‘Op­por­tu­ni­ties abound in Nige­ria’s ru­ral agri­cul­ture’

Daily Trust - - GOLDEN HARVEST -

The un­der­de­vel­op­ment of Nige­ria’s agri­cul­ture does not negate the fact that op­por­tu­ni­ties lie therein. If you agree, what are the is­sues?

I’ll use three very spe­cific ex­am­ples that present op­por­tu­ni­ties for not only job cre­ation, but for in­come earn­ing as well. First, if you take for in­stance the shea crop, the bulk of Nige­rian shea is picked in the wild and ex­ported straight out of Nige­ria into Ghana and other coun­tries. The level of pro­cess­ing of shea is still min­i­mal. Now if you could for­mal­ize the shea sec­tor by cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for in­vestors to in­vest in lo­cal pro­cess­ing of shea in this coun­try, you could ac­tu­ally cre­ate quite a lot of value and op­por­tu­ni­ties and hence cre­ate jobs for peo­ple.

I still believe this is an area that could em­ploy very many women if it could be for­malised and not left to the whims of the bro­kers and ex­porters who ex­change the shea with the farmer for al­most noth­ing.

Se­condly, let me fo­cus on mech­a­ni­sa­tion. The rea­son why the bulk of the land in the North is not fully uti­lized is be­cause there isn’t suf­fi­cient mech­a­ni­sa­tion. Land is large but peo­ple use tra­di­tional meth­ods of land tillage and there­fore, they can’t go far. Imag­ine if you could ac­tu­ally de­velop mech­a­ni­sa­tion ser­vices that em­ploy the youth in the North to utilise the ma­chines to till the land, one sin­gle trac­tor has the po­ten­tial of em­ploy­ing three to four youths as op­er­a­tors in a sea­son. Imag­ine those op­por­tu­ni­ties if you mech­a­nise agri­cul­ture.

Also, con­sider the in­di­rect em­ploy­ment that comes about be­cause now you have opened more land, you need more hands to do the plant­ing, weed­ing, har­vest­ing and the knock on ef­fects of that is mas­sive. I think we haven’t ex­ploited that suf­fi­ciently.

Nige­ria has one of the best cli­mates within the mid­dle belt. I am told long ago, that Jos was a ma­jor pro­ducer of hor­ti­cul­ture - veg­eta­bles and flow­ers - in this coun­try. This is an op­por­tu­nity just wait­ing to be re­vived. If you could cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for hor­ti­cul­ture, Nige­ria could com­pete with East Africa on an equal foot­ing.

So, to me, these are op­por­tu­ni­ties that could be ex­ploited for job cre­ation Collins Apuoyo is the Team Leader for Prop­com Mai-Karfi, a De­part­ment for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment, UK (DFID) funded pro­gramme that works in North­ern Nige­ria. He was pre­vi­ously Mar­ket Group Di­rec­tor for Prop­com and prior to that, had led three big pro­grammes in other parts of Africa. In Zim­babwe, he led the Agri­cul­tural Re­vi­tal­iza­tion Pro­gramme funded by DANIDA. He also worked in South Su­dan to set up an agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme post-civil war in 2004. Be­fore that, he was the Pri­vate Sec­tor De­vel­op­ment Ad­vi­sor for DFID in Kenya. In this in­ter­view, he main­tained that there are a lot of in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in Nige­ria’s ru­ral agri­cul­ture. Ex­cerpts: space. not yielded much re­turn and do not

What I see when I go im­pact on the pop­u­lace. into the su­per­mar­kets So, for me, this is a golden in Nige­ria is that op­por­tu­nity. It’s time to sit back and more than half of the re­view past ac­tions. For in­stance, the fresh pro­duce are pol­icy on fer­til­izer is a good pol­icy but im­ported. An in­vestor how it is im­ple­mented re­ally mat­ters. in agri­cul­ture would Can the gov­ern­ment in­vest in a way just look at that and that there is a clear exit plan? Can the look at the pop­u­la­tion gov­ern­ment in­vest in a way that the of the mid­dle class in in­cen­tive they put in place does not Nige­ria and say ‘Bingo’! en­cour­age the wrong in­vestor but There is big op­por­tu­nity the right in­vestor that has Nige­ria’s here. So this needs to be fu­ture at heart? Can the poli­cies be backed by pol­icy that struc­tured in a way that en­cour­ages en­ables peo­ple to in­vest lo­cal pro­duc­tion rather than im­ports? in the long term; not short term quick wins, be­cause when you have poli­cies that en­cour­age short term in­vest­ment, then you en­cour­age the wrong type of pri­vate sec­tor in­volve­ment. You en­cour­age those who are keen to come, rip off and move on.

When there is long term pol­icy con­sis­tency, then you have those who in­vest in the long term who will build struc­tures that then cre­ate what we call de­vel­op­ment. and in­comes but the poli­cies should be in place to in­cen­tivise gen­uine pri­vate sec­tor to in­vest in these sec­tors and hence cre­ate em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Would you ad­vice in­vest­ment in agri­cul­ture in ru­ral Nige­ria be­cause of the op­por­tu­ni­ties therein for both in­vestors and the ru­ral dwellers?

I think the type of in­vestor that you would ad­vise at the mo­ment to in­vest in agri­cul­ture in Nige­ria is one that is a big risk taker. I say this but I still believe that if there is any African coun­try that is stand­ing at the edge of the big break­through in agri­cul­ture, it is Nige­ria. And for that mat­ter, I would en­cour­age any in­vestor in­ter­ested in in­vest­ing in agri­cul­ture in Nige­ria to step in. But be ready to deal with the pol­icy in­con­sis­ten­cies, though there are op­por­tu­ni­ties in sev­eral ar­eas; mech­a­ni­sa­tion, mas­sive op­por­tu­nity in agri­cul­tural in­puts es­pe­cially the seeds space, and fer­til­izer where No­tore is al­ready oper­at­ing, there is big

So that there is not con­tin­ual talk and no ac­tion, what is your mes­sage to the gov­ern­ment?

I think the gov­ern­ment has a great op­por­tu­nity to ac­tu­ally relook at their Agri­cul­ture Trans­for­ma­tion Agenda. We are at a time when the coun­try is go­ing through eco­nomic tran­si­tion and I think that in any sit­u­a­tion, that is the point at which the gov­ern­ment needs to sit back and re­ally look at some poli­cies that can cre­ate quick wins for ev­ery­one and ac­tu­ally use the op­por­tu­nity to cut back on some un­nec­es­sary in­vest­ment that have

With the poor de­vel­op­ment in the ru­ral ar­eas, what op­por­tu­ni­ties can the dwellers there look out for?

There are al­ways pro­grammes be­ing pro­moted in agri­cul­tur­ally pro­duc­tive ar­eas. They must look out for these pro­grammes, take ad­van­tage of them and learn a lot. Also, they must con­sider how they re­late to the var­i­ous co­op­er­a­tives. While they must in­sist on how the co­op­er­a­tives are run and how they are gov­erned to avoid ex­ploita­tion. Join­ing these co­op­er­a­tives en­hances their abil­ity to bar­gain for in­puts as well as sell their out­put, their farm pro­duce.

Also very im­por­tantly, farm­ers should be in the fore­front of black­list­ing prod­ucts, es­pe­cially in­puts - fer­til­iz­ers and seeds - that do not work well for them. We must get rid of fake prod­ucts from the mar­ket. It is the farmer who has the power to do that.

Collins Apuoyo

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