The Ogun state government has confirmed the availability of 20,000 tonnes of fertilizer at 5,500 Naira per bag, to farmers across the state to ensure a hitch free 2017 planting season.
The state Commissioner for Agriculture, Mrs Adepeju Adebajo, mentioned this at a meeting with officials of the World Bank and members of the private sector in Abeokuta the state capital.
Meanwhile, the state Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Mr Bimbo Ashiru, also assured business owners in the state of right policies and programmes to support their investments.
“There is need to close the gap between the government and the private sector, which is very key and that is wha we are working on. You would see that you are our greatest asset.
“The Ogun state government wants to engage you, we want to know what your problems are. We will look at the issue of policy, where we have the wrong policies, you can come back to us and say this your policy is not moving business forward.”
While advising entrepreneurs not to leave everything to the government alone, he also noted that both the entrepreneurs and the government are partners in progress.
Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, has flagged off the 2016 ‘dry season farming and agric show’ in Awka, the Anambra state capital.
According to the governor, he is advocating for an all season farming practice, as he believes that as climate is changing, food production and agricultural processes must also change.
The programme was attended by over 5,000 farmers and representatives of various cooperative groups from the 21 local government areas of the state, gathered to be part of the new initiative.
Re-enforcing the new farming initiative, the governor announced the introduction of practices and technology that would help reduce food losses through better technology for harvesting, storage, packing, transport, infrastructure and market mechanism, as well as institutional and legal frameworks.
The flag off which took place at the ABS Headquarters, Awka field, featured distribution of farm inputs, fertilizers, pesticides, improved and high yielding seedlings, as well as handover of motorcycles to deserving farmers for farm to farm movement.
With a strong resolve to ensure food security and sufficiency, Governor Obiano has made agriculture the number one pillar of his administrative blueprint.
Also, in the budget proposal for the 2017 fiscal year, a budget of 5.4 Billion Naira has been earmarked for agriculture alone, in which the state aims at being one of the top three producers of rice, maize and cassava.
With the challenges of climate change and the growing population however, there is need for agriculture and food system to find means of adapting to the adverse effects of climate change and becoming more resilient, productive and sustainable.
It is for this reason that thousands of farmers and cooperative groups gathered to re-dedicate themselves to the course of agricultural development.
The arrival of the governor charged up the arena where various food crops were on display for the agricultural exhibition.
He then moved round to inspect the crop harvest of 2016 as well as felicitate with the farmers.
While addressing the farmers, Obiano commend them for their steadfastness in the trending occupation and assured them that the state would support them with every necessary equipment needed.
He ended the event by distributing various farm inputs such as certified rice seeds, high variety vitamins, a termite free cassava stems and agricultural facilitating equipment like pesticides, irrigation equipment, tractors and motorcycles.
Women cooperatives, on the other hand, presented a gift to the governor and commended him for the support he has been giving them especially in the area of making available off takers who buy off their farm produce upon harvest.
The representative of the Minister Of Agriculture, Mr Albert Odukwe, stated that the governor’s resolve to embark on all year round farming is a demonstration of his commitment to agriculture as a serious business which all must embrace.
The state Commissioner for Agriculture, Mechanization, Processing and Export, Mr Afam Mbanefo, also announced the agricultural success of the outgoing year.
Many small-scale farmers in Nigeria have regrettably continued to face the challenge of inadequate funding as they do not have access to credit finance and are therefore unable to invest in basic farming inputs such as implements, seedlings and fertilizers.
This is despite the acknowledgement that agriculture plays a crucial role in driving economic development.
The Governor of Delta State, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, has taken the initiative to listen to the plight of the farmers and cooperative societies in the state.
The occasion was the inauguration of the Production and Processing Support Programme (PPSP) under the job and wealth creation scheme of the Okowa-led administration.
While noting that due to the challenges of financing, farm yields have remained abysmally low, leading to widespread poverty and stunted economic growth, the Delta Governor promised to provide more help to farmers in the state under the newly launched support programme
Cheques ranging from two million naira to cooperative societies, tractors and other farm implements were presented to beneficiaries.
