UNIFEMGA urges Nigerians to invest in food production
With a growing population of 193 million people, the Obafemi Awolowo University Muslim Graduates Association (UNIFEMGA), has urged Nigerians, particularly Muslims to invest in agriculture and food production to stimulate the economy.
The group, during its public lecture themed: ‘Nigeria Agricultural revolution: Opportunities and options for Muslim professionals’, said the huge population figure stands an advantage and inviting prospect.
The Chairman, Lagos Chapter of UNIFEMGA, Taiwo Ayanboade, said the campaign for economic growth and salvation cannot succeed without due regards to agricultural development since the sector is the major and most certain path to economic growth and sustainability.He said, the current state of agriculture in Nigeria is only a shadow of what it used to be but it can be said that there are encouraging signs of improvement.
“It is common knowledge that about 90 per cent of Nigeria land is arable and has produced major crops, including beans sesame, cashew nuts, cassava, cocoa beans, groundnut, kolanut, maize, melon, rice, millet, palm kernels, palm oil, plantains and rubber among others” he said.
Ayanboade linked reasons why agriculture has remained on the back seat of Nigerian national life to factors such as; lack of access to finance; post harvest losses due to lack of storage facilities; unreliable power supply; poor transport infrastructure and unattractiveness of farming in terms of return for many young people. He urged the government, citizens and corporates to take a serious look at the agricultural sector, especially as the nation aims to move away from over dependence on oil.
“We believe that with its status as the largest employer of labour in the country, its huge potential to become a major foreign exchange earner and help boost the nation’s revenue base” he said.
He noted that Job creation and economic empowerment remain major challenges in Nigeria, but the local content initiative would substantially address the challenges by targeting the poorest areas and channeling investments into job creating segments in the agriculture.
“Stakeholders must participate in including building the capacity of farmers. “Skills development has been recorgnised as a critical factor to help farmers increase yields and boost productivity, enhancing the value of farmers via closer collaboration and association to facilitate the uptake of new technologies, such as warehousing and transportation and identify better market intelligence solutions” he said.
The Chairman Unifemga, Alhaji Sikiru Rufai said easy access to finance is an important hinge for agricultural growth. “Legal institutional framework which these farmers needed as leverage to obtain finance must be firmly established”.He noted the numerous challenges encounter by farmers as they scale up their operations. “ Starting from securing land, clearing of land, climate change and market entry.He urged government to provide and clear lands for farmers to enable farming to be profitable.