As part of efforts to ensure diversification of Nigerian economy from oil, the Federal Government and the Government of Brazil on Thursday unveiled 1.1billion dollar agricultural mechanisation programme that covers the entire agricultural value chain.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo inaugurated the initiative, tagged “The Green Imperative” at an event attended by the Brazilian Ambassador to Nigeria, Ricardo Guerra de Araujo.
Osinbajo said that the project was a crucial component in the president’s signature focus on agriculture as the centerpiece of Nigeria’s economic diversification efforts.
“As a policy issue we were clear that without mechanization at the bottom of the agric pyramid in Nigeria we would not be able to make the quantum leap in agriculture production capacity and create high quality agric and agro allied jobs.
“The programme was designed as a combination of service centers where technical capacity and training will occur, to the local assembly of tractors and other agriculture machine and processing centers where agro processing will be done.”
Osinbajo said major dividend of the project would be the thousands of quality jobs for the Nigerian youth.
“One of the reasons more young people especially those who do not have rural, farming backgrounds do not warm up to agriculture is really the fact that farm equipment are archaic, hoes and cutlasses and of course this requires much physical labour.
“Consequently, the average farmer is 60 years; this project changes all that,” he said.
The vice president said the project was private-sector driven, pointing out that both Nigerian and Brazilian investors were committed to investing and working on the project.
On her part, Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, described the project as a significant landmark in the revolution of agriculture in Nigeria.
She said the project would be implemented with “a total loan package of 1.1billion dollar, largely from the Brazilian government.”
Ahmed said the loan would be disbursed in four tranches over a period of two years.
“It is imperative for me to state here that the greater percentage of this loan would be provided in kind through the supply of agricultural machinery and implementation in the form of Completely Knocked Down parts, CKDs.
“This arrangement is expected to reduce the fiduciary risk and create more employment opportunities for our teeming youths and those that will be involved in assembling the machinery as well as operating the implements,” she said.
The minister said the project would be implemented in all of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria.
She said the selection of the participants in the project would be based strictly on merit as the primary concern was the success of the project.
She said the project was designed to repay the loan facilities through its own proceeds and would not bring a burden on Nigeria taxpayers.
In his remarks, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said machines as well as spare parts would be available under the scheme.
Earlier, Guerra de Araujo, said the initiative would benefit the whole of the Nigerian economy.
According to him, ‘The Green Imperative’ will create about five million new jobs across the agriculture value chain and reducing the rate of poverty.
The Green Imperative project is also aimed at promoting the competitiveness of agricultural sector.
“This model has successfully worked in other countries like Mozambique, Ghana, Senegal and Zimbabwe which are smaller countries, i see no reason why we cannot make it wok here. we all must be committed to promoting the development of the sector”.
Abdulkadir Mua’zu, Permanent secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in his remark said that the project is coming as a result of the demand for mechanization as a tool to scale up food production in the country.
He said that there is need to change the narrative as majority of the farm work are still being done manually, which may hinder the nation’s ability to meet the demand of its population.
He said, “Manual labor is characterized by high cost of labor, inefficiency and wastage, rendering the sector less attractive”.
“The need for the implementation of this project is necessary to make the agriculture sector the main driver of the economy diversification agenda of this government”.