Over one million small holder farmers grow bio-fortified food crops in Nigeria, Country Manager of Harvest plus, an international agriculture organisation, Dr Paul Ilona, has said.
He disclosed this in Ibadan Oyo State during an interview with journalists.
He said that six million people consumed more nutritious foods from bio-fortified crops in the country through the efforts of Harvestplus to address malnutrition.
“Our On-farm yield increases from bio-fortified crops estimated at 20 per cent over local varieties, over 8,000 persons are estimated to be employed directly or indirectly by investors in the bio-fortified sector,” he said.
“We trained over 200 extension agents now, continuously rolling out trainings on good agricultural practices and quality processing of bio-fortified products.
“We were able to include bio-fortification into four key policy documents of the Ministries of Agriculture, Health, Budget and National Planning aimed at creating enabling environment for investors.
“Also, bio-fortification was included in budgets of federal and four state governments; over 20 international and local NGOs are mainstreaming bio-fortification into their livelihood programmes.
Ilona said that the inclusion of bio-fortified foods into the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP) of the government was one of its latest achievements.
According to him, Harvestplus developed and released six varieties of vitamin A cassava in partnership with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the National Root Crop Research Institute in Umudike.
He said that Harvestplus also developed and released eight varieties of vitamin A maize in partnership with IITA and the Institute for Agricultural Research, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State.
Dogara’s wife assists 7, 000 women farmers in Bauchi
As part of efforts to encourage women farmers, the wife of the Speaker House of Representatives Mrs Gimbiya Yakubu Dogara has distributed farms seeding to seven thousand women farmers in Bauchi state.
Mrs. Dogara represented by the Coordinator of the Sun Of Hope Foundation Mrs Darambi Kefas explained that the organization had supported 3, 500 women farmers in the constituency last year to cultivate rice which became so scarce for some time now saying 3, 500 youths were included in this year to cultivate maize with a view to eradicating hunger in the society.
She said three thousand five hundred (3, 500) women farmers were provided with rice seeds and additional three thousand five hundred (3500) women with maize seeds saying were donated free of charge by her pet project ‘Sun Of Hope Foundation’.
The women beneficiaries were drawn from Bogoro, Tafawa Balewa and Dass Federal constituency of Bauchi State where the speaker represents.
She noted that the new beneficiaries are being selected yearly from all wards in the three local government in order to carry all constituents along.
Mrs Dogara stated that the foundation intervenes in the areas of agriculture, health, education and children’s welfare said they recently donated medical equipment and consumables to Virginal Vestibular Fistula (VVF) centres in Ningi, Bauchi State, Akwa Ibom and Hajiya Gambo Sawaba VVF centre, Zaria.
” The foundation had in the recent time sponsored free ante natals to pregnant women in Dass local government and offers free medical outreach at the annual ‘Limzaar’ festival in Tafawa Balewa local government”, She said.
Responding on behalf of other beneficiaries, Esther Bitrus expressed appreciation to the Speaker’s wife for the gesture promising that they would make good use of the seeds.
Meanwhile, Mrs Dogara also donated two bags of rice, one bag of maize and baby kits and wares to mother of triplets Mrs Rachael Gabriel at Lafiyan Sara village in the local government.
New agric laws: How far can NASS go?
Just recently, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, called for the enactment of new legislation that can foster, guide and revolutionise agricultural activities in the country. TAIWO HASSAN juxtaposes this move with the realities on ground
Overview of Nigerian agric sector
Indeed, since the nation’s independence in 1960, agriculture had been the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy, providing the largest chunk of foreign exchange inflow into the country. Moreover, it contributed about 63 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to official statistics from the National Bureau of Statistic (NBS).
The incomes as at then were derived from the export of major cash crops such as rubber, cocoa, palm oil, cashew nuts, groundnut and cotton, among others. Notwithstanding the low prices that agricultural products suffered at that time, the sector remained resolute by continually sustaining the country’s economy. Indeed, the sector was the largest employer of labour in the country then.
However, on assuming office as the Head of State in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari pledged to introduce diversification programme where agriculture, solid minerals and manufacturing sectors were identified to stabilize the moribund economy.
Particularly, the government floated the various economic policies including the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), in order to stem the steady decline in the country’s economic fortunes.
For agriculture, the present administration launched the Green Alternative: Agriculture Promotion Policy (2016-2020) as a roadmap towards the revival of country’s agricultural sector.
According to the government, it is a comprehensive plan and a well thought-out strategy -to meaningfully and systematically address the myriad of challenges militating against the growth of the agricultural sector, with a view to providing innovative solutions for reviving and repositioning the sector for accelerated national development.
However, the agric policy of the government became the toast of some eminent industrialists, commercial farmers, foreign/ local investors and agro-allied industries as they ventured into different aspects of farming in order to provide food sufficiency and security for Nigerian populace.
Nigerian agricultural policy
Indeed, Nigeria has a robust agricultural policy set out in the Nigerian Agricultural Policy 2000, which provides the framework for the implementation of programmes and guidelines for agricultural development. The overreaching objectives of the Policy are:
The achievement of self-sufficiency in basic food supply and attainment of food security, increased production of agricultural raw materials for industries, eradication of poverty, development of the rural economy, and protection of environment.
