The Road to Food Security -By Adelaja Adebanjo



President Jonathan

It has been a long standing problem and attempts to tackle it by past administrations resulted in little success and in most cases woeful failure. Despite repeated efforts to ensure that fertilizer, a major input for farmers, get to the end users, its shortage and non availability had remained a major drawback for the agriculture sector. The many policies and efforts to tackle the problem were frustrated by a combination of factors which included corruption, cronyism and the tentative nature of such interventions. As a result of   the failure , actual farmers who needed fertilizer  never got it while those who had little or nothing to do with farming were smiling to the banks as they were trading in the products and making huge profits from the illegal activity. In some states farmers were buying the input at double the price. Ironically while fertilizer

was always available at prohibitive costs in the open   market, government agencies charged with its distribution usually did not have enough to give to famers. In most cases fertilizer was not just available for farmers at the regulated price.

Now the current administration has devised a new mechanism that should permanently solve the problems associated with the distribution of fertilizers in the country and the scarcity of high yielding seed varieties.  The new mechanism puts the farmers at the heartbeat of the distribution chain with inbuilt checks and balances. The system is called The Growth Enhancement Support, GES. Dr Akinwunmi Adeshina, the Minister of Agriculture explains how the system works, “Here is how the system works; the farmers will get their alerts about the allocation for seeds and

fertilizers, they will go to the agro dealer in their own village and they will send that information to the agro dealer, seeds and fertilizers suppliers are also on the electronic platform, then collect their seeds and fertilizers and the transaction is completed and no money has changed hands.The

farmer is getting a subsidy of 50 per cent and the farmer will pay the balance of 50 per cent.   We found that 75 per cent percent of farmers in the rural areas have phones and so we are moving into that electronic wallet.” So since the farmers are alerted when the fertilizer arrives and they know where to go to and what they should pay, the issue of middle men and cumbersome distribution processes are eliminated. All the states through their relevant ministries and agencies will be involved in the delivery of the new scheme to the target farmers.

It is already being test run in Zamfara and Ekiti states. In Ekiti, farmers are being provided with two bags of seeds and two bags of fertilizers. The Federal Government will bear 50 percent of the cost while the farmers will match the grant with fifty percent. The target in Ekiti State is close to 58, 000 farmers and those running the process have confirmed to the federal authorities that at least 35,000 of the farmers have valid mobile phone numbers that would enhance the success of the scheme. Already over 3,500 farmers have benefited from the scheme in Zamfara

State.  The transaction will be monitored through an electronic validation process and all

the farmers involved have the simple tool to participate in the scheme, the mobile phone. After the test run the scheme will be replicated in other parts of the country. The provision of seeds was included in the scheme because prior to the initiative only about 5 percent of Nigerian farmers had access to improved seed varieties. In the south west 3.6 million cocoa pods of the highyielding variety are being distributed to farmers in the region. Those involved in cotton

cultivation are being provided with 1750 metric tons of cotton seeds. In the South South and SouthEast, nine million palm seedlings are being distributed to farmers under the initiative

while the initiative is also being replicated in the Northern part of the country focusing

on the area of their  comparative advantage.

Mr. Bolaji Akinboro, the Executive Director, Special Projects, Cellullant Corporation Limited, whose company designed and will run the platform said with the scheme Nigeria has entered an era of driving development with relevant technology.  According to him, “It is a great joy for us that GES has kicked-off at last in Nigeria and farmers are now directly getting fertilizers in their hands. But one of the real gains of this program is that it has been proven beyond a shadow of doubt that it is possible for government to identify an individual and deliver benefits to that person without passing through a middle man.”

 

The ultimate aim of GES according to Dr Adeshina is to encourage a shift from sustenance to

commercial agriculture by providing inputs that will help farmers to increase their yields. The final destination is to ensure that Nigeria becomes self sustaining in agriculture especially feeding its teeming population. This will cut the country’s dependence on export and ultimately reduce the money spent on import thereby giving the economy a shot in the arm. And as more people embrace agriculture the effect of this will be reduction of unemployment as a booming

agriculture sector will lead to more employment. Simply put the government of Dr Goodluck Jonathan is working to turn agriculture into a profitable business that will have a positive effect on the lives of the people and the economy.

Farmers in the rural areas and those involved in the cultivation of rice, cassava, cocoa and

related produce are the focus of the Federal government.  The GES Initiative coupled with the support being given to rice and cassava farmers through the installation of mills will

see the country significantly cut its rice import progressively. Before now the country was spending one billion naira daily on the importation of rice.  Adeshina says the President as part of his transformation agenda wants Nigerian farmers to reap bountifully from the huge rice market. “Our goal as a government is to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production within four years. There is an urgent reason for this: the variability of rice production (A 1 Super) on the global market increased from an average of 20.1% in 1992-1999 to 51 in 2000-2004. Nigeria should not be an importing country but a self-sufficient export country; it is in our hands to

bring change to agriculture, we will provide rice milling capacity of 500,000 metric tons per year, while creating about 17,000 jobs, and supporting 225,000 out-grower rice farmers. We plan to reduce the importation of parboiled milled rice from 1.5 million metric tons to zero by 2015, replaced by domestically produced and high quality milled rice.” Adeshina recently said. The government believes that it can, with the encouragement being given to local growers of rice,

create new entrepreneurs who will turn the commodity to money spinners for the farmers, the economy and the country. A N10 Billion loan from the Bank of Industry is being used to fund the agriculture transformation initiative.

To demonstrate its resolve to rejuvenate the sector and make the current initiative self sustaining the Federal Government recently set up the Agricultural Transformation Implementation Council, AITC, headed by President Goodluck Jonathan.  The task of the Council is to, “coordinate the transformational agenda of the government in the agricultural sector and

ensure that at least five million rural farmers are lifted from poverty level before 2015.”

The main aim of the transformation agenda of the Jonathan administration is principally to

ensure food security in the country by ensuring that at least 20 million metric tons of food is added to the domestic supply chain. Additionally the government is also working to cut import dependence on wheat and rice significantly and ultimately create 3.5million jobs in the sector.

Those involved in cassava farming have become the first beneficiaries of the Industrialization of the agriculture sector by the Jonathan administration. Because of the  creation of market and value chain, Nigerian farmers this year will be exporting one million tons of Cassava chips to China and those involved will reap 136 Million dollars from the business.

 

  • Adelaja Adebanjo contributed this piece from Ijebu Ode and be reached via

[email protected]

 

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