Farmers list challenges as planting season begins
As the 2019 planting season has started nationwide, farmers across the country are again grappling with series of challenges, which if not attended to are capable of hampering the country’s food sufficiency dream.
Some of the challenges include lack of access to seedlings, high cost of fertiliser, lack of access to funds, irrigation systems, and lack of logistics.
A pepper farmer with 35 hectares plantation in Osun State, Chigozie Amadi, who doubles as the CEO of Agro Trading Forte International (ATFI) said though the challenges facing farmers vary, they are somewhat consistent as they are prevalent in almost every season.
Amadi said it is increasingly difficult to have access to funds being released by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to aid farmers.
To him, the requirements by finance houses are often too difficult and in most cases, the targeted farmers are unable to gain access to these funds.
“Other challenges include land ownership/tenure system, expensive labour, irrigation systems, unavailability of good seedlings, and lack of farmers’ education/extension services. Labour is the spine of the farm. Most farmers had sweet and bitter experiences with labourers. There are non-governmental organisations in the northern parts of the country bridging the labour gap these days through training programmes for willing youths in northern communities in collaboration with farmers/farms. This exchange program has proved pretty helpful for most of our farmers. A wider spread & better networking of this will be welcome,” he said.
“On seedlings, as much as we complain about the quality of our seeds, it will be difficult to get the seed companies to get us the quality of seeds we desire due to cost. I spoke recently to a farmer friend in Australia who told me he buys just one seed of watermelon for $5. He gets the yield he desires. I doubt if we can afford that here. We will continue to work with the seed companies to get the best reasonable quality for our local farmers, but we expect some real support from the authorities responsible
“On farmers education/extension services, we expect the system to ensure valuable information gets to the farmers and at the moment farmers think authorities will not do a thing. We need to get enough information before we can adequately put a thing down. Even at that, hire the services of an agronomist and learn on the job yourself,” he said.
Another farmer, Dele Ibitoye, who is the founder of Pinfarm, operating from Ibadan, Oyo State, identifies lack of access to finance for farm set up or expansion, lack of access to farm inputs due to high cost and sometimes due to non availability, lack of good farm labour, bad access roads to farms, absence of farm extension workers, and harvest spoilage due to non availability of storage or preserving facilities, as challenges.
He said: “Nowadays, we have three sets of farmers: local farmers in the village, office farmers in various agric offices of ministries of agriculture, and urban farmers. In the south, because of our lack of agric cooperatives, most of the government supports, like fertilizer and others, don’t get to farmers.
“But, I understand that farmers in the North enjoy enough government support. Urban farmers are present day educated farmers, most likely residing in the city and have farms on the outskirts of the city. Because of their background and not being in one location, forming or joining a cooperative is a big challenge. But, the reality is that these are the set of farmers/investors that will take Nigeria to the next level of agriculture.”
To put a permanent solution to the perennial challenges, Amadi said government should ensure availability of high-grade farm inputs, through the various research institutes across the country. He wants government to make available cost effective mechanisation, to reduce labour, provide irrigation facilities at affordable cost, subsidise organic fertilizer or manure.
“As for me, I will prioritise cropping problems in following order: market uptake of output at commensurate/reasonably profitable rates, labour sourcing and management, irrigation at reasonable cost, best cropping management practices, and all others including quality seeds, goat & other animals issue herbicides (appropriate), fertilizers, disease management.
“If problems one to four are solved successfully, 95 per cent of cropping problems are over.”
On his part, Ibitoye appealed government to ensure that initiatives and supports enjoyed in one part of the country get to farmers in other parts, to ensure availability of food across the country.
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