The Executive Director/CEO of Agricultural and Rural Management Training Institute (ARMTI), Dr Olufemi Oladunni, has called on agricultural journalists to keep policymakers abreast of challenges in the sector to enable them to take policy decisions that will take the sector to the next level.
Delivering a keynote address at the 2023 National Conference on Agricultural Journalism in Abuja on Thursday, Oladunni said with the humungous agriculture enabling natural resources in Nigeria, the sector should be able to contribute immensely to the development of the nation.
He said if well harnessed, Nigeria’s agricultural sector has the potential of creating massive employment opportunities along various agricultural commodity value chains, adding that it can bring about significant improvement in the livelihoods of all the actors, especially the farmers.
Oladunni however lamented that the great potential of agriculture in the country notwithstanding, “Nigeria’s agricultural sector continues to be held down by the age-long problems of low productivity and high post-harvest losses. These two problems which have combined forces to reduce the rate of return on agricultural investments are largely occasioned by the non-existence or the poor state of basic infrastructural facilities (including feeder roads. irrigation facilities, electricity, and low level of agricultural mechanisation.”
He said a situation whereby the nation is not able to adequately transform its vast resources into what it wants (including food, income, improved livelihood), foreign exchange earnings at a critical time such as this is not good enough, adding that the role of change agents (with particular reference to agricultural journalists) in changing the narrative is most relevant and critical.
The agriculture expert explained that given the scenario, agricultural journalism is expected to play a number of significant roles to turn the experience of actors in the sector around.
He said: “First, there is the urgent need to create awareness and champion advocacy drives on the need to prioritise agriculture at all levels of our society. At the moment, there is a lot of indifference among critical stakeholders (including public and private stakeholders) towards agricultural investment in Nigeria leading to divestment in the sector.
“This is not unconnected with their experiences of low rate of return on agricultural investments (especially, in the production domain) when compared to other forms of business.
“The need to ensure national food and nutrition security (among other things) is however eminent and urgent. Hence, agricultural journalism needs to lead the sensitisation and advocacy campaign for more public investment in the sector towards creating a more business-enabling environment in the sector.
“Moreover, agricultural journalism has the honourable role of keeping policymakers abreast of the challenges confronting stakeholders in the agricultural sector. Policymakers need to be fed with specific, timely, and adequate information on the challenges confronting different categories of actors in the agricultural sector.
“This will help to ensure that the hitherto unheard voices of stakeholders (especially, rural farmers) are amplified towards the development of appropriate well-targeted policy and project interventions for the multifaceted challenges confronting them in the sector.
“Agriculture needs to be made more attractive, especially for youths in the country who seem to be unconcerned and not interested in the business of food production. Innovative means must be deployed to arouse their interest in agriculture through the development and dissemination of inspiring content on modern agricultural practices and technologies that assure higher productivity and higher returns on investment.
“Such modern agricultural practices and technologies include soilless agriculture, urban farming, agroecological practices, climate-smart agricultural practices, precision agriculture and other applications of artificial intelligence in agriculture, greenhouse, and screen house crop production technologies.”
Oladunni noted that agricultural journalism can also contribute significantly to the development of the nation’s agricultural sector by helping to bridge the information gap between researchers and practitioners by availing its platform for the widespread dissemination of research findings to practitioners, and the communication of feedback from practitioners to researchers.
“Information is an invaluable resource in agricultural commodity value chain development. Actors need up-to-date information on market availability and commodity pricing (alongside its dynamics) to trade profitably. This is another area in agricultural journalism that will make a significant impact and be found extremely beneficial to a vast array of stakeholders in the agricultural sector.
“Agricultural journalism can also serve as a platform for voluntary, self-directed, and continuous learning for farmers and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector. This will contribute immensely to the achievement of a good number of SDGs and the overall development of the economy. Stakeholders in the sector will no longer lag behind their counterparts in the other sectors as the economy is being re-engineered for a more inclusive and sustainable growth.
“Agricultural journalists are critical partners in the agriculture and rural development sector. Your roles are critical for the development of the sector. I, therefore, want to charge you to take agricultural journalism to the next level,” he said.