Sunday, 28 July 2013
Hope Abah, a versatile and prolific young journalist with Daily Trust who frequently covers Agricultural reports, caught up with Dr. Simon Penda of the University of Agriculture, Markurdi an expert in agric business and financial management to discuss policies, problems and the state of Agricultural sector in Nigeria.
What solution would you suggest to the agricultural transformation effort of Nigeria, given its potential as an agrarian economy?
Agriculture contributes up to 40 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and more than 80 percent of the Nigerian population is engaged in agriculture. The funny thing however is that we have remained an importing nation, which means that the production is not enough even to feed the entire population. As economic planners, we are thinking that with the resources at our advantage, Nigeria should not only be able to feed its people but it should be able to earn income from agriculture not even oil - its main economic stay. The problems are wide; farmers have not been supported properly, the seeds today are not the type that would bring optimal yield and so per hectare yield in Nigeria is still very low. I had an experience when I visited a crop research institute in Vietnam. I discovered from the researchers that a per hectare yield of rice in that country is eight tons and they produce three times in a year which totals 24 tons per hectare in a year. But, in Nigeria the rice yield per hectare in a year is just two tons maximally and we produce once in a year because we depend on rain-fed agriculture. This means that we must improve on our irrigation system because depending on rainfall agriculture will not move us any forward considering that of the country’s arable land which amounts to 80 million hectares only 8 percent is currently irrigated.
How do you evaluate the federal government’s efforts in tackling the situation?
As far as I am concerned, I would say categorically that most agricultural policies introduced by past and present governments are not working very well. Despite the huge resources, wide land for agriculture and even though we have a large population of potential youths as workforce, we still remain the highest importing nation in the world. What do you think will make these policies effective?We must as a matter of fact face the challenges that this country is ours. Corruption is the bane of what has placed Nigeria in its current position.
The University of Agriculture, Makurdi (UAM) occupies at least 8,000 hectares of land with very large portion of it not utilized. What can be done to put it into use as a research institute?
Most of the agricultural institutes in the country have large land for research and practice. But as you are already aware, agriculture is capital intensive. So, if the universities are not supported to go into direct farming, it would be difficult to utilize the space. It is regrettable that universities in the country, including universities of agriculture are poorly funded such that the land is available but other inputs to develop it are lacking. I can speak for the University of Agriculture, Makurdi that we are blessed with a large land up to 8,000 hectares and if government can support the university, it has the capacity to feed the state.How much employment do you think would be generated if UAM cultivates 2,000 hectares for each of the three senatorial zones of the state?Agriculture is a sector that can employ a whole lot of idle hands. So, if the university for instance cultivates 2000 hectares for every zone of the three districts in the state under irrigation which would produce three times in the year, the result will be overwhelming. From the people who would harvest, those who will take produce to the stores and those who do other jobs in the farms, I can assure you that there would be massive employment such that I can not quantify. This is because a 2,000 hectare farm cannot create less than 2,000 jobs.
How do you think our local farmers can be supported to increase production?
I will like to say that supporting local farmers does not end with fertilizer. The beginning is actually done with research. Agricultural institutes in the country should be financially supported to conduct researches. Some of them have even conducted researches that have brought about good varieties but to get them to the farmers has become a problem. To multiply these seeds has also become a problem. So government has to support the researches and ensure that the seeds get to the farmers so that they get good varieties for planting.Fertilizer is another issue which is militating against farmers’ capacity to generate bumper harvest as oftentimes government would talk about input for farmers when actually they did not get it at all. A lot of inputs have to be considered such that we must shift from primitive to mechanized agriculture. If we take a country like Indonesia for example, they use 240 tractors for 1000 hectares while Nigeria uses 10 tractors for 1000 hectares. So agriculture in Nigeria needs a lot of government support. Before oil, agriculture was the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy.
Do you think the lost glory of this sector can be restored?
There was a time when agriculture boomed in this country but we never sustained the production due to the advent of oil which caused everyone to surrender even as farmers too relaxed. The thinking of the country totally shifted to making money from something else other than agriculture. I think that consciousness that we will feed ourselves has to be developed first in order to see any changes; the consciousness when Nigerians would have to choose between local and foreign rice, which is the stage of repair that would enable us as a country to feed ourselves and the whole world.
What harm do you think the delay by government to accent to the bio-safety act portends to the country’s quest to rely on agriculture?
I don’t think that it is a delay so to speak. I want to believe that there is something government wants to see in the bill fashioned properly before the presidency accents to it. It is not just to accent to the bill in a hurry but it must be given to farmers in a way that it becomes sustainable. Despite the belief by some that Genetically Modified foods which the bill is expected to give passage are poisonous, Nigerians are consuming the products already. However, I don’t think that is why the presidency is yet to sign the act. Policy makers do have their reasons which I do not know.
Published on Thursday, 25 July 2013 by Hope Abah, Makurdi Daily Trust Agriculture section.
