Wednesday, 26 August 2015
Armajaro Nigeria Limited, a 100 per cent subsidiary of ECOM Agrotrade Limited, London, said it had introduced what it called Village Resource Centres in some schools in Ekiti, Ondo and Oyo states to improve the quality of life of whole farming communities through community infrastructure projects.
The company said in a statement that the VRCs were introduced in rural schools without access to Information Technology facilities and also to complement the existing ones.
According to it, this project is being undertaken in AUD Grammar School, Ikole Ekiti; Akinluse High School, Ise Ekiti; Orija High School, Emure Ekiti; Ekamarun Anglican Grammar School, Ifon, Ondo State; Word of Faith College, Arimogija, Ondo, and Oyo State School of Science, Idere, Oyo.
“The application of Information and Communications Technology in agriculture is getting increasingly important. Ever since people have been growing crops, farmers have sought information from one another but updated information that allows the farmers to cope with and even benefit from changes in conditions of farming is still missing.
“Providing this knowledge can be challenging, therefore, the recent improvement in information channelling in villages for example through the provision of the Village Resource Centre, has helped in facing some of these challenges,” said ANL.
According to the company, one of the objectives of the VRC is to generate advisories on agriculture, land and water management to better utilise the available resources and to mitigate the negative impacts.
“This aims mainly at maximising the economic output from the available resources and also to enable better productivity.
“Village Resource Centre will assist in ensuring greater access to information on land,water, soil etc so as to educate and empower the local communities for greater conservation and sustainable utilisation of these resources.”
The company said the accessibility to information would improve the capability of the rural communities for better development planning and ensure equitable bargaining power in a skewed social system.
Nigeria can achieve national food security and earn about N5tn foreign exchange from agricultural exports as well as create massive employment with the adoption of commercial agriculture, the General Manager, Shonga Farm Holdings Limited, Mr. Adebayo Sangobiyi, has said.
In an interview with our correspondent in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, on Thursday, he said it was imperative to have a well-articulated and strategic agricultural master plan that should be strictly implemented to boost the nation’s agricultural transformation.
He canvassed the adoption of the Shonga Farm model as a national agricultural strategy, stating that such a measure could make Nigeria compare favourably with the United States and the United kingdom in agricultural production and exports.
He said Nigeria’s food import bill of N717bn as of December 2013, according to a former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, was not cheering.
Sangobiyi said, “If we face agriculture squarely, there will be industrialisation; with that, the economy will be transformed. Even at the national level, the Gross Domestic Product will improve and we will do less of importation.”
He stated that Shonga Farms had intensified its expansion programme with the aim of reducing the food import dependency of Nigeria.
He said the concept of the farm was for them to understudy the white farmers, adding that by the time they are big enough they should buy them.
According to him, that explains why there is the Shonga Phase 2 which is called Alapa project.
“Our intention is to start the Alapa project with the indigenes. I think Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed has started it by selecting 10 farmers from each of the 16 local government areas of the state.
Stakeholders in the cashew industry have called for the establishment of a Cashew Board, to boost foreign exchange (FX) earnings for the country and generate more jobs for the people.
The stakeholders made the appeal in interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria on Wednesday, at the end of a two-day workshop in Ilorin, Kwara State.
The workshop centred on the theme: “Cashew business Competitiveness and sustainability.”
The stakeholders also appealed to the Federal Government to assist cashew farmers and processors in the country through the provision of a special fund, to boost cashew production.
Emmanuel Ezeagu, deputy director (product development), Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), said the Board would protect the interests of cashew farmers, saying the Board, when established, would ensure that Nigerian cashew species were of high quality and also source markets for them.
Ezeagu, who described cashew business as a money-spinner, because of the high demand for the cashew nuts, said government should assist farmers to improve and increase production.
“Cashew, right now, is a money-spinner; there are lots of Indians and Vietnamese coming to Nigeria to buy the raw cashew nuts. The market for cashew nuts is so huge that Nigerian cashew farmers should take advantage of it,” Ezeagu said.
