supplies including hydroxychloroquine, ventilators, personal protections masks, oxygen therapy apparatus, and breathing devices.

On 3 April 2020, the Trump Administration invoked the war-era US Defense Production Act to stop major US mask manufacturer, 3M, from exporting N95 respirator masks to Canada and Latin America.

Fears of a long global recession have also led to worries about unprecedented global food insecurity, with concerns that agricultural production may be dislocated by containment measures that constrain workers from planting, managing and harvesting critical crops.

Rather than seek cooperative and global solutions, several countries have resorted to export restrictions of critical agricultural produce. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), about 37 countries have enacted various forms of food export restrictions in response to COVID-19, even in countries where average production exceeds domestic consumption.

For example, Vietnam, the world’s third largest exporter of rice, suspended granting rice export certificates until the country “reviews domestic inventories”. Russia, the world’s largest wheat exporter, announced a ten-day ban on the export of buckwheat and rice due to concerns over panic buying in local supermarkets.

What if these restrictions become the new normal? What if the COVID-19 pandemic continues in a second wave or another pandemic occurs in which all borders are shut and food imports are significantly restricted? What if we cannot seek medical care outside Nigeria and must rely on local hospitals and medical professionals? For how long shall we continue to rely on the world for anything and everything at every time?

Although these developments are troubling, they present a clear opportunity to re-echo a persistent message the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been sending for a long time, and at this time even more urgently so: We must look inwards as a nation and guarantee food security, high quality and affordable healthcare, and cutting-edge education for our people. For a country of over 200 million people, and projected to be about 450 million in a few decades, we can no longer ignore repeated warnings about the dangers that lie ahead if we do not begin to depend largely on what we produce locally. The security and well-being of our nation is contingent on building a well-diversified and inclusive productive economy.

When I became Governor of the Central Bank in June 2014, imports of rice, fish, wheat and sugar alone consumed about N1.3 trillion worth of foreign exchange from the Bank. My immediate question was: can we not produce these ourselves? After all, only a few decades ago, Nigeria was one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of many agricultural products like palm oil, cocoa and groundnuts. Today, we import nearly 600,000 metric tonnes of palm oil, whilst Indonesia and Malaysia, two countries that were far behind us in this crop, now combine to export over 90 percent of global demand. In 2017, Indonesia earned US$12.6 billion from its oil and gas sector but US$18.4 billion from palm oil. I believe that this pandemic and the immediate response of many of our trading partners suggest it is now more critical than ever that we take back control; not just control over our economy, but also of our destiny and our future.


COVID-19: Women farmers assure of food production, want govt’s assistance

Women farmers under the auspices of All Farmers Association of Nigeria, AFAN, Monday, assured of food production, but want government’s assistance to achieve it.

This was asserted by the Women Leader, AFAN, Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Chapter, Nkechi Okafor, , while speaking on the aftermath of Coronavirus, COVID -19, pandemic, in the country, especially, to contain looming hunger that may hit hard on Nigerians if proactive steps are not taken to mitigate the impact. Okafor said there is a need to move fast to beef up food security by equipping farmers with all they need to increase food production.

According to her over 70 per cent of the total farmers’ population in Nigeria are women and they have been the major source of food feeding over 200 million mouths and will continue to produce food despite the raging coronavirus as they are prepared to go back to their farms for food production. She said: “It is a well-known fact that this deadly Coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic, came into our great country at a very critical time. “The hope of survival by most Nigerians is majorly on agriculture and not on oil and gas. Most families in the country are deep into farming and that is being led by women.

“Nigerian women farmers are ever ready to do exploit in the area of agriculture but just required a push from government, other relevant agencies, and well-meaning individuals. Support for women farmers in Nigeria will create a large room for achieving food security, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. “The pandemic presently poses grave challenges to agriculture, even at that, the women are ready to go back to their farms being the major producers of what over 200 million mouths consume as food.