Thursday, 25 July 2013
The vision of training a new generation of business savvy farmers got a boost with the announcement by the Minister of Agriculture that 750,000 young graduates would be trained by the the federal government.This was announced at a workshop organized by The Rockerfeller Foundation in Abuja tagged “Realising the Potential of African Agriculture: Catalytic Innovations "
In a study we conducted earlier this year, it was established that youths in Nigeria are eager to secure employment in this sector, but they need to be assured that agriculture can be a better means of earning money and provided with appropriate training. The current curriculum for agriculture in our educational system has a high emphasis on theoritical knowledge and practise without entrepreneurial focus. Agricultural training has to be revamped not only to make food available to millions of poor and hungry people, but also to create opportunities for youth to produce cash crops for local and international markets. In this light, Mr Adesina Akinwumi the Minister of Agriculture's announcement is a major victory for advocates of building agricultural training centres across the country. The Ministry of Agriculture aims to provide this training to the throngs of unemployed young graduates across the country looking to engage in agriculture. The training would provide participants with access to land, technical skills, business management skills and the finance for this programme. At present majority of Nigerian youths are neither interested in farming nor in agricultural professions. The inability to increase the desire of youth to take up agriculture is created by the continued rural-urban migration that has been taking place over the last few decades. Employment opportunities for youth continue to decline, but expansion of the agricultural sector will bring major improvements.
The President of The Foundation Judith Rodin, in her remarks observed that focus of the foundation was agriculture. She said that the foundation was out to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. She added that the foundation had also initiated programmes that had benefited not only regional economies but smallholder farmers. Ms. Rodin noted that the ideas and recommendations from the meeting would have an impact on finance and agricultural issues in Nigeria and across the continent. There is tremendous deficiency in youth employment engagement initiatives, as well as a crippled agricultural industry. Addressing the deficiencies will be a huge feat. However, with innovative, creative, and meaningful decisions by leaders, advocates, and policy-makers, the nation can begin to provide the necessary training, tools, incentives, and information to motivate the youth to participate in a viable and productive industry. Sponsoring young graduates across the country would be a massive first step.
Friday, 12 July 2013
ARE YOU BETWEEN THE AGE GROUP OF 18 –35 ?
ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT CREATING WEALTH ?
DO YOU HAVE GREAT COMMUNICATION SKILLS ?
LOOKING FOR PRODUCTIVE NETWORKING OPPORTUNITIES
INTERESTED IN JOINING A PROJECT THAT MAKES A REAL DIFFERENCE ?
We are looking for motivated and committed individuals/organizations to
collaborate with Youth Agro Entrepreneurs (YAE) in organizing outreach
programmes and events.
YAE is a social enterprise incubator that aims to train a new generation of farmers by building sustainable agricultural training centres on farm sites across the region. YAE is a training centre that teaches agricultural practices and business skills required to become a successful agro-entrepreneur. We are convinced that this will contribute to reducing levels of youth unemployment in Nigeria. Interested parties should please contact us for specific details.
The project is funded by The Rockefeller Foundation and Ajima Farms Nigeria Ltd and was awarded the Social Innovation Award in 2012.
Interested candidates should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
A little social innovation can help reduce the cost of feeding for aquaculture practitioners. There is huge profit to be made in fish farming due to its high demand but the steep cost of feed is a major worry for entrepreneurs venturing into this business. I experienced this first hand managing a fish pond as a part-time job during my NYSC year. Like most young people fishing for a little extra cash would do, I had to get innovative.
The farm specialized in catfish production but also had poultry on site. The pond I managed had a stock of approximately 2,100 pieces. The benchmark set for table sized catfish here was 1.5 kg. Therefore once the fish got to the benchmarked weight, they were ready to be sold off to prospective clients. I was responsible for designing the feeding regimen, feeding process, taking records of weights, keeping track of medications and vaccinations, monitoring water levels/quality and procurement of feed and other needed materials. I had a two man staff – one IT student from Federal University of Technology, Minna and a teenager from Katsina who lived in the village next to the farm and had made quite a reputation for himself as a reliable fish harvesting expert. He earned his living by been contracted on a daily basis by the different farms around our site. After watching him work for us on a contract capacity, We had to hire him.
I noticed early that a huge chunk of my weekly budget was spent on purchase of feeds. Catfish are notorious for their appetite and though they can constantly consume any feed chucked into their pond, I was working on the strict model that aimed for a 100% feed conversion ratio (FCR) ± 5% i.e. for a table sized fish of 1.5 kg, it would have consumed 1.5kg of feed. Therefore when we operated under optimum conditions, it would require 3,150 kg of feed to take our juveniles to table size catfish. The brand of feed used on the farm was “Coopen” which was available in 15kg bags and each bag costs # 7,0 00 Naira. Doing the quick sums would show that I needed to budget 1.47 million Naira for feeds if all conditions were met for optimum production and possibly higher if any errors came up in my feeding regimen. The large sum spurred me into action to reduce our cost of feeds and increase my take home pay.