He also called on both the states and local governments to encourage farmers to venture into the cashew plantation business, saying state governments can assist cashew farmers with improved seedlings, fertilizers and micro-credit loan facilities.
Tola Fasheru, president, National Cashew Association of Nigeria (NCAN), decried the high cost of processing a ton of cashew in Nigeria, saying it costs $500 to process one ton of cashew, whereas it costs about $250 in India and $217 in Vietnam to process the same quantity of cashew.
Fasheru said for the Nigerian cashew industry to compete favourably with other countries, government should set up a special fund for the industry.
According to him, the sustainability and competitiveness of the sector may be a mirage if government at all levels does not assist cashew farmers and processors.
Sunil Duhiya, business advisory manager, African Cashew Alliance (ACA), said the cashew industry had a great potential as a foreign exchange earner for the country.
To realise this potential, Duhiya said the sector must be properly harnessed and incentives provided by government, noting that the governments of India, Vietnam and Mozambique subsidised the cost of processing cashew nuts.
According to him, the Indian government pays cashew processors $80 as subsidy per metric ton, while Vietnam pays about $70 to its cashew processors.
He said ACA, since its inception, was committed to improving the competitiveness and sustainability of the African cashew industry, as the Alliance had also made efforts to increase the processing of cashew in the continent.
“Our objective is to facilitate the development of an industry that benefits the entire value chain, from farmer to consumer by sharing information and best practices among all stakeholders,” he said.
A cashew farmer, Akeem Anifowose, appealed to Raw Material Research and Development council (RMRDC) and investors to come up with the appropriate technology to process cashew apple and shell.
He also made a case for the NEPC to find market for cashew shells, as many of the by-products waste away on their farms.
The need for the success of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda(ATA) is tied to the ability of both agricultural and commercial banks to support the initiatives of the federal government. Ruth Tene Natsa writes on the need to ensure that farmers get access to banking loans set aside for agricultural purposes.
The Federal Government through the its Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), with support from the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in 2011/2012, created the Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria (FAFIN) as well as the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) among many other initiatives to create soft loans to small holder farmers seeking loans.
The loans, which are to be managed by the Bank of Agriculture with support from other commercial banks, is supposed to be made available to farmers at single digit interest rates. However, this is not the case as alleged by many farmers who have at one time or the other sought for such loans, especially from the commercial banks.
There is no gainsaying that the banks, particularly the commercial banks, are in the business for profit making but in line with the vision of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), which seeks to partner with the banking sector, the banks may have to give out way more than they are willing to before enjoying their benefits.
While the federal government believes that the banks are willing to give loans to farmers at single digit interest rates, this may not be so as farmers from various platforms claim that banks request double digit interest rates, some as high as 24 per cent.
Unfortunately, this defeats the purpose for which the partnership is sought between the federal government and the banking sector. In the words of president general, Agbekoya Farmers Association, Kamorudeen Okikiola, “No Nigerian farmer had been able to access the N15 billion promised by the government to the Bank of Agriculture (BOA).”
Speaking with journalists at the 2nd Farmers’ National Conference, which held with the theme, ‘Financial Risks and Agricultural Funding in Nigeria’, he said, “They are giving us 24 per cent bank interest, which no commercial farmer can take, except it is a single digit. So we have to call the BOA and the CBN to let them know the truth of what is happening with the Nigerian farmer. At different states, where they called for single digit, the farmers have been unable to access the loans. For example, the Farmers Association brought all the necessary documents requested over 18 months ago and till now all we get are promises from the banks.
“So saying Nigerian farmers can produce a lot of food for the Nigerian people, is a lie because Nigerian farmers are still very poor.”