This is expected to be achieved through the: Creation of a conducive macro-environment to stimulate private sector investment in agriculture, rationalisation of the roles of the three tiers of government in their promotional and supportive activities to stimulate growth, articulation and implementation of integrated rural development as a priority, National programme to raise the quality of life for rural people, increased agricultural production through increased budgetary allocation and promotion of the necessary developmental, supportive and serviceoriented activities, increasing fiscal incentives and promotion of increased use of agricultural machinery and inputs through a favourable tariff regime.
The policy is successfully implemented in areas of food crops such as maize, beans, sorghum, yam, millet, cassava, pineapple, and oranges.
However, the policy is less successful and greater investment will be required in areas of cash crops such as oil palm, cocoa, rubber, groundnut, cotton, cashew and sugar cane, and food crops such as potato, rice, wheat and fruit crops. House of Reps’ new agricultural laws However, having realized that the country had ots of agricultural laws that are no longer relevant and obsolete, the House of Reps called for the enactment of new laws that will take the agricultural sector to new highs while turning it into a major foreign exchange earner for the country in the nearest future.
The Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara while speaking at a two-day public hearing organised by the House Committee on Agricultural Colleges and Institutions in Abuja, recently affirmed that it was time for legislating new agricultural laws for the country.
He said that there was need to ensure bills processed by the legislature were cost-sensitive and did not increase the financial burden of the nation through the multiplication of agencies.
The proliferation of agencies, according to him, is not conducive to the economic well-being of the nation as a new agency “comes with its complement of bureaucracy.”
Instead, he advocated for the amendment of the functions and mandate of existing agencies, where possible. Dogara added: “Furthermore, in cases where there is need to reinvigorate a particular sector and lay emphasis, it may become necessary to carve out an agency from an existing one.”
He reiterated that the agricultural sector requires up-to-date legislation for continuous growth and development. He said, “It is very gratifying to note that giant strides are being made in the sector.
“Up-to-date legislation is required to aid the drive to modernize agricultural practices, drive economic diversification, achieve food self-sufficiency, and ultimately turn agriculture into a major foreign exchange earner in the nearest future.”
New agric bills
The bills being considered by the committee include a Bill for an Act to Regulate the Profession of Agriculture and to make provision for the Establishment, Functions and Administration of Nigerian Institute of Agriculturists, and for Other Related Matters. (HB.838). Also under consideration, is a Bill for the Act to Repeal the Veterinary Surgeons Act. Cap. V3, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and for Other Related Matters (HB. 836). In his remarks, the Speaker urged the committee to ensure the bills were in accordance with legal, regulatorky and economic goals set out for the agricultural sector through appropriate scrutiny.
Agricultural experts, under the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), are however, pessimism about the lawmakers’ stance to promulgate new agricultural laws given the lifespan of the current administration, saying the bills could be waste of national resources.
Food Security: NYC tasks FG, private sector on organic farming
Nigeria Youth Congress (NYC) has called on Federal Government and those in private sector to embrace technology-based organic farming, in order to guarantee Nigeria’s food security and create more employment opportunities for the teeming unemployed youths.
The Congress made this known in Abuja while honouring the Chairman and Founder, CONTEC Global, Dr. Benoy Berry, as ‘Champion of Youth Empowerment’. This stemmed from his bold investment in organic farming through the deployment of science and ICT across the six geopolitical zones of the country.
President of NYC, Dr. Yakubu Shendam, urged both federal and state governments and the private sector, to team up with the company in its drive to return Nigeria to food security through organic farming using latest biological solutions and cutting-edge technology.
While applauding the advocate of Nigeria’s organic farming for empowering Nigerian youths through setting up the AfriOne smart handset with various applications in Africa, Shendam said the NYC would take the campaign for organic farming across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria to stimulate youths’ interest in organic farming. “We are interested in keying into this agriculture revolution, I call on governments and other stakeholders to key in as this is the only way that we can create jobs for our youths as the company is helping to develop our agriculture.
“We are surprised to know that there are tissue culture and organic facilities here in Abuja that can eliminate carcinogenic properties from crops thereby reducing the health challenges associated with imported chemical fertilizers.
Besides, he said : “While some businessmen are busy importing fake chemicals from abroad, here you have the remedy through organic fertilizer to keep our health in sound condition.
If you will continue to do this our country and Africa will be safe and there will be enough food for everyone. We, therefore, bestow on you the ‘Champion of Youth Empowerment.’
“We salute you and we are happy with what you are doing concerning agriculture because this is in consonance with President Muhammadu Buhari, is advocating for in agriculture, using it to diversify the economy and employing the youths because as we cannot continue to rely and depend on oil alone for foreign exchange as agriculture is the key,” he added.
In his response, Dr. Berry acceded to the request by the NYC to host Nigeria’s first youth summit on use of technology and modern farming methods to drive food security as done in China and India as soon as possible.
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