Nigeria

38 million hectares farmland wasting in Nigeria – FAO

758

Adedayo Emmanuel

Can Nigeria achieve food security for her 180million population when about 38million hectares of arable land are not utilised? This is a question that must be answered by the concerned authorities if the nation must produce enough food to feed her citizenry in the near future.

A source from the United Nations agency, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), recently revealed that about 38 million hectares of arable land are wasting away in the country. This information should not be treated lightly by the major stakeholders in the agricultural sector if the nation must succeed at feeding herself.

Reacting to the statistics, Executive Director{Commercial} of Agro Park Development Company Limited, Mr. Seun Edun ,called on Nigerians to embrace large scale agriculture in order to feed the nation.

Edun who advised Nigerians based on the information released by the FAO observed that most agricultural activities in Nigeria can only be categorised under subsistence farming and is not enough to solve food problems in Africa’s largest population.

He stated further that Nigerians are largely practicing subsistence farming through which it cannot benefit maximally from the vast arable land the nation is blessed with.

“According to a United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation report, almost 38 million hectares of farmland are wasting away in Nigeria. We found out that the leading food manufacturing companies in Nigeria basically import the farm produce required as inputs in their production processes,” Edun said.

To proffer solution to the anomaly, Agro Park is swinging into action to salvage the situation by providing infrastructure and management to assist Nigerian investors embrace proper agriculture.

“In a bid to correct this anomaly, we set-up our Farm Estate model to cultivate farm produce specifically as inputs for food producing companies starting with the cultivation of local spices and herbs as import substituted inputs to food producing companies manufacturing food condiments and seasonings,” he added.

Agro Park Development Company Limited is an agricultural asset management Company assisting Nigerians at home and in the diaspora to invest in the agriculture sector of the economy.

Since Nigeria discovered oil in commercial quantity in the 60s, the fortune of agriculture which had been the mainstay of the national economy had continued to dwindle.

Explaining further the business model, Edun said, “To Revolutionize Agricultural Practices and our mission is to lead a new era of agriculture Investments, our key philosophy in driving these is precedent on our belief to optimize the performances of farmland investments that are best identified and managed through the integration of agricultural and financial expertise and best practices to yield competitive returns for our individual and institutional investors.

“We create agricultural commodities investment portfolios by offering for sale farmland on our farm estates to the open market, we offer world class farm management services to all our farmland owners by cultivating their farmlands, secure farm produce off-take agreements with food producing companies like Tiger Foods and guaranteeing their returns on investments,” he said.

Edun however categorised the achievements of the organisation into two. “Our achievement so far can be categorised in two folds 1) In less than a year we have cultivated various spices and herbs on about 200hectares of farmland portfolios for our subscribers at quite attractive returns and we are expanding rapidly, we aim to have under our management over 1,000hectares of spices and herbs farmland portfolios on our Farm estate and over 5,000hectares of support farms/out-growers by the end of 2018. 2) With our ever increasing harvest yields of these local spices & herbs, we have helped give our produce off-takers a lot of foreign exchange savings from their previously imported substitutes needed for manufacturing food condiments and seasonings.”

Proffering solution to the problems in the agricultural sector, Edun who confessed that the sector has been in comatose due to lack of evolvement, said, “The agricultural sector has been seemingly in comatose in Nigeria largely due to stagnation and lack of evolvement in the sector. If you look at other sectors or industries like Communications, Fashion, Entertainment etc. they have all largely evolved and hence developed over time.

 

“But in the Agriculture sector, it has been stagnant in terms of practices, tools and methods, we are still largely a subsistence and small scale farming industry, we have only a handful of proper commercial farming businesses. This can only change by attracting new forms of Investments into the sector which will lead to adaptation of technology and advanced farming methods to yield enhanced productivity and output. This is the change that we at Agro Park have set-out to lead in the Agricultural Sector.”

 

Explaining the products and services of Agro Park, Edun said, “We offer an easy and reliable process to channel Investments into Agriculture by offering Cleared and prepared farmland and world class farm management services which includes guarantees on harvest yields and an already determined produce off-take market thus guaranteeing our Investors returns on their capital on the one hand.

 

“We also ensure continuous aggregation of supplies of the required farm produce input required by the Food processing companies in contract with us especially Food processing companies into the manufacture of Food condiments and seasonings; Spices & herbs produce from our farm estate include Chili Pepper, Local Basil, Lemon Grass, Thyme, Fennel, Turmeric, Ginger, Coriander and also Vegetable like Ugwu in commercial quantities suitable to these Food processing companies on the other hand.”

 

Meanwhile, the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Oyo State has been providing support for the agriculture sector in Nigeria in the past 50 years. The organisation recently established a partnership with the Oyo State government to support the production of cassava on a large scale.

The partnership is to develop an agric policy and establish an agribusiness park in the south western state.

