By EricJames Ochigbo
Abuja, Sept. 26, 2020 The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Sabo Nanono, has reinstated Federal Government’s commitment toward uplifting 100million Nigerians from poverty over the next 10 years.
Nanono at a webinar organised by Winrock International to inaugurate the USAID funded ‘Feed the Future Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services Activity,’ said that the Federal Government was determined to reposition the agric sector.
“The Federal Government is committed to lifting 100million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years; we can only do this by creating a diverse economy while agriculture takes the centre stage.
“The president has continued to promote the “eat what we produce” initiative but the growing population in the face of the dwindling financial resources and the adverse realities of climate change have been a challenge.
“Due to limited resources, government’s efforts to achieve the standard ratio of farmers to extension workers have been difficult, hence, the need to employ technology to reach the nearly 80 million small holder farmers in the country,” he said.
The minister said that the private sector partnership had shown the determination to develop agriculture, saying that the agric extension was moving in the right direction.
Nanono said that one of the priorities of the government was to ensure food security for its growing population.
He added that to cushion the effects of COVID-19, the Federal Government injected N6billion to support smallholder farmers across the country.
He said that despite the contributions of the agric sector to the GDP and to employment generation, the sector had continued to struggle with less than six per cent of small holders, having access to extension service.
He said that a module of private sector-led extension services to reach smallholder farmers was consistent with the efforts to rebrand agriculture as a business and bridge the gap between farmers and researchers.
Earlier, the Executive Vice-President of Global Programmes, Winrock International, Mr Joyjiy Roy, appreciated the Federal Government and USAID for the opportunity to implement the agric extension programme.
Roy recalled that Winrock had been working in the agric sector for the past 20 years in Nigeria and had developed strong relationships with the public and private sectors.
According to him, Winrock has been involved in value chain development, capacity building, agricultural education, policy support and scholarship for women in the sector.
He said the organisation had been improving productivity and livelihood in the agricultural sector in Nigeria.
“We are excited to continue our work in the country on the agricultural extension activities; this Feed the Future Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services Activity will leverage on entrepreneurship to facilitate learning, replication and skills around alternative models of extension.
“This is to increase access and adoption of agricultural technologies for more than two million small holder producers in the Feed the Future focal states of Benue, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Kaduna and Kebbi.
“We will take the farmer-first approach and focus on interventions that revolve on the most return on investments for farmers,” he said.
In his presentation, Dr Ben Odoemena, the Chief of Party of the project ‘Feed the Future Nigeria Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services Activity’ said that it was funded by USAID.
Odoemena said that the project which became effective on May 25, 2020 to close in May 2025, would require an investment of $16.6 million provided by USAID.
According to him, Windrock is leading three other organisations to implement the project in collaboration with the Federal and state miniseries of agriculture.
“It will focus on five value chain commodity of rice, maize, soya beans, sorghum and aquaculture.
“About two million smallholder farmers will be exposed to new technologies at the end of the project.”
He said that the role of the activity was to enhance productivity among farmers.
It has the objectives of building the capacity of private extension service providers to deliver services to value chain stakeholders and increase smallholder farmers, he said.
“The intervention is going to be captured in three phases. Phase one will be about identifying 25 cohorts and 113 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and exposing about 400,000 small householder farmers to new technologies and practices in the first two years.
“Phase two will be dedicated to expanding the 25 cohorts and SMEs to ensure cross fertilisation of ideas and deploy at least seven ICT extension enabled platforms to reach at least 1.6million smallholder farmers in two years.
“Phase three is to ensure sustainability and to stimulate business models and engage partners and development communities,” he said.
The Director of USAID’s Office for Economic Growth and Environment, Mr Colin Dreizin, said that the partnership would reduce poverty in the country.
“Through this new partnership, USAID will support Nigeria in its strategy to reduce poverty and food insecurity through agriculture-led development.
“It will provide a template for agribusiness firms to access the latest science-based agricultural products and services, as well as private sector agribusiness firms,” he said.
He said that Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services work through existing micro, small, and medium enterprises and sought to meet the information and service needs of smallholder farmers.
He said that in addition to focusing on the value chains for maize, rice, soybean, cowpea, and aquaculture; adequate attention would be given to capacity building for Private Extension Service providers to deliver information.
He added that inputs and financial services would help increase productivity.