“Now, the big challenge is the onset of the raining season, which most farming activities will soon commence by mostly women and now they do not have what it takes to be on the farm during the 2020 planting season. “We are appealing to governments at all levels including development partners, corporate organizations to rise up to the occasion and equip women farmers with farm inputs including fertilizers, quality seeds, finance, and extension services, which could be a form of palliative during this period of battling the spread of the deadly and devastating virus.” Being a trainer and gender right advocate, Potato Farmers Association of Nigeria, POFAN, also acknowledged that all agricultural values are in tough times presently, which women farmers are part of, but will like to sustain them in terms of going back to their farms.

“They are active in all the parts of the agricultural value chain but now that the time is tough what will they do to get themselves back and still contribute their quota in helping Nigeria in the quest to achieve food secured country. “It is imperative that government at all levels should ensure that women farmers in Nigeria are empowered all round for them to go back to their farms any moment this pandemic subsides. “Government at all levels should not wait to see before believing as it is clear to everyone that the effects of this to Nigeria economy will be too high. It will be dangerous if we do not prepare ourselves well now that the raining season has already set in. To be forewarned is to be forearmed”, she stated.


FG releases 70,000tns of garri, maize to Nigerians

The Federal Government has begun the release of 70,000 metric tonnes of assorted food items to vulnerable Nigerians as part of efforts to cushion the effect of the lockdown in some states.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, made this known on Monday at the official hand over of 12,500 metric tonnes of assorted food at the Minna Silo Complex in Niger.

He said the 12,500 metric tonnes of items released from the 25,000 metric tonnes capacity silo complex in Minna, comprised 10,000 metric tonnes of maize and 2,500 metric tonnes of garri.

This, according to him, is to officially launch release of the 70,000 metric tonnes of garri, maize, millet and sorghum from six silo complexes across the country.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the release of 70,000 metric tonnes of assorted food items to vulnerable Nigerians.

This is part of efforts to cushion the effect of the lockdown in some states of the federation as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nanono, who handed the food items over to the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, said it was in compliance with President Buhari’s approval.
He said, “Our mission here is to hand over about 12,500 metric tonnes of garri and maize. Maize 10,000 tonnes, garri 2500 tonnes.

“The logistics are purely NEMA affairs. Ours is to hand over to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. I assure you that by tomorrow NEMA would have to be here.

“Anybody that knows of garri knows that what we have here is high-quality garri.”

The minister of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development, Farouq, who received the items on behalf of the ministry, assured that the items would get to the beneficiaries in affected states based on an already well-planned modality for distribution.

“NEMA is in charge of the logistics to distribute these items to the population that is affected by the lockdown.

“I am here in my capacity as the minister to receive these items and NEMA has started sending trucks to take the relief to affected states.

“We have two states plus FCT. Those are the states that are most affected and they are the ones that are been locked down as pronounced by Mr President.

“We have a structure in place from the national down to state and the local government areas.

“They are the team that will implement the modality, which we already have in place.

“25 per cent of the population of the state are the ones we are going to reach out to and these are vulnerable,” she said.

Dr Suleiman Haruna, the Director of  Food and Strategic Reserve in the ministry of agriculture and rural development assured that the food items being released were in good shape.

He disclosed that the food items in the other silo complexes were equally ready for loading and distribution by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

He said, “my responsibility here is to ensure that the right quantity in good condition in terms of the food items are released to the public by NEMA.

“We are releasing from the 25,000 metric tonnes silo complex here in Minna, 12,500 metric tonnes.
“As I am talking to you right now Gusau is loading ready to commence lifting. Also in Dutsin Ma same operation is going on. 

“We are also ready in Lafia. In total we have 70,000 metric tonnes. 12500 from Minna, Lafia 5000 metric tonnes of millet and 1500 metric tonnes of garri.

“In Dutsin-Ma Katsina State we will be moving 17,500 metric tonnes and out of this, we have 12500 of maize and 5000 of Sorghum.

“In Adamawa also we have 12,500 metric tonnes of Maize and 5000 metric tonnes of Sorghum and finally in Ilesha we will be moving 1000 metric tonnes of garri.”


