With AGRIFEST, Nigeria’s Agricultural Revolution Comes Alive
The gospel of economic salvation cannot be preached without due regard to agricultural development, as the sector is the major and most certain path to economic growth and sustainability. Blessed with abundant landmass and water resources, Nigeria’s agricultural sector is said to have a high potential for growth, but this was not being realised until recent time when the present Federal Government devoted its energy and resources to the sector.
As part of the strategy to realise its Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), the Federal Government recently held the Agriculture Festival, tagged AGRIFEST 2015, to pinpoint the gains of the Jonathan administration in the agriculture sector; the giant strides of the Agriculture Minister, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina and a celebration of the resilience of Nigerian farmers. GREGORY NWAKUNOR and DANIEL ANAZIA captured the exciting carnival-like atmosphere that held at Eagle Square, Federal Capital Territory Abuja and write.
A PACKAGE of new highly productive varieties of rice and wheat and chemical fertilizers introduced to farmers in India, Pakistan, and other Asian countries in the mid to late 60s led to a doubling and tripling of yield of those crops and has been rightly termed the ‘green revolution’. In response to these high yielding varieties and chemical fertilizer, Asian cereal production grew by 3.6 percent a year between 1967 and 1982, doubling between 1970 and 1995 from 313 to 650 million MT per year.
The same package of improved seed of rice, maize, wheat, soybean, sorghum – 174,000MT, and of fertilizer, 1.3million MT, was distributed to 14.5 million farmers between 2012 and 2014, under the auspices of the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) of President Jonathan’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA). This has led to the doubling of rice production in the country, a tripling of wheat production, and 60 per cent increase in maize production. In all, an additional 21 million MT of food with a net value of N778 billion was produced and Nigeria’s own ‘green revolution’ was born.
The recently concluded Agriculture Festival 2015 (AGRIFEST 2015) held at Eagle’s square, Abuja on Friday, January 23, celebrated the amazing advances made in Nigeria’s agricultural sector. In testimonials, young and old farmers who produce rice, maize, sorghum etc, described the new dawn of agriculture in the country.
Armed with no more than their cell phones, one farmer after another farmer told the audience of how they each receive every season two bags (three bags in the dry season) of fertilizer, seeds, stems, and other inputs via an electronic voucher sent to their phones – the electronic wallet of the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES).
In the past, they could barely secure improved seeds and fertilizer for their farms – when they got it, fertilizer was doled out in ‘mudus’; the rest of the fertilizer ‘walked’ across the borders to Niger and Cameroun. They sang the praises of President Goodluck Jonathan’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), being ably executed by the Honorable Minister of Agriculture.
Statistics of the impact of ATA on each of the individual crop and livestock value chains has been astounding. Over six million rice farmers received improved rice seed varieties and fertilizer, boosting domestic rice production by an additional seven million metric tons. The rice revolution is taking place across the country, from Kebbi, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Bauchi, Gombe, Niger, Kogi, Ogun, Ekiti, Ebonyi, Rivers, Anambra, Delta, Edo to Bayelsa State.
Rice millers have taken advantage of these new opportunities, and the number of integrated rice mills has expanded from one at the beginning of this administration, to 24 today. High quality Nigerian rice is now competing favourably with imported rice in the markets. Nigeria’s comparative advantage in crops such as cassava – we are the world’s largest producer of cassava, is also being used to aggressively substitute imported wheat flour, starch, and ethanol.
During the period 2012-2014, processing capacity for cassava grew astronomically, 520 per cent of installed processing capacity, from three medium-sized starch and High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) and three functional small HQCF mills to eight medium-sized starch, HQCF, and ethanol mills, and 40 small HQCF mills.
Two of Nigeria’s largest wheat millers, that together account for 70 per cent of wheat milling capacity, launched 10 per cent cassava composite flour for bread. Forty industrial and Master now produce cassava bread, effectively raising the inclusion level to 20 per cent, and 2,200 Master bakers have been trained. The bakers were present at AGRIFEST exhibiting their 20 per cent cassava bread products and extolling Mr. President’s cassava bread policy.
To ensure that the country produces enough cassava for the new industrial products as well as traditional foods, 130 million stems of improved cassava have been distributed to farmers. The 2013 NAERLS west season survey revealed the huge impact of reaching farmers with improved stems; the study estimated that cassava production in the country is currently as 65million MT, much higher than FAO estimates of 55million MT. In addition, 29,500 Ha of small-sized (1-10Ha) mechanized cassava farms and 5,500Ha of medium-sized mechanized farms (100-500Ha) were established in 2014.
AGRIFEST 2015 also revealed over N45 billion in private sector investments in new oil palm plantations are on-going. The GES has also provided nine million sprouted nuts of high yielding oil palm seedlings for farmers, all across the South-East, South-West, South-South and North-Central parts of Nigeria to establish nearly 100,000Ha of improved oil palm estates. A total of 45.5 million seedlings of improved cocoa hybrids have been given to cocoa farmers under GES to plant another 450,000Ha of cassava and push Nigeria to the ‘one million MT/year’ club of cocoa producing nations. A chocolate factory and chocolate academy is being established in Ondo State by SPAGVOLA Chocolatiers, a chocolate company from Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA.
A truly revolutionary trend that is changing the face of Nigeria’s new agriculture is the story of agribusinesses that link small holders to urban markers. L and Z Commercial Farms in Kano buys milk from thousands of Fulani cattle herders on a daily basis, processes, and supplies fresh dairy products to major supermarkets across the country. This is a model that it is hoped would establish for all our small holders; having an agribusiness processing centre within reasonable reach of them offering them fair prices and linking them to distant markets.
Positive changes are also happening in the fisheries sector. For the first time, fish farmers – from artisanal fishermen to aquaculture producers – are being provided across the country with subsidized fish farming inputs, including fishing nets, subsidized fishing boats and outboard engines, fish feed and other inputs. Fish production from aquaculture rose 40 per cent – from 200,000MT in 2011 to 278,000MT in 2014. For artisanal fisheries, production grew 21 per cent from 616,000MT in 2011 to 744,000MT in 2014.
The future of the agriculture sector will depend on creating opportunities for our youth. A Youth Employment in Agriculture Program (YEAP), to develop a new generation of 750,000 young commercial farmers and agribusiness leaders for Nigeria, has also been established. A N50 billion fund has been provided to support the establishment of 1,200 Agricultural Equipment Hiring Enterprises across the country, to remove the drudgery out of agriculture.
President Jonathan in his speech at the occasion said that under the ATA, agriculture is now treated as a business and not as a development programme, adding that agriculture is no longer a sector for managing poverty but one for the creation of wealth. “We now focus on developing the agricultural value chains, from the farm to processing and value addition; and we now focus on the private sector driving the agricultural sector with investments,” he said.
But the impact on of ATA on the Nation is more revealing. A total of 3.5million jobs have been added to the agricultural sector in the last three years. Agriculture is now the lifeline for Nigeria.