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How to align agriculture with SDG Vision 2030

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Maize

Maize

Despite the campaigns by the federal and state governments on the need to diversify the economy by harnessing the potential in agriculture, little or nothing seems to be happening as most of the efforts, as usual, are adjudged to be merely theoretical; lacking the zeal for the attainment of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Agriculture.

Recently, the Federal Government, in collaborations with other agencies, launched the “One State, One Product” campaign in agriculture to cushion the devastating effect of the global fall in the oil market, but many states of the federation are yet to identify their agricultural products.

The Provost of Federal College of Agriculture, Akure (FECA), Dr. Samson Odedina, the trailblazer of fortified Vitamin A maize and cassava in Nigeria, has always iterated the increasing opportunities that abound in the sector, declaring without mincing words that “Nigeria is an untapped potential agricultural power house.”

But the President of an Ondo State-based Non Governmental Organisation, Movement for the Survival of the Underprivileged, Mr. Dappa Maharajah lamented that Nigeria is either in a backward swing in the fulfilment of global visions for its citizenry or in an unproductive hop on a spot without any noticeable progress.

Maharajah premised his arguments on the lackadaisical approach of government to the fulfilment of the SDG Vision 2030, which he said, is largely a consolidation on the successes recorded so far in the past Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that leaves the country with little or no good  score card.

If driven with the seriousness it requires, he said, “SDG in agriculture is to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, as well as promote sustainable agriculture; adopt measures to ensure the proper functioning of food commodity markets and their derivatives, and facilitate timely access to market information, food reserves in order to help limit extreme food volatility.”

He lamented that with the “theoretical” approaches of government, “what magic wand do we intend to effect to double agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, particularly women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers to drive the 2030 goals?”

The NGO boss noted that except government at all levels declare a state of emergency in the agricultural sector for “unfettered access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment, 2030 in agriculture will be another stillbirth.”

In the same vein, the world renowned curriculum developer, Prof. Pai Obanya sometimes described the country’s slow progress and development in all facets with the imagery of a literary “Hop, Step and Jump” theory, which pontificates that Nigeria often hops and steps, but fails always to jump with its policies.

At the 2016 World Food Day event organized by Ondo State Agricultural Commodities Association (OSACA) in Akure, the guest lecturer, Odedina, declared that the estimated 165 million population of the country is projected to increase to 470 million by the year 2050.

He lamented that only 40 percent of the nation’s 84 million hectares of arable land is utilized and pointed out that despite the available 279 billion cubic meters of surface water.

According to him, there is untapped irrigation potential with three of the eight major river systems in Africa, while he projected 110 million youths in the workforce in 2020 with low wages for agricultural intensity.

The Provost estimated the four major food imports in the nation namely: wheat, rice, sugar and fish at over $11billion annually, leading to the increase in Nigeria’s food import at an unsustainable rate of 11 percent per annum and a dependence on import of expensive food on global market, which fuels domestic inflation.

“Excessive imports putting high pressure on the naira and hurting the economy as Nigeria is importing what it can produce in abundance. Import dependency is hurting Nigerian farmers, displacing local production and creating rising unemployment. Import dependency is neither acceptable nor sustainable fiscally; economically or politically.”

Odedina emphasized the importance of value chain in agriculture, which he declared would give the country more money and revenue than it has ever accrued from oil in the five decades because it is a string of companies, groups and other players working together to satisfy market demand for a particular product or groups of products.

In 2011, Switzerland and Nigeria signed a Migration Partnership, which intensified agricultural education as a support field involving the School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences (HAFL) in Zoilikofen, Switzerland and six Nigerian institutions, including FECA, implanting a project on Capacity Building for Agricultural Education in Nigeria (CBAEN).

“The goal of the project,” as said by Odedina, “was to increase the livelihood and employment rate in Nigeria through improved agricultural education, curriculum development and exemplary value chain project in schools and communities.”

The Provost, who presented the results of the second phase at a national stakeholders meeting of the Swiss Government supported project in Abuja recently, iterated that each of the six geo-political zones of the country is rich blessed with agro-products that can bring Nigeria out of the wood.

He identified target commodity value chains for investment in the South West to include: oil palm, cocoa, rice, cassava, livestock and fisheries; in the North East: cotton, onion, tomato, sorghum, rice, cassava, livestock and fisheries; in the North Central: maize, soybean, rice, cassava, livestock and fisheries; North West: cotton, onion, tomato, sorghum, rice, cassava, livestock and fisheries.

While in the South South: oil palm, cocoa, rice, cassava, livestock and fisheries; and the South East zone: oil palm, cocoa, rice, cassava, livestock and fisheries. He disclosed further that cassava production and consumption is the largest in the world.

The Provost, who received an award at the OSACA event, mentioned that 8-10 farmers grow cassava on 10 hectares of land with an average low yield of 8-10 tons per hectare, but noted that production increased from 34 million tons to 45 million tons between 1999 and 2006, estimated to only 12 percent increase in hectares to give 3.4 million hectares.

Furthermore,  he added that production is concentrated in the South West and North Central zones with 80-85 percent of production is consumed as food, 70 percent as garri, while 10-15 percent is processed for industrial use: mainly starch and HQCF, which is five percent and others are syrup, ethanol, animal chips, beer, glue etc.

The agricultural expert stated that prior to 2012, there had been increasing needs for food supplements, fortification and diversification but with the aid of Vitamin A cassava and maize through value chain, the duo are accepted as a new strategy to address micronutrient malnutrition in the country.

“Vitamin A is important for good sight and 250, 000 to 500, 000 children go blind every year. It is highly essential for body’s immunity and is specifically needed by pregnant women,” he said.

Aside the consumers, he added that opportunities exist for investors in the value addition and multiplication of seed systems everywhere along the value chain but identified 25, 20 and 10 major problems among the key drivers of Vitamin A products namely: the farmers, product distribution market and consumers respectively.

However, he listed the challenges in value chains of those products as follows: skills in value chain approach, the non-inclusion in the current curriculum in educational institutions and extension services personnel understanding of value chain approach in farmers’ support and advisory services. The aforementioned reasons underline justification for training.

On a wider scale, he also highlighted the exclusion of Colleges of Agriculture from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) and land grabbing, which prevailed with “unintelligent excuse,” as said by him, to steal their land.

“The implication of this is that about 500, 000 youths in over 40 Colleges of Agriculture in the country will be learning agriculture under poor conditions of infrastructural decay, exodus of lecturers and non-attractiveness of agriculture as a vocation.”

Referring to the excuses put forward to grab the land in the colleges, which are often hinged on underutilization, he lamented that 60 percent of the land, which is less than 10 percent of total land area of similar institutions, is gone while the remaining 40 percent occupied by rocks and motor parks is under threats of sponsored litigation.


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