At the ceremony where the agreement was signed, the Oyo State governor, Mr. Abiola Ajimobi said,  the aim of the government for going into the partnership with the agro giant institute is to create jobs and ensure food  security for the people.

Represented by the Commissioner for Agriculture, Prince Oyewole Oyewumi, Ajimobi said, “Our aim is to boost food production and, create jobs and wealth for our people.”

In his remark conveyed through a release from Kenya, the IITA Director General Dr. Nteranya Sanginga said, “The collaboration goes to show how Oyo State has become serious with agriculture.” This means the state is ready to utilize its vast savanna for cassava plantation.

However, the agricultural policy will clearly outline the opportunities, strengths, weaknesses, threats, and more importantly what the state needs to do in the short, medium, and long -term to achieve agricultural transformation.

The second component of the deal is the development of an integrated cassava value chain in Gambari area of the state on about 6,000 hectares which would further reduce the vast hectares of arable land wasting away across Nigeria.

The integrated agribusiness park would be developed in phases, from primary production of roots, construction and installation of machineries and the processing of starch, ethanol etc. and marketing of the finished product to industries.

According to the Oyo State government funding the project, the initial investment for the first phase of the project will cost N55 million, with additional investments expected to come in as implementation commences.

Besides the development of an agric policy, this first phase will focus on the cultivation of between 50 – 150 hectares for cassava production.

Dr. Kenton Dashiell, IITA Deputy Director, Partnerships for Delivery, commended the state for engaging IITA and committing resources to finance the project.

“We are glad to see Oyo State moving forward with an action plan to transform agriculture and are honored to be part of their team,” Dashiell said.

Located in south west Nigeria, Oyo State is characterised by derived savannah in the north and humid forest in the south. These two agro-ecologies support a diversity of staple crops such as cassava, maize, soybean, yam, banana/plantains, and cash crops such as cashew and citrus among others.

Under the policy component of the deal, IITA will work with the National Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER), Oyo State Ministry of Agriculture, and the Oyo State Agricultural Development Program. It is envisaged that the policy will drive the agricultural sector by attracting private capital to the state, and in fact making the state the most preferred agro-allied investment destination in Nigeria.

The Director for Development & Delivery, IITA, Dr. Alfred Dixon described the event as a significant moment aimed at bringing genuine transformation to Oyo State in general, and resource-poor farmers in particular.

In the last eight years, the Oyo State government has embarked on reforms to transform its economy through diversification with emphasis on agriculture.  The state believes that the era of relying on the federal government for oil revenues are fast becoming over.

In another development a young farmer in Kogi State, north central Nigeria has contributed his quota in reducing the vast arable land wasting across in Nigeria.

Olumide Olayinka is currently farming on over 10 hectares of land in Egbe, Yagba West Local Government Area of Kogi State. Relaying his experience, Olayinka, a former Marketing Executive with the defunct National Mirror newspaper has not had it all rosy due to financial challenges militating against his input into the project and the occasional herdsmen attacks.

“We started with three hectares last year for the rice plantation but we have been able to increase it to ten hectares this year.” He explained. Stating further that, “We also began a ten hectare cassava last year but had to drop this year to two hectares due to some challenges and also to allow for expansion next year. We are currently clearing 100 hectares now against next year.”

On his challenges, Olayinka said, “Our challenges are numerous. These include finance, equipment, marketing and activities of herders.”

“Many times we have to hire vigilantes to guard the farm. Last year for instance, the rice farm was grazed at four weeks old! I reported to the police and nothing was done. The three hectares of cassava farm was raised down too. I reported again to the police and arrests were made but secretary of Miyetti Allah cattle breeders started threatening that I must not try to go to court. So I made some calls to people that matter in the area and they started begging us,” he said.

On the profit his farm made in 2017, Olayinka said being a fresh project, the profit margin was low coupled with the challenges encountered.

“Being a new farm, our profit last year was a little above N200,000 because we spent heavily on land clearing and other contingencies which included the guards we hired. Each of the guards take N20,000 per month to secure the farm against herders and other dangers,” he said.

He is however hopeful for a favourable harvest in the New Year all things being equal. “Expectedly the cassava will mature by December/January and estimation of about N5m is expected if market price remains. We have cassava specie of TME 419 which is the highest edible type and best for industrial starch,” he said.

For Nigeria to achieve a situation of adequate food security and also improve in the production of cash crops for local use and exportation, the country must reduce the wastage of arable land.

The government must also as a matter of urgency put policies in place to secure farmlands from Fulani herdsmen constituting danger to farming activities.

Also, more states should partner with agricultural institutions to grow crops in commercial quantities and also enhance individual farmers to produce. The government should also create marketing boards for farm produce and ensure transportation and storage facilities. These would encourage more people to return to the farms and get reward for their labour.

 

 

 

Kindly support the growth of journalism in Nigeria

Reactions to stories published can be sent to us at [email protected]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.