Mixed feelings trail sector

Mixed reactions trailed the country’s agric sector’s performance in the first quarter of this year, as there were no severe headwinds at the beginning of the year, until of late, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused hitches to free flow of supply and distribution of agro-allied products nationwide amid boundaries closure.

Activities in the country’s agric sector during the first quarter of this year was relatively challenging, although the support from the present administration curtailed the difficulties. In fact, the burning issue, RUGA, that dominated the sector last year, was well managed this time. However, the most important development in the sector at the beginning of the year was the fallout of Federal Government’s border closure policy. Despite taking advantage of the closure to boost local rice supply nationwide, the Presidency reacted swiftly towards the end of the quarter that the price of local rice was on the high side and threatened to review the rice importation policy, unless the local producers reviewed their price downward.

FG’s border closure

In fact, the country’s border closure policy came into effect at a period that Nigeria had appended her signature to the African Continental Free Trade Area (Af- CFTA) treaty, which is expected to take-off in July this year. Besides, the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, revealed at an agric forum at the beginning of the year that plans were afoot by the Federal Government to export local rice to other countries in the next two years. In addition, following public outcry and outrage over the current price of local rice in the country, the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in conjunction with the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RiFAN) pledged that plans were afoot to review downward the price of local rice to N10,000 by September this year.

EU beans ban

Also, in the quarter under review, the Cowpea and Beans Farmers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria disclosed that plans were in top gear that would see Nigeria export quality beans to the Euro-pean market, as the ban placed on the country is expected to be lifted by 2021. National President of the association, Shittu Mohammed, disclosed this in Abuja. In January 2013, the European Union (EU) placed a temporary suspension on imports of the item. “We are trying to get silo from the government for the 36 states where we can store our beans. We are also working at setting up laboratories in the states where the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control can test the beans before export. This is to ensure that no beans go out of the country without properly been tested,” Mohammed said.

Agro-allied industry set up

During the first quarter, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to establish agro-allied industry in each state of the federation in a bid to achieve food security and stimulate economic activities. Speaking on the development, the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mariam Katagum, confirmed that the ministry was saddled with the responsibility of making this laudable task a reality. Katagum explained that the plan to establish agro-allied industry in each senatorial district in the country was parts of government’s effort to achieve food security and stimulate economic activities.

Covid-19 pandemic and food scarcity

However, the most topical event in the sector in the first quarter of the year was the Covid-19 pandemic impact on Nigerian agriculture as All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) and other key associations raised the alarm that many of their agro-allied products meant for Lagos markets and others have remained stuck nationwide due to sudden boundary closure. AFAN National President, Kabir Ibrahim, admitted that the coronavirus pandemic posed a big threat to sustenance of food availability in Nigeria and globally, adding that it was the duty of local farmers to rescue the economy at this period by providing food to feed the entire Nigerian populace. The AFAN president noted that the spread of coronavirus across the globe was frightening in all aspects since it has disrupted the world economy with Nigerian economy not left out of it effect. Similarly, the Chairman, Lagos State chapter of the Nigerian Association of Small scale Industrialists, Gertrude Akhimien, explained that President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive on Lagos, Ogun states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, had led to huge losses running into millions of naira to them, as some states have refused the passage of agro-allied commodities. NASI Lagos State chairman explained that the impact of the lockdown was threatening food security and safety in the country, especially Lagos State.

ABP loan repayment

In February, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) reported that out of a total of N622 billion disbursed by the bank to commercial banks under the Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme (CACS), about N387.2 billion was repaid. This signified that Nigerian farmers were meeting up with the agric loans repayment under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP).

Tomato supply gap

Also in the first quarter of the year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, assured that local tomato farmers and processors would be sufficiently financed under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) to meet local demand and bridge an annual shortfall of over 1.2 million tonnes valued at about $2.5 billion annually, which is met through importation and smuggling.Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony of Tomato Jos Farming and Processing Limited located in Kaduna, Emefiele said that CBN, as far back as June 2015, before the current tomato policy was approved in 2017, had excluded importers of 41 items from accessing foreign exchange at the Nigerian foreign exchange (forex) markets, to import it.

