Develop framework to attract right talents into agriculture

Panellists on Wednesday at the just concluded 11th African Economic Conference 2016 have advised African governments to develop a framework to attract the right talents into agriculture to promote growth.

The three-day conference which was organised by the African Development Bank (AfDB), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) began on Monday in Abuja.

Country Manager, AFEX Commodities Exchange Ltd, Mr Ayodeji Balogun,  during a discussion on “Lessons on agro-allied industrialisation from country experiences’’ said that the sector was not only about the produce, but had other aspects to it.

“We see agriculture and liken it too much to production because when we think of agriculture we think of the soil and it is not that.

“It is agro business, agro financing, agro logistics, marketing, supply chain and a whole bouquet of services around the sector.

“So we need to create an agro-business framework that encourages talents into this pool.’’

He added that for industrialisation to be achievable in the sector, graduates from all disciplines should be made to see the opportunities in the sector.

Prof. Xiaobo Zhang of China Centre for Economic Research at Pekin University said that the Chinese succeeded in the sector using cluster based agricultural transformation.

He said that certain areas known for producing certain crops were made to focus on producing those crops alone which helped the nation produce them in very large quantities.

According to him, this is made possible with the government also making available processing zones to ensure that the farm produce are processed to avoid waste.

He stated that local governments also had a role to play in ensuring that clusters were achievable as they were to serve as the overseers of the projects.

Relating Liberia’s experience, Mr Charles McClain, Deputy Minister for Planning and Development, Ministry of Agriculture, said the country had adopted an agricultural transformation agenda.

He said that the agenda was to enhance economic diversification and inclusive growth by developing value chains for agricultural goods from production to processing and manufacturing.

McClain added that the nation had also identified some agro-clusters and that it was adopting a holistic approach to achieving its purpose through coordinated government action.

Other approaches adopted were strategic vision and clarity of purpose, reaching out to stakeholders and restructuring governmental services to drive growth.

McClain said that the sector also introduced e-registration for farmers and that its pilot scheme in 2016 registered about 200,000 farmers.

They all agreed that governments at all levels should enhance agricultural productivity at the farm levels to achieve industrialisation, adding that support for small holder farms should be provided.

Mr Oma Ohimor, one of the participants at the conference told NAN that other countries’ experience could also be replicated in Nigeria if there was enough political will to carry it.

He said that it should not be about designing policies alone but about implementing them.

“Nigeria has all the supportive policies for agricultural transformation but the key thing is implementing those policies to deliver the right outcome for the people.

“As is the case with Liberia, the president and the ministers meet on a monthly basis with the donour agencies, so if Nigeria can have the political will to drive these policies the result will show.’’

He added that industrialisation was about adding value to what was being produced and to help the farmers maximise returns.

“The bulk of Nigeria’s agriculture is done by small holder farmers and as a result their returns are usually very small and for them to maximise returns they need to add value

“The government can also lift Nigerians out of poverty like China did lifting more than 400 million people out of poverty through industrialisation.

“Farm produce, especially perishables like tomatoes, fruits and vegetables are lost in post production but through industrialisation that can be reversed and poverty can be reduced,’’ he said

The  theme of the conference was: “Feed Africa: Towards agro-allied industrialisation for inclusive growth.’’