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Agronomist harps on small-scale farming development


A professor of Agricultural Economics, Dr Jude Nwaru, has recommended that efforts should be made to harness the potential of the smallholder farming to reduce poverty in Nigeria. 
He also recommended the curtailing of existing shortfalls in farm efficiency and productivity, saying it would enable the farmers to increase their outputs, incomes and profitability which would ultimately usher in poverty reduction and welfare.Nwaru made these recommendations while delivering the 37th inaugural lecture of the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike (MOUAU), Abia State, entitled, ‘Small Is Beautiful: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread.’
He described smallholder farming as one done in less than 10 hectares of land and practiced by families using only or mostly family labour and deriving from their farm a large but variable share of their income in kind or in cash.
According to Nwaru, smallholder farming systems have become increasingly significant for global agricultural value chains.“In Nigeria, food production is in the hands of smallholder farmers that practice mixed cropping, and cultivate between one and two hectares of farm land.  More than 80% of the farmers who also produce up to 98% of the food consumed in the country with the exception of wheat are smallholder farmers.”
The efforts to harness the potential of smallholder farming systems, as he suggested, “should include building effective and accountable institutions that will pursue a politically smart approach to economic development by seizing the vast opportunities in the local agribusiness environment and by stimulating investments in agriculture.”
Curtailing these existing shortfalls in farm productive efficiency and productivity, he added, is seriously required and calls for commitment and collaboration on the part of the government, the academia, researchers, development practitioners, farmers and other stakeholders.
His other recommendations included creating favorable and smallholder-inclusive macroeconomic framework; political will that would ensure that good agricultural policies translate to good practices; and policies that would create enabling environment for competitive input and output markets, which, he said, had become imperative.
Defining who a farmer is in the Nigerian context, he stated that “the diffused status of the farmer in Nigeria makes it possible for virtually everybody to be a farmer and nobody to be the farmer,” remarking that this scenario creates problems in times of policy formulation and programme implementation.

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Jude NwaruMOUAU
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