The first step I took bringing to fore all of my analytical chemistry education was to pick up a bag of fish feed at the Kado fish Market (Abuja) and have a look at the contents sticker on the bag. I had to know exactly what was inside what I was paying for. I stumbled upon two facts that were so obvious I felt a shade thicker
• Most of the feed brands available were imported from Scandinavian countries and the very few feeds manufactured by Nigerian companies where so crude in design and packaging that most commercial farms were reluctant to purchase them
• The raw materials for compounding these feeds were readily available at the markets and on my farm site
Fish meal is a major component of the floating feeds and this was basically carcass of fish, small harvested fish, fish bones etc dried and granulated and incorporated into the feed with other additives, wheat offal, soya beans cake, fish oil and essential vitamins. Looking around the Kado fish market, like most other fish markets in Abuja there was no provision for cleaning and disposing off the waste generated at the market. The market was completely covered in fish entrails, fish scales, wastes and the likes. Right in front of me was the problem and the solution.
A clean and hygienic market would attract a wider range of customers and generate more profit for the traders (social responsibility) while collecting all the waste generated at the market would serve as useful raw material for compounding my own fish meal on the farm (entrepreneurial opportunism), later on I would learn from one of my staff that the catfish had a preference for feeding them the raw carcass and waste off the fish market due to it been easier to digest than compounded feeds but that’s a discussion for another day. I returned to the farm in Kuje and drew up an action plan. Investing 20% of my weekly feed budget, I purchased plastic bins and bags branded with our farm logo and joined my staff to woo the local fish sellers at Kuje market to collect all of their carcass, wastes, etc into the bins which we provided for free to them and even added an incentive of paying # 500 naira for anyone that filled up their wheelie bins. We collected them every evening at 5 o clock and transported them immediately to the farm. By the end of the first week, we had collected 160 Kg of fish waste from Kuje market. After drying and granulation this shrunk to about half the weight. This combined with the maggots produced from poultry droppings on site; I had managed to cut down my feed budget by an enviable 45 % and generated extra revenue selling the waste we couldn’t use to neighboring farms. Making a difference had never been so profitable.
Onimisi K. A.
Is Communication Officer for YAE and a Social Innovation enthusiast
follow on twitter @onimsiwordsmith
Thursday, 4 July 2013
A schematic explanation of the processes for the current subsidized agro inputs sales under the GES scheme operated by the Federal Government.
The Growth Enhancement Support Scheme is the governments scheme aimed at
•Improving agriculture productivity and food security
•Reducing cost of Agro-Inputs delivery to farmers by ensuring transparency and efficiency The program is funded by the Federal Government of Nigeria, IFDC and USAID.
E-wallets : A voucher in a text format recieved on a mobile phone by registered farmer that entitles the bearer of the text access to buying discounted inputs ( fertilizers, seeds and chemicals) for a limited period of time. The farmer therefore buys inputs directly from independent agro dealers who verify they are registered farmers with the government and have recieved a voucher on their "e-wallet". Note that the mobile device used becomes the wallet which should contain the voucher (sms) that allows you to buy at 50% discount.
Agro-Dealers : They are registered dealers with the government after fulfilling a set of requirements. Approximately 2-3 dealers in each Area Council
Eligible Farmers : These are farmers who have registered under the on going farmer registration exercise. The mobile phine numbers of this farmers are obtained and stored in the database and used as the raw data for developing the e-wallet. Their farms should be smaller than 3 hectares Passport photographs 18 and above. At each Agro dealers shop, the government has an agent stationed by the sales point, with helpline staff from the communication provider (Cellulant) along with monitoring teams from interested and involved NGOs.
- Farmers that recieve a voucher in their e-wallet arrive at the centre
- The codes that make up the voucher is presented to agro dealer
- Helpline staff teach farmers how to redeem their inputs by texting their voucher number to a specific code e.g. text voucher number to 437 (MTN) 438 (Etisalat) etc.
- Farmer sends his voucher through text message and agrodealer gets alerted via text message
- The message authorizes agrodealer to sell inputs
- Agrodealer sends back text message to confirm sales and update database of how many farmers attended to.
- Verification call back or text back is carried out by Cellulant to the dealer and the phon of the government agent stationed st the centre
- Farmer pays money to dealer and claims his inputs
Do you think you have a brilliant and innovative idea or software thst can improve this process ? Get in touch with us.
Courtesy of Kabir Onimisi Ademoh
Youth Agro Entrepreneur Communication Officer
Tuesday, 2 July 2013
Photos of TeamYAE visiting to two sites: Porto Novo, Benin Republic (SONGHAI FARMS) and Paraguay (FUNDACION PARAGUAYA)
Earlier this year, the team of the Youth Agro Entrpreneurs project as part of the on-going research into building a farmer training centre visited two sites Porto Novo, Benin Republic ( SONGHAI FARMS ) and Paraguay (FUNDACION PARAGUAYA) . Both sites were Self sustained integrated farming and agricultural training centres heavily involved with developing the youth agro entrepreneur vision in their locations.
The YAE team did extensive research on the operational models of both institutions with the aim of drawing out the frame work of our own model. The trip was a deligthfuly informative experiece providing the team with first hand experiece of running a farm training centre.
The following images are a sentiment filled recollection of a trip that was great in three folds - educating, inspiring and empowering.
The following images are a sentiment filled recollection of a trip that was great in three folds - educating, inspiring and empowering.