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Creating jobs for youths, how ready is the ministry of agriculture?

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“In the area of granting loan, government must ensure that only the core farmers get access to the loan, not to those entrepreneurs engaged in food processing.”

Minister of Agriculture, Audu ogbeh

There is no doubt that President Muhammadu Buhari [PMB]–led administration is desirous of generating employment for the teeming unemployed youths in Nigeria through agriculture. Two months after the appointment of ministers, it appears the minister is still fine-tuning strategy on how to attract Nigerian youths into agriculture. But before Chief Audu Ogbeh rolls out his programme on agriculture, he may well bear in mind the following issues:

1. The Ministry of Agriculture must be restructured and re-positioned to truly reflect business character. Currently, the ministry is run like a faculty in the University environment with departments and unit heads. The minister must reform the ministry to have the followings: Finance and Investment, Production, Marketing & Research, Corporate Communication/Farmers Information Service, as well as Legal/Land Administration. Anything short of re-positioning the ministry along this line will clearly mean that PMB’s administration is not ready to make farming a business. 

2. PMB-led administration must define who a modern farmer is vis-a-viz, the desire of government to provide employment via this sector. In determining who the farmer is; government can then determine the level of Mechanization that could be undertaken to accommodate the youth population. 

3. Another factor that must be taken into account is access to land. One funny thing about Nigerian leaders is that when it comes to matter affecting them as individuals, they tend to solve them pretty well. Almost all the former Presidents and Head-of-States in Nigeria have farm lands. Their intention for enquiring the farm lands was to enable them access loan from the banks among other positive considerations. This invariably put them in better position to expand their business. But when it comes to farming to feed the nation, we still see these leaders encouraging peasant farming, what a shame!

4. The government must make decision between full Mechanization and current Fertilizer agriculture policy. Shamefully, it was in the twilight of 2013, when United Nations hinted that Africa will suffer hunger and starvation, unless, they embark on full Mechanization, that the then ministry  of agriculture, under Dr. Akinwumi Adesina embraced mechanization albeit, in an unwilling manner. Generally, government had no intention of going into mechanized agriculture then but for UN’s intervention. 

5. Above all, government must resolve the cold war between Agronomists and Agric Engineers. This raging cold war has greatly retarded the growth of agriculture in Nigeria generally. Experts in the sector believe that agronomists have hidden fear that if Agric Engineers are allowed to play their natural role in the ministry, they, the Agronomists, would be relegated to the background. As a result of this fear factor, efforts at full mechanization of agriculture in Nigeria, has always been frustrated by the Agronomists and Agric Economists in the ministry. Further, Agric experts find it difficult to understand what the authorities in the ministry of agriculture mean by DRY FARMING, if it is not a deliberate effort on their part to shield Irrigation Engineers from having a say in the ministry. The fear of agronomists here is, once you call it irrigation farming, it then mean that Irrigation Engineer must be in-charge, this, they don’t want at the expense of the advancement of agriculture in Nigeria. 

6. In the area of granting loan to farmers, government must ensure that only the core farmers get access to the loan. A situation where Agric loan are given to those entrepreneurs engaged in food processing, should not be encouraged by Chief Audu Ogbeh led Agriculture ministry. For instance, anybody involved in the business of Rice mill cannot in strict term, be called a farmer, because he is involved in food processing. Not agriculture.  He is at best, an entrepreneur. Core agricultural process terminates at a point the farm produce are ready for sale, this is called Farm Gate. After the farm produce are sold, the next category of people involved are either said to be into food or industrial processing, not farmers in the real sense of it. 

Now that Chief Audu Ogbeh has spoken forcefully on full mechanization of Agric to provide employment for the teeming unemployed youths in Nigeria; what is urgently needed is a comprehensive blueprint towards this laudable agenda. Speaking in Ilorin, Kwara State on Wednesday, January 13, 2016, on the flag off of the second phase of Agricultural Equipment Hiring Enterprise [AEHE], Ogbeh identified the problem of agriculture in Nigeria as well as government’s planned response to the problem. 

To his diagnosis, experts in the sector are totally in agreement with it.  However, in formulating the required blueprint, the minister needs not to look far; he only needs to pick-up a book called: MEMO TO THE PRESIDENT, THE CHALLENGE OF AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA BY DR. CLEMENT KANSHIO KAASE. 

For more information on the MEMO TO THE PRESIDENT, this website will suffice: www.ckkmovement.com. The book itself is known to two former Presidents of Nigeria, namely; Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and General Ibrahim Babangida. It is expected that the minister of agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, should set up a technical committee made-up of these former Presidents, the author of the book, Dr. Kaase and other people he may find useful in the committee for a proper take off of Agricultural revolution in Nigeria.   

Emeka Oraetoka, Information Management Consultant & Researcher, National Vice Chairman, Buhari Solidarity Front [BSF] contributed this material from Garki-Abuja; e-mail:oramekllis@lycos.com, GSMS: 08056031187, 07030300284 

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