‘More bud­getary pro­vi­sion should be made to agri­cul­ture’

Dr. Tunde Arosanyin is the Na­tional Fi­nan­cial Sec­re­tary of All Farm­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Nigeria (AFAN). The agri­cul­tural con­sul­tant who has been a commercial farmer since 1987 and for­mer Kogi State AFAN Chair­man, in this in­ter­view, speaks on chal­lenges faci

Daily Trust - - INTERVIEW - Dr. Tunde Arosanyin

As a farmer, how do you as­sess Nigeria’s ef­forts to­wards food se­cu­rity?

There were sev­eral ef­forts made by var­i­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions to im­prove agri­cul­ture but such ef­forts were ei­ther not prop­erly co­or­di­nated or were not sus­tained by suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments. For ex­am­ple, in 1977, the Oper­a­tion Feed the Na­tion (OFN) was in­tro­duced by the mil­i­tary govern­ment un­der Gen­eral Oluse­gun Obasanjo, leading to the es­tab­lish­ment of River Basin Au­thor­i­ties. By 1980, the civil­ian govern­ment of Al­haji Shehu Sha­gari in­tro­duced the Green Revo­lu­tion, fo­cus­ing on ir­ri­ga­tion farm­ing as against to­tal farm­ing. Be­tween 1984 and 1994 there were a lot of dis­tor­tions in our agri­cul­tural pro­grammes un­der var­i­ous gov­ern­ments. Presently, the Agri­cul­tural Trans­for­ma­tion Agenda of Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan driven by the Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture, Dr Ak­in­wumi Adesina, is fo­cus­ing on the food se­cu­rity chal­lenges of the coun­try. But more bud­getary pro­vi­sion should be made to agri­cul­ture, and the farm­ers as­so­ci­a­tion must be en­cour­aged to part­ner with the govern­ment on all agri­cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties.

Farm­ers are al­leg­ing that govern­ment is sup­ply­ing them with low yield­ing seeds while govern­ment is say­ing farm­ers are con­sum­ing the seeds and re­plac­ing them with grains. What is the true po­si­tion?

I think both are cor­rect to the ex­tent that most farm­ers in the last four years com­plained about var­i­ous plant char­ac­ters of crops planted from one seed bag, bought from some seed com­pa­nies, or even from seed dis­trib­uted to farm­ers un­der the Growth En­hance­ment Scheme of the Federal Govern­ment. It is also a state­ment of fact that most farm­ers in the ru­ral ar­eas ei­ther re­cy­cle their har­vested farm crops as seed or go to open mar­ket to buy grains and use same as seed. The truth of the mat­ter is that enough funds are not given to the re­search in­sti­tutes to breed. The few seeds pro­duced by some com­pa­nies are too ex­pen­sive for the peas­ant farm­ers and grossly in­ad­e­quate, too. Govern­ment must en­cour­age re­search in­sti­tutes, fi­nan­cially, to breed ad­e­quately pro­lific seeds and sub­sidise same for the farm­ers. To an ex­tent, the E- wal­let scheme of the Federal Govern­ment is ad­dress­ing the prob­lem of seed avail­abil­ity to the ru­ral farm­ers, by giv­ing seeds to the farm­ers cap­tured un­der the farm­ers’ reg­is­tra­tion data base, in an ex­er­cise con­ducted by the Federal Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture through ap­pointed cel­lu­lant in all the 36 states of the fed­er­a­tion. Al­to­gether, over eight mil­lion farm­ers were reg­is­tered as ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

What are the ma­jor chal­lenges con­fronting farm­ers in the coun­try?

The chal­lenges fac­ing the farm­ers in Nigeria are many, but I will high­light some. They in­clude, but not limited to, poor fi­nan­cial back­ground and strin­gent loan con­di­tions. Un­co­or­di­nated mar­ket of farm pro­duce and un­der pric­ing, ab­sence of ex­ten­sion of­fi­cers, in­ad­e­quate farm in­put and high price when avail­able. In ad­di­tion, there is also poor road net­work and fail­ing in­fra­struc­tures in the ru­ral ar­eas, im­por­ta­tion of sub­sidised farm pro­duce to com­pete with lo­cal pro­duce not sub­sidised at pro­duc­tion point. An­other ma­jor chal­lenge fac­ing farm­ers in this coun­try is the no­mads/ farm­ers clash. Govern­ment, at all lev­els must, as a mat­ter of ur­gency, cre­ate graz­ing routes off ac­tive farm­land na­tion­wide while the no­mads should be ed­u­cated to plant fod­der for their live­stock. They should also be trained by ex­ten­sion of­fi­cers to be civil in their ac­tiv­i­ties.

Are the agri­cul­tural poli­cies and pro­grammes in the coun­try help­ing the farm­ers?

Yes, to an ex­tent. But, the ma­jor prob­lem is the in­con­sis­tency in our poli­cies. We started from pres­i­den­tial ini­tia­tive on com­modi­ties un­der the Obasanjo ad­min­is­tra­tion to the es­tab­lish­ment of NFRA - Na­tional Food Re­serve Agency, un­der the Yar’adua govern­ment which fo­cused on si­los and stor­age and now to ATA un­der the present govern­ment of Good­luck Jonathan. The coun­try needs to be con­sis­tent in its pol­icy for­mu­la­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion, ir­re­spec­tive of a change in govern­ment.

The Na­tional Bio-Safety Bill, when passed into law, it is said, will en­cour­age more re­search work on crops, es­pe­cially in the area of ge­netic en­gi­neer­ing. Do you think biotech­nol­ogy and ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied crops can help im­prove the coun­try’s

agri­cul­tural for­tune?

Biotech­nol­ogy is just two sides of a coin, it de­pends on the side fac­ing you. The pos­i­tive as­pect of ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied crops or live­stock is in­creased pro­duc­tion. Presently in Africa, pop­u­la­tion is on the rise ge­o­met­ri­cally and food pro­duc­tion is static. When there is in­crease in food pro­duc­tion it is grow­ing arith­meti­cally, hence, the chal­lenges of food in­se­cu­rity, hunger, mal­nu­tri­tion and ill­ness. Much as biotech­nol­ogy will ame­lio­rate short­age of food sup­ply, Bio-safety Bill must be in place to en­sure eth­i­cal prac­tice and guar­an­tee hu­man health. The New Part­ner­ship for African De­vel­op­ment (NEPAD0, un­der the peer­re­view-mech­a­nism con­fer­ence held in Abuja and Ac­cra in 2006 to 2008, ad­vo­cated for ad­e­quate ed­u­ca­tion and guar­an­teed hu­man safety be­fore in­tro­duc­tion of biotech­nol­ogy. In line with this ad­vo­cacy, con­cerned agencies and other stake­hold­ers are work­ing in part­ner­ship with some Amer­i­can sci­en­tists to en­sure good prac­tice in Nigeria and Africa in gen­eral. The pro­gramme is been spon­sored by USAID, Rock­feller Foun­da­tion, Bill-Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion. Once the pre­cau­tion­ary safety is in place, our coun­try can im­bibe Ge­netic En­gi­neer­ing and Biotech­nol­ogy prac­tice.

How does the budget af­fect agri­cul­tural per­for­mance?

The bud­getary al­lo­ca­tion of three per­cent and four per­cent

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