Cocoa production

In early January, the Central Bank of Nigeria indicated that it would support the cocoa value chain to increase the production of quality cocoa and assist farmers on best practices. The National President of Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN), Adeola Adegoke, in an interview, said the association had met with CBN and it expressed readiness to intervene in the value chain. Adegoke further said that sensitisation and training of cocoa farmers were ongoing across the cocoa-producing states on the best way to produce quality cocoa for the market.

FAO food crisis forecasts

Around March, it was reported by the Food and Agriculture Organisation that no fewer than 16 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory were identified to face food and nutrition crisis between June and August this year. The affected states, according to the FAO, include Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Benue, Gombe, Taraba, Katsina, Jigawa, Kano, Bauchi, Plateau, Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, and Niger. The report was contained in the Cadre Harmonisè (CH) of the FAO, where it also put the figure of Nigerians to be affected by the crisis at about seven million. In the third phase of the CH, FAO said that it expected about four million people across the affected states to face stiffer experiences in May.

Food import

savings Another key event in the quarter under review was the report by President Muhammadu Buhari that the country in recent times had saved millions of dollars that would have otherwise been expended on food importation. The president further said that the country had almost achieved self-sufficiency in food production. This news came six months after the president said he had directed the Central Bank of Nigeria to stop providing traders with foreign exchange for food importation into the country.

Last line

Notably, the first quarter of this year for Nigeria’s agric sector can be said to be relatively stable. But with the signs the Covid-19 pandemic are showing, it means there are rough days ahead for the country’s agric sector with food scarcity, hunger and poverty looming.


Nigeria making progress in rice production, processing – AfDB

Abuja, April 9, 2020: The African Development Bank (AfDB) says Nigeria is making progress in rice production and processing.

Mr Ebrima Faal, Senior Country Director of the bank, stated this while suggesting measures to be taken for quick economic recovery during an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday.

Faal said this achievement should be scaled up and broadened to other sectors and commodities.

He said that leveraging on Nigeria’s agricultural potential to stimulate agro-led industrialisation could rejuvenate the economy and improving rural incomes.

“Economic diversification remains key to Nigeria’s inclusive growth and the productive structure of the economy is generally more diversified now than say 20 to 30 years ago”.

Faal, however, noted that the production had shifted from oil to agriculture and manufacturing to services, mainly wholesale and retail trade, transport, real estate among others.

According to him, the problem is that most services are in the informal sector.

“Some estimates suggest that the informal sector accounts for about 60 to 70 per cent of the economy.

“Services sector can contribute to jobs creation but there is need for measures to improve productivity, especially through ICT enabled financial and other technology driven services,” he said.

The director said that growing non-oil revenues would insulate the economy from the cyclicality of oil revenues and create stability in government budget.


Agritask and Royal Exchange Set the Stage for Nigeria’s Agriculture Digitization Quantum Leap

 Agritask, a leading global developer of a holistic agronomic operations platform, in collaboration with Royal Exchange, General Insurance company limited, Nigeria’s premier insurance group in Nigeria, announced today the launch of a unique joint initiative digitizing crop and livestock insurance with a social KPI to underwrite 1 million small holder farmers by 2025. The initiative involves a variety of stakeholders in the agricultural sector and beyond, including banks, cooperatives, ag-consultants, input distributors, ag-buyers etc.

Currently, agricultural insurance penetration levels remain very modest in developing countries. In particular, uninsured smallholder farmers can be severely impacted by variable forces of nature, with little financial means to manage such risks. This protection gap may potentially amplify poverty, hunger, enhance various forms of inequalities within societies and ultimately introduce a burden on the economy and challenge the stability of the country. Sustainable risk mitigation mechanisms and advanced technologies are required to tackle the preceding obstacles.

