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One year anniversary: Tinubu’s quest to boost agriculture for food security

Following the removal of the Fuel subsidy at the beginning of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration and efforts to boost food production for the welfare…

Following the removal of the Fuel subsidy at the beginning of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration and efforts to boost food production for the welfare and well-being of the people, one of the sectors that came into focus was the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.

As one of the critical drivers of the Renewed Hope Agenda of the present administration, the Minister, Senator Abubakar Kyari was saddled with the responsibility of not only making food available to Nigerians but also boosting the sector for food security.

Consequently, the ministry put in place measures to work with states, local government and the Organised Private Sector to open up new farming areas to boost food production.

The processing of key staple foods was also given priority based on their competitive and comparative economic advantages.

It was in the same vein that the president decided to declare a state of emergency in the agriculture sector with an ambitious plan to 500,000 hectares of land in order to provide enough food for citizens.

Speaking on the achievements of the ministry at the ministerial sectoral update, as part of activities marking the first anniversary of the president, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Abubakar Kyari said that an estimated N309bn was injected into the Nigerian economy through harvest last year, as a way of ensuring food security.

Kyari revealed that as part of efforts to address food and nutrition security, the government has launched dry season farming with the cultivation of 118, 657 hectares of wheat in 15 states in an acceleration of all-year-round farming.

They also procured and distributed to all states and the FCT 58,500 metric tons of milled rice to dampen escalating prices, and fortified crops with vitamin A micronutrient to enrich the nutrition content and health value of commodities.

In response to persistent food inflation, the minister explained that the government has also taken measures to distribute 60, 432 metric tons of improved seeds, 887,255 metric tons of seedlings and 62, 328 metric tons of inorganic fertilisers and equipment to farmers across different value chains to enhance production.

He further mentioned the improvement of farmland security with the provision of additional resources to agro rangers and other security agencies to enable farmers to cultivate their land during this farming season.

The minister also revealed that Nigeria is currently working in partnership with Brazil to provide agriculture mechanisation hubs across the federation, adding that about N1.6bn (€995,000) is being used for this.

On livestock production and animal health, the minister said his ministry procured and distributed 14,056,467 doses of anthrax spore, foot and mouth diseases vaccines for risk-based vaccination exercises in 22 high-risk states located in the North-Central, North-West, North-East, South-West and South-South zones of the country.

On strengthening mechanisation, the minister said the government had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with John Deere and Tata Africa to assemble in-country and supply 10,000 tractors with implements and accessories at 2,000 units yearly, as well as 100 units of combine harvesters to support agriculture production.

“We have a partnership with the Brazilian government with the sum of 995,000 Euros to provide mechanisation hubs across the federation. There is also the facilitation of supply of 2,000 Belarus tractors and the Greener Hope Mechanisation Services are also on course,” Kyari stated.

As part of the collaborative effort and synergy by the present administration, the Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation has also put together an irrigation development plan to boost the Quest for Food Security.

To keep faith with the mandate of the president, Prof Joseph T Utsev, and his team have also been striving to navigate the country out of food shortages by reducing dependence on rain farming, which is seasonal.

Despite the contributions of irrigation to poverty reduction and food security, low crop water productivity in upstream farms and high crop water productivity in downstream farms suggest the need for improved technical efficiency, especially among the farms located upstream.

Disparities in access to irrigation are serious challenges for the sustainability of the large-scale irrigation project in Nigeria.

Consequently, in trying to bridge the gap in equality and increase rice production substantially, thereby reducing poverty and food insecurity and increasing income, the ministry has been at the forefront of efforts to boost irrigation farming across the country.

Nigeria has approximately close to 4 million irrigable hectares of land. But as of the end of 2022, the actual irrigable areas that were well utilised are put at just 169,718 hectares. The implication is the actual, land engaged in irrigation farming across the country was about 5.4 percent. Therefore, 94 per cent, which is close to 2.97 million hectares of land were not irrigated.

The Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation in its bid to implement the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Tinubu, worked to address the underutilisation of millions of irrigable hectares of land across the country.

In a meeting with stakeholders shortly after assuming office, Prof Joseph T Utsev underscored the importance of irrigation farming, which he said can play a pivotal role in Nigeria’s agriculture development and contribute immensely to the nation’s food security and economic development.

The minister, delineated about 500,000 irrigable hectares of land to engage in rapid dry season farming to meet up, and mitigate the rising cost of living, and attain food sufficiency.

In Nigeria, the River Basin Development Authorities, (RBDAs) were to principally accelerate agricultural and rural development, and also to boost food and industrial crop production, which will harness and develop the nation’s water resource potentials and serve as veritable vehicles for comprehensive and integrated rural development.

They were established in 1976 and they operate mechanised and capital intensive programmes.

It is on that basis, that the minister, held an emergency meeting with various managing directors of the 12 RBDAs to drive home the message of the president, which is the desire to improve access to water and food sufficiency to ameliorate the commodity situation in the country.

The challenge posed by climate change is multi-dimensional. It has impacted negatively on the weather and environment, especially rainfall, drought and flooding. All of these are directly tied in a way or more to the activities of the RBDAs. Therefore, the need to have functional RBDAs is crucial.

Already, the ministry has kick-started the partial commercialisation of the RBDAs across the country with a view to enhancing their productivity and stimulating effective service delivery and addressing the issue of funding for optimum performance.

Prof Utsev disclosed that several reform interventions had been introduced by the ministry to revitalise the River Basin Development Authorities. These interventions include the introduction of the Songhai integrated farming model and the training of youths in agribusiness, empowerment of graduates and youths as well as jobs and wealth creation.

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