This act, according to him, is to help to overcome the problems of resource scarcity, poor technology and infrastructure deficit in the state.
President Barack Obama hosts the leaders of four African nations this week, all of which are cited in a new report for effectively increasing spending on agriculture to combat extreme poverty and hunger.
The report by the ONE Campaign, an anti-poverty group co-founded by Irish rockers Bono and Bob Geldof, said Senegal, Malawi, Cape Verde and Sierra Leone either met or were close to meeting targets for increased budget spending on agriculture.
All of the countries, except Cape Verde where there is little data, are also on track or close to meeting a U.N. target of halving extreme poverty by 2015, the report said.
The African leaders will visit the White House on Thursday to showcase their fledgling democracies, but also their potential in a region where strong economic policies are attracting increased investment.
A recent World Bank report said Africa’s agricultural sector could become a $1 trillion industry by 2030 if farmers modernized their practices and had better access to financing, new technology, irrigation and fertilizers.
“Despite record improvements by select African countries, Africa overall is still far from realizing its agricultural potential,” said the ONE Campaign report, which assessed progress by 19 African countries and donors that send them aid.
“For African governments, donors and the private sector alike, 2013 is the year to deliver on these building blocks that impact farming and expand economic opportunities for farmers,” the report said.
This year marks a decade since African governments committed to allocate 10 percent of national spending to boost agricultural production, reversing decades of under investment in the sector. The so-called Maputo commitments expire this year, giving world leaders the opportunity to lay out a bold new plan with targets, the report said.
According to ONE’s analysis, at least four of the 19 African countries analyzed – Ethiopia, Cape Verde, Malawi and Niger – met or exceeded the target of 10 percent total expenditure on agriculture. Senegal and Sierra Leone are close to the target.
Meanwhile, the laggards are Nigeria, Liberia and Ghana, which spend less than 2 percent of their budgets on agriculture.
The report also called on industrialized nations – the United States, France, Britain, Canada, Japan, Germany and Russia – to make good on their various funding promises to help African nations increase agricultural production.
The G8, which meets in June this year, has repeatedly promised to support Africa-led initiatives, yet G8 agriculture investment plans have only secured about half of their required financing, and many donors contribute only a small fraction of their agriculture aid to poor countries, the report said.
The report shows that European Union institutions, Canada and Germany increased their share of foreign assistance to agriculture, while Britain, Japan and France cut theirs.
The Minister of Agriculture, Akinwunmi Adeshina has affirmed that despite the criticisms trailing the proposed purchase of cell phones for farmers in the country, the ministry would not go back on its decision.
He maintained that the policy would not only enhance the performance of Nigerian farmers but also transform the agricultural sector.
The Minister disclosed this while addressing newsmen on Monday in Abuja. He noted that the government would not commit itself to direct purchase of cell phones for farmers but would only subsidise the phones through a partnership that would involve telephone service operators, Ministry of Communications Technology and other stakeholders.
He disclosed that reason being that the purchase of cell phones for farmers is tied to the distribution of fertilizers directly to the farmers without the involvement of third parties who had allegedly been ripping them off.
He said, “Government policy must always be based on evidence and well analysed data. We carried out an analysis of our GES work based on a large sample of 426,000 farmers from various local government areas in 13 states.
“We found that 71 percent of farmers sampled did not have cell phones. This shows that many of our farmers in rural areas are quite poor and are excluded from the benefits of the mobile phone revolution going on in Nigeria.
“These farmers cannot access the GES scheme without cellphones and we must find a way to include them. They must not be left behind.”
Mr Adeshina said that the Ministry planned to make phones available to farmers on a gradual basis, stressing that government would not be involved in direct purchase of the phones.
“Of course, we cannot get 10 million phones to all farmers who do not have phones this year. Our plan is a gradual scale up. We intend to get about 2 million phones to farmers who do not have phones this year”.
“How will these phones be paid for and how will they be distributed? We ended four decades of corruption in the fertilizer and seed sector by ending direct procurement and distribution of these inputs by the government.
“We also ended the ineffective and corrupt direct procurement and distribution of tractors by government. It will therefore be inconsistent for government to now start direct procurement and distribution of phones.