Towards the accomplishment of such an objective, Royal Exchange and Agritask embarked on a project to create a solid foundation for digital crop-insurance framework in Nigeria by utilizing Agritask’s well-structured and accurate data infrastructure facility.  The infrastructure is capable of combining diverse sources of data on one platform in an unprecedented resolution, including the mapping of farmers, their field locations, crop types, weather, soil and topography, among others. This foundations allow for accurate risk modeling and the design and pricing of suitable insurance policies.

Importantly, the data infrastructure, once in place, can be utilized by a number pf stakeholders.  After seeing the initial results, those in the Nigerian agricultural ecosystem such as banks, cooperatives and input distributors expressed an interest to participate in the project.  Building on one database, each stakeholder can have customized tools tailoring to their positioning in the ecosystem.  This creates new business opportunities as well as greater empowerment of smallholders, who will benefit from better reach and higher-quality products. 

“Farming in most of the world is comprised of small-scale farmers who face the very same risks and challenges large commercial operations do: Bad weather, low yields, and supply chain challenges. However, they do not have the resilience that larger commercial operations have; that’s why there is a huge need for greater risk management abilities in this segment,” said Ofir Ardon, Agritask CEO. “Because we work with the entire ecosystem, we can provide economies of scale for growers, both at the individual farmer level, as well as for all other players in the ecosystem.”

“There are many regional impact projects in Nigeria, but most of them struggle to reach hundreds or thousands of farmers, simply because they do not have the technology required to manage and optimize an operation of this scale. Therefore, many times, when the project funding ends, the impact vanishes,” said Chukwuma Kalu, Head of Agribusiness & Business Development, Royal Exchange General Insurance Company Ltd. “Working with Agritask, we have a great opportunity to develop a more sustainable model. We believe this kind of sustainability can, and should, become a reality across Africa. With Agritask’s technology, we can level the playing field and get them to operate with the same resilience as larger commercial entities.”

About Agritask

Agritask is a holistic ag-operations platform, designed to enable fact-based decision making for agricultural businesses. To fulfill this vision, Agritask integrates a wide-array of agronomic technologies, tools and data sources into one single platform that analyzes the data and produces alerts, recommendations, and actionable insights. Data sources vary from sensors and machinery, aerial images, forecast data, and more. Agritask’s platform is extensive and rich in its capabilities, yet built in a modular, flexible way that allows it to grow with customer needs, while facilitating a more advanced use of ag-technologies, making them accessible via one single platform.  Agritask is being successfully licensed in more than 20 countries, with a broad spectrum of clients ranging from large growers, multi-farm corporations, private equity managers, ag-buyers, food conglomerates, ag-financing and insurance companies, to governments and NGOs.

Agritask is headquartered in Israel and has various satellite offices around the globe. The company employs dozen of engineers, agronomists, developers and other agriculture and farming experts. It is backed by strategic investors. 


Professionals warn farmers, government to avert food crisis by 2021

Agricultural professionals have warned the Federal Government and state to avert food crisis in 2021 by making inputs, enabling environment and credit facilities, among others, available to farmers now.

It is time for clearing, stump removal, ploughing, harrowing and ridging of farmland in predominantly rain-fed agriculture (which takes about 98 per cent of agriculture in the country).

But the world is locked down, and so are the activities heralding rain-fed farming. The situation, experts believe, could imply under-cultivation, low productivity and poor yields, as farm operations are time-bound in an irrigation-deficient farming system.

Reports have indicated that less than five per cent of Nigeria’s arable land is irrigated, pointing to how heavily rainfall-dependent the country is in cultivation.

Corroborating the foregoing, Prof. Samuel Olakojo, a grain seed breeder at the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T), Moore Plantation, Ibadan, admitted that there is no doubt that COVID-19 is already posing a serious threat to agriculture and food production, for two weeks or a month of delayed farming activities would have a greater impact on the timing of cultivation, and by extension, the productivity of farmers.

“But for now,” he said while proffering solutions, “farmers should by now be preparing the land, sourcing for genuine but quality inputs, planning what to grow, when and where to grow them. They should be meeting with the off-takers of their produce and seal the agreement,” the researcher said.

