By Okeke Anya
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said it has developed Agricultural Transformation Agenda that aims at a technology-based, industrialized high-growth and diversified economy and food security.
This was made known recently by Mr. Emmanuel Dogo, Asst. Director of Planning to the Ministry during a Policy Dialogues on African Union (AU) Instruments in Nigeria organized by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in Kaduna State.
He said, “The Agenda intends to promote agribusiness, encourage private sector involvement in agro-input supply, attract private sector investment into areas of high production, reduce post-harvest losses and add-value to locally produced crops and foster rural economic growth by providing rural infrastructure and increasing access of farmers to financial services and markets.
“The Agricultural Transformation Agenda has created over 3.5 million jobs in the agricultural sector from the actualization of commodity value chains and provided over 300 Billion Naira of additional income to Nigerian farmers. Over 60 Billion Naira (US$ 380 million) is to be injected into the economy from the substitution of 20% of bread wheat flour with cassava flour, while domestic food supply will increase by 20 million tonnes of produce by 2015, from the composite output of 2 million tonnes of rice, 17 million tonnes of cassava and 1 million tonnes of sorghum.”
According to Dr. Dogo, over the past three years the Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development under the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), have recorded several successes including “agriculture has become central to our economy as Nigeria’s food import bill declined from $6.9 billion in 2009 to $4.34 billion by the end of 2013 thereby reducing foreign exchange deficits; agricultural productivity between 2011 and 2014 expanded by an additional 21 million metric tons of food, suppressing the 20 million metric tons of food production target set for 2015; it is on record that Nigeria met its Millennium Development Goal No. 1 on hunger and malnutrition, two years ahead of the 2015 target set by the United Nations
“The sector over the last three years has created 3 million farm jobs were created thereby putting young people to work as the agricultural revolution deepened across rural areas and agricultural value chains, leading to reduction in rural to urban migration. The period under review, the private sector participation in driving the ATA shows that between 2011 and 2014, the sector attracted over $5.6 billion of private sector investments.”
Over 14.5 million farmers have been registered in the past three years, Nigeria is the first country in Africa to do this and the farmers are being migrated into the national e-identity card system which allows the use of their biometric information to effectively target them and open them up for financial inclusion. The Ministry ended four decades of fertilizer sector corruption within 90 days and with it the era of government buying and distributing seeds and fertilizer and replaced it’s with a private sector driven system.
“The Ministry is addressing ageing farmers facing the country through the establishment of Youth Employment in Agriculture Program with the goal of developing 750,000 new cadres of young commercial farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs over the next five years,” Dogo added.
He mentioned as part of challenges facing agricultural sector, the level of funding for the agriculture sector which is still low compared to the recommended 10% of national budgetary allocation under the Maputo declaration.
The Director urged rapid intervention to revamp the Bank of Agriculture, provide accesses to affordable finance for farmers and agribusiness at single digit interest rate.
“Climate change will pose a great threat to the gains made so far in the agriculture sector and we must now develop and put in place bold policies that will reduce the vulnerability of farmers to drought and flood. There is need to develop new cadre of agricultural managers, therefore federal universities of agriculture should fundamentally restructure their curriculum to train agricultural entrepreneurs.
There is need to put in place fiscal policies to protect the gains being made in the agricultural sector. Issues of child malnutrition especially in the North East remain a major challenge. Moreover we must ensure potent policies are in place to protect the farmers in the country so that ATA is sustained,” he advised.