“There will be no direct procurement of phones by the Federal Government. We are also not going to give anyone contracts to import phones from China or anywhere else. Let me also state loud and clear.
“The Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Communications Technology are partnering together to implement this policy,” he emphasised. Asked who will be eligible to benefit from the scheme, the minister said “we intend to use the GES scheme to distribute these phones. To be entitled to a phone, farmers must be registered on the e-wallet platform. Paper vouchers will be issued to farmers who do not have phones.
“The government will provide a subsidy to the farmer through the voucher to buy the phone. The farmer takes the voucher to the local mobile phone operator and pays the balance which is the difference between the value of the voucher and the cost of the phone.
“Once a farmer buys a phone and a SIM card, his new phone number will be updated on the e-wallet database and he will be able to receive his e-wallet voucher which will entitle him to purchase fertilizer and seeds at subsidized rates.
“Phones will be sold directly to farmers by local mobile phone service providers. The government simply subsidizes the cost of the phone directly to the farmer.
“We intend to start by first targeting farmers who live in areas where there is network coverage already but who do not have phones. We will then encourage phone companies to increase their coverage and as they do we will target farmers in those areas.
“By so doing phone companies will have the incentive to expand to rural areas because our programme will assure them of customers in those new areas. Cell phones in the hands of our farmers will do more than deliver government subsidized inputs.
“It will provide them access to market price information. They will be able to bargain better and save themselves from the middlemen who currently exploit them by paying them very low prices for their produce.
“Cellphones in the hands of our farmers will allow us to reach farmers with extension information such as what crops to plant, when to plant and other agronomic practices that will help them improve their productivity.
“It will allow farmers to better deal with shocks such as drought and floods in real time. Simple alerts to farmers’ phones can help them avoid catastrophes while saving lives.
“Majority of our farmers are excluded from financial services. 78.8 percent of Nigeria’s rural population are unbanked according to the report by Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access, EFInA. The cost of reaching them in rural areas is high for financial institutions.
“No bank can afford to build branches in every little village. Cellphones provide financial institutions with a low cost and efficient way of providing financial services to our farmers. The use of cellphones to provide financial services in rural areas is not new. It is already being used in several African countries.”
The minister said despite the wide criticisms on his plans for the farmers, he would not be deterred in his determination to transform the agricultural sector, stressing that “as a Minister, I cannot use hype to guide policies. I must use evidence to guide policies. When the floods occurred, there was panic in the land.
“Some derided our efforts and said Nigeria would have famine; that there would be massive food shortage; and there would be food riots. Those who wanted to import food and get waivers from government sponsored such media hypes. I was not moved.
“We used modern technology to guide our decision. Using remote sensing and satellite imagery, we mapped out the extent of the flood and determined that no more than 1.17 percent of our total cultivated area was affected by the floods. Our detractors wanted the world to believe the opposite, that food crisis was imminent. They were wrong. Today, five months after the floods, we do not have a food crisis.
“The same way these detractors have misled the public about the relevance of cellphones in Nigerian agriculture. They do not know that we are already using cellphones to distribute fertilizer and seeds to even mitigate the impact of the flood. We are already using cellphones to reach 232,000 farmers for rice production in the dry season, each getting three bags, across 10 states of the north east, North West and north central regions.
Speaking further the minister claimed that: “To reach farmers affected by the flood, we are also using cellphones through the growth enhancement support. We are reaching 98,000 farmers affected by floods across the country with two bags of fertilizers per farmer, plus one bag of agrolyser micronutrient to replace some of the soil micronutrients that have been washed away by the flood. Such is the power of cellphones revolutionizing agriculture today in Nigeria.
“I will not be distracted. We will rebuild the broken walls of Nigeria’s agriculture and unlock wealth and opportunities for our farmers. For those calling for my crucifixion, let me say that when Jesus was before Pilate, they had accused him falsely. Pilate, after listening to his case, found no cause for condemning him. Nonetheless, should anyone still want me crucified, let me say this, along my faith: “I am crucified with Christ already. Nevertheless, I live and the life that I live, I live by the grace of the son of God, who died for me,” Mr Adeshina said.