He advised that farmers should also be putting finishing touches to their credit facilities if they operate large-scale farming enterprises. Those that are involved in the government intervention programmes such as anchor borrower’s scheme should be planning to start planting now, he added. 

On the part of the government, Prof. Olakojo advised that all desk officers working on one agricultural project or the other should be exempted from lockdown so as to attend to the real assignments on farming, inputs and extension because the time for wet season farming is now.

“Procurement of seeds and other inputs the government is planning to distribute is now since agricultural operations and activities are time-bound.

“Distributing such inputs after May 2020 is as good as not purchasing it, because only about 35 per cent of such will be useful this year, especially for farmers in the Northern region. The Federal Government should also be meeting with grain aggregators for storage in the grain reserves and not waiting till December during harvesting. Agreement should be drafted, signed and sealed now,” Olakojo said.


Farmers in Nigeria, Tanzania to benefit from AKILIMO

Scientists are making progress to expand the prediction coverage of AKILIMO to five regions in Tanzania and nine states in Nigeria. Once completed, farmers in the regions will have access to site-specific recommendations on agronomic practices in cassava farming systems.

Developed by the African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI) of IITA and partners from the national research systems, development partners and private sector partners; AKILIMO is an all-in-one agronomic advisory tool that supports cassava growers with knowledge and recommendations to intensify their cassava-based cropping systems.

In an update on progress made so far, Meklit Chernet, ACAI Data Scientist, said her team had been processing data and recalibrating models to provide the necessary input for the prediction engine to generate recommendations.

“Data processing is done for an additional 5 regions in Tanzania and 9 states in Nigeria expanding the areas AKILIMO has been serving so far. The team has been working on both front and back ends of the AKILIMO app, remodeling and adding new features to the frontend to improve users’ interaction with the app,” she added.

She explained that huge efforts have been invested to create functional backend features and ensure users’ input are captured and passed correctly to the prediction server and response from the R server is then passed on correctly to the app and presented to the user.

Currently, the AKILIMO app is able to provide recommendations in three different ways, within app and by sending SMS and/or email both for Nigeria and Tanzania users. When the user is offline, requests are queued and then sent to the server as soon as the user comes online.

The app calculates all recommendations automatically and is user-friendly and more precise as it utilizes more features and information, such as GPS location.

“The task to translate recommendations into local languages is also underway, and the cassava sweet potato recommendations are already being delivered in Swahili,” Dr Chernet added.

Furthermore, a printable version of AKILIMO is available and covers the same aspects of cassava production including customized advice on fertilizer application, tillage regime and best planting practices, cost-effective weed control measures, intercropping practices, and tailored planting and harvest schedules. The printable versions are simplified and allow users to study the process and gain insights into how recommendations are calculated. Together, the suite of AKILIMO tools offers cassava growers with insights and knowledge to make informed decisions on their cassava farms.


48 youths to vie for glory in Nigeria’s first ‘agritainment’ reality show

A new reality show tagged ‘Face of Agric Nigeria’ has been unveiled.

The first of its kind, organisers say the show is aimed at changing the narrative about agriculture in the country.

“Face Of Agric Nigeria is an agritainment project and the first of its kind. It is a strategic project to be used as a tool to attract the Nigerian youths into agriculture putting in view the youths interest in entertainment related projects,” according to Kairos Events and Entertainment.

“The event targets the Nigerian youths resident in the urban centers.

“As the organisers of the Face Of Agric Nigeria project, we are going to employ entertainment as a platform to attract optimal number of the Nigerian youths in the urban centers to engage in agricultural practices.”

The target contestants of the reality show are youths aged 18-32.

“A total of 48 contestants are selected from the six geo-political zones in Nigeria. These 48 contestants would be housed in a boot camp for 90 days,” they said, explaining the model to be adopted for the show.

“Participants would be put through the technological know-how in various agricultural practices from ground to the final consumer and hopefully they will become proficient.”

With this model, organisers expressed hopes that contestants would be enlightened to identify local and international agricultural business opportunities.

The programme also aims to support the government in achieving an “exceptional milestone in agriculture which would have profound effect on the growth of the economy”.