opinion By Salisu Na’inna Dambatta
Kano — One aspect of our national life in which all hues of Nigerians cannot deny or ignore the success of the Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government is the huge, critical and vital field of agriculture.
As a leader who knows the country sufficiently enough to give it appropriate focus, and being aware of where the shoes pinch many citizens, President Buhari promised to steer Nigeria toward a sustainable self-reliance in food supply for the nearly 200 million Nigerians that no leader can afford to see go hungry.
This is particularly apt in a country with sufficient arable land, abundant water resources and a resilient population that always amazes the world by its ingenuity in all areas of legitimate endeavors.
His administration’s desire to ensure that the country grows what it eats, and eats what it grows, contributed in making agriculture one of the three pillars through which the economy can be diversified and expanded. Doing so will improve the well-being of millions of Nigerians.
The first recognised success of the administration is the country’s near-absolute self-sufficiency in rice, which the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development put at 98 percent. Rice importation is no longer taking about six million United States Dollars out of the country daily. That is a whopping US$2.196 billion every 366 days.
As Chairman of the National Council on Food Security, President Buhari appreciated the self-sufficiency recorded in rice production and wants to consolidate Nigeria’s position as the largest or second largest producer of some commodities. Many of these commodities are staples, in which Nigeria is self-sufficient: cassava, sorghum, millet, soya beans, cow pea, groundnut, maize, cocoyam, yam, sesame, bambara nuts, an assortment of vegetables and fruits. They are produced in the varied agricultural ecological zones of the country.
A key step in that drive is bringing more of the arable land left fallow in the country under cultivation. To achieve that goal, which is tied to clearing land for an initial 1000 young farmers in each of the local government areas in the country, President Buhari directed the resuscitation of the Nigerian Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA). Thus, by taking this singular decision, a minimum of 774,000 new farmers would emerge in the country’s sector that employs the most number of workers. With improved security against banditry and insurgency, each of the young farmers is expected to employ at least five others on the farm.
Starting new farms by the new generation of farmers does not mean that existing smallholders and large -scale farmers will be excluded from the Buhari Green Revolution. At least 2,000,000 of them nationwide will be given improved seeds for sowing and other planting materials, including Cassava stems, free of charge. The distribution has commenced.
In addition to that, 75,000 new agricultural extension officers, who specialised in various crops and soil types in the country will be recruited and deployed to all corners of the country to assist, guide and support farmers. This is aimed at boosting the productivity of Nigerian farmers to enhance our food sufficiency and increase the income of farming households.
The mechanisation of the agricultural sector in the country is essential for bolstering the production of cash and food crops. The Buhari-led administration is doing that by working to procure 5,000 tractors and related implements from Brazil.
This was reiterated after the Federal Executive Council meeting on May 3, 2020, when an elated Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Sabo Nanono, informed State House correspondents that, “we presented a joint memo with the Federal Ministry of Finance in which we sought the approval for a loan facility of about 950 million Euros translated probably to 1.2 billion dollars.”
“This loan is for the purpose of agricultural mechanisation in this country -that will cover about 632 local governments plus 140 processing plants. This is going to be a major revolution in the agriculture sector,” he said.
The revolution in agriculture, which is hinged on the patriotic desire to cater for the well-being of Nigerians, includes the production of more Cocoa and other industrial commodities such as Oil Palm, Rubber, Wheat and Cotton. In the case of cotton, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has just activated an Anchor Borrowers’ Scheme involving 1,600,000 farmers nationwide, 256,000 of them cotton farmers for the 2020 wet season.
The establishment, for the first time in the history of agricultural development in Nigeria, of a specialised storage facility for yam at Zaki Biam, Benue State, for a minimum of 200,000 tubers, is both appropriate and capable of reducing post-harvest loses by yam farmers due to poor storage system. Often, the loss is caused by rotting, drying or boring by insects. It can equally stabilize off-season price of this tuber which is one of our national stables.
The meaning and purpose of Buhari’s agricultural drive is to give Nigerians healthier, fresher and cheaper food; deepen our national food security; create more agro-related jobs and enhance our national pride.