National financial secretary and secretary to the electoral committee of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Dr. Tunde Aronsanye, opined that less than 20 per cent farmers had been able to access any form of agricultural loans as they are constrained by many reasons including the requests for seed money required to open an account either as an individual or as a cooperative. He said, “And one is expected to run such an account for a period of 3-6 months before the farmer can obtain a loan form and he is also expected to have 10-20 per cent deposit and in most cases the farmers are expected to make several trips to the bank because most of these banks are not in the farming communities. In the end, most farmers just chose to use the little they have to farm what they can rather than putting such money in the bank for a period of 3-6 months, when they are not even sure of getting the loans. All these stresses militate against the farmers who are domiciled in the rural areas. Some of them have tried in the past and gave up when it did not work out. So government must look for a less stressful way to package our food security program to make it easily accessible to our peasant farmers”.
Meanwhile, the minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, said that lending to farmers has increased considerably. He provided details, “Bank lending to the sector increased from 2 to 4 per cent of total lending. Banks’ lending to the GES program increased from N 3.5 billion to N 25 billion between 2012 and 2013.
“The CBN with the facility it has with NIRSAL is helping to derisk the financial value chain and we in agriculture are fixing the agricultural value chain.”
The minister, who is opposed to double digit interest rates, told LEADERSHIP, “If anybody is in agriculture and tries to borrow money at 24 per cent interest rate, one can never make a profit. But that also depends on where you are borrowing from. If you borrow at such rate then maybe you are dealing in drugs, because if you look at other countries, American farmers since about 1865 have been borrowing money at 4 per cent interest rate. Europeans subsidize their farmers expenses. I believe that agricultural loans should be provided at single digits interests rates because of the risk and the fact that majority of the farmers that are there need money and also because the loans they are looking for are not just short term loans.”
About 1,000 rural cassava farmers in Kogi State have been selected as beneficiaries of a loan facility from Nigeria Agricultural Payment Initiative Scheme.
The pilot disbursement of the loan and grant to rural farmers through e-wallet system was held in Lokoja on Friday.
Young farmers and government officials gathered in the Glass Hall of the Government House in Lokoja for the launch of the pilot disbursement.
The State government said the loan would assist the farmers in boosting agricultural produce which the government would in turn buy from them.
Explaining how the programme works, the Special Adviser on Agriculture and the managing Director of ADP, Professor Dominic Akpa, said that 1,000 farmers would benefit.
While calling on the Governor to provide the needed political will to ensure the sustainability of the scheme, the President of Kogi Cluster Farms Development Union, Mr Alfred Okeme, said the NAPI Wallet System was a strong and transparent medium that would provide an End-to-end Payment Recipient System among all the agricultural business actors.
A short play-let was also dramatised by the Kogi Art Council to enlighten the audience on the importance of the programme.
While launching the scheme and giving out agricultural produce to the beneficiaries, Captain Wada in his speech said the Kogi State government had been able to validate over 145 rural farmers who are being issue with a small cheap identity card.
The identity card will be used as a host for farmers’ ‘bio-metric farmland’, to form group information and create access to a banquet of agricultural services made available by both the Federal and State government.
He then congratulated the beneficiaries and urged them to utilise the loan for what it is meant for.
Monday, 17 August 2015
National Root Crops Research Institute [NRCRI], Umudike, Abia State, has warned against possible outbreak of Cassava Brown Streak Disease [CBSD], a deadly crop disease, in the country.
The institute is advising the federal government to do something immediately to arrest the situation saying it would drastically affect the nation’s economy if not checked on time.
The institute warned that outbreak of CBSD, which mainly attacks cassava, could cost the Nigerian economy about N400 billion [$2 billion) annually.
It said it based its loss assessment from the effect the disease had in countries it had attacked, stressing that those who do not learn from history plan to fail.
The Umudike-based NRCRI said the deadly crop disease has not come to Nigeria or any West African country yet but “there was great need to prepare against it as it is already having devastating effect in some East African nations like Kenya”.
The warning was given during the launching of WAVE Project, a campaign against the dreaded CBSD at Umudike, Abia State, which was attended by agricultural researchers from Ivory Cost, Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Togo and Ghana.
The institute said that as an institution with a national mandate for cassava research and development, it was taking a pre-emptive initiative to the CBSD threat in Nigeria.
This it said is because its effect could result in complete loss of root yield in cassava thus making it a severe threat to food security in the sub-Saharan Africa.