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Stakeholders to alter $2.71b import bill, address food crisis

By Kingsley Jeremiah, Abuja
29 April 2022   |   3:35 am
Stakeholders in the financial and agricultural value chain, yesterday in Abuja, disclosed a fresh move aimed at addressing the growing food insecurity in Nigeria.

PHOTO:SUNDAY AKINLOLU

Stakeholders in the financial and agricultural value chain, yesterday in Abuja, disclosed a fresh move aimed at addressing the growing food insecurity in Nigeria.

The initiative is expected to address key challenges facing farmers, especially smallholders scattered across the country.

This comes at a time when geopolitical tension, heightened by the war between Russia and Ukraine, COVID-19 and insecurity have worsened the vulnerability of the country to food crisis.

The new plan championed by Heifer International and Hello Tractor could provide 500, 000 tractors and an immediate investment of $1 million while helping framers with loans for tractor purchases.

Globally while there are roughly 200 tractors per 100 square kilometers of agricultural lands, in Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, there are only about 27.

This, according to experts at the launch of the Pay-As-You-Go Tractor Financing for Agripreneurs in Nigeria, depicts mechanisation deficit, which has a significant impact on farm productivity and local economies in a region where most people depend on smallholder farming for income.

With a growing population, poverty rate and youth unemployment, Senior Vice President of Africa Programs at Heifer International, Adesuwa Ifedi, stressed the need to unlock capital for youths who have strong business skills that could help to transform agriculture but have been overlooked by private equity investors.

Ifedi stated that the aim of the programme was kick-off with a number of tractors and thereafter attract investors that help finance the acquisition of 500, 000 tractors for the continent.

She disclosed that while private equity groups and large impact investors have provided more than $5 billion for tech startups in Africa, very little of the financing has gone to young agritech entrepreneurs.

Ifedi noted the need to demonstrate the potential of agritech investments to generate jobs for the ten and twelve million young Africans, who enter the workforce every year.

Founder and CEO of Hello Tractor, Jehiel Oliver, noted that the PAYG program was developed to make tractor ownership — and the reliable income the machines could bring — a reality for entrepreneurs who find it impossible to get credit through normal channels.