USAID initiates programme for farmers in Nigeria

Mnena Iyorkegh, Abuja

The United State Agency for International Development, USAID has launched a two year partnership programme to increase access to smart tractors, improved seeds and profitable markets for over 45,000 smallholder farmers across Nigeria.

The initiative is designed to support the ‘Feed the Future initiative’ which accelerates production, improve processing and increase firms and marketing capabilities to meet food security.

Feed the Future, a US government’s global hunger and food security initiative.

The USAID Mission Director, Michael Harvey stated this in Abuja at the inauguration of two million Dollars US government/private partnership towards strengthening Nigeria’s agricultural sector.

‘Feed the Future’ is changing lives by assisting smallholder farmers and small medium enterprises to improve their competiveness and to enter into commercial agriculture value chains.

Launching a Nigeria Agriculture Private Sector partnership with USAID, The Deputy Chief of Mission, Maria Brewer said a changing world requires innovation and that in sub Sahara Africa, up to 70 percent of young people engage in the agricultural value chain.

‘‘Nigeria is one of the most innovative, dynamic and entrepreneurial countries in the world. The US government is proud to partner with the private sector for the good of the Nigeria’s agriculture sector. Together we are creating a new model of development. This model includes working with international organisations, civil society, local governments, researchers and the private sector. In turn this partnership would help feed a growing population with access to fewer natural resources,’’ Ms Brewer said.

Food security of Africa
USAID Mission Director, Michael Harvey stated that the US government was committed to working with the private sector to grow Nigeria’s agriculture sector.

 ‘‘US Embassy has been a major player in the agriculture for a number of years, whether it is regional exception or commercial services through the USAID. The simple reason is that Nigeria is the incredibly important to the economies of Africa and food security of Africa,’’ Mr Harvey said.

With the 60 percent level of youth unemployment in Nigeria and eight million youths expected to enter the workforce in the next 20 years, the need to increasing Nigeria’s agricultural production has become necessary.

To this effect, the Chief Executive Officer of Babban Gona group, represented by Chinwe Asuzu, noted that with the many committed grassroots leaders in Nigeria there is still lack of training to provide professional management services and secure investment.

However, Babban Gona group has a mission of turning Nigeria into a country that smallholder farmers are able to transit from local farming to commercial farming with agriculture forming the basis of financial security and employment.

To make this happen, Babban Gona partners with a variety of public and privaten organisations and is now working with feed the Future Partnering for Innovation, a USAID funded program that supports public-private partnerships to commercialise agricultural product in smallholder farmer markets to build and support farmers cooperatives with funds.

For the Chief Executive Officer of Hello Tractor, Mr. Jehiel Oliver, most smallholder farmers in Nigeria do not have access to mechanisation that makes farming more efficient.

Hello Tractor is ready to proffer solution to this challenge.

Hello Tractor, being an agricultural technology company, it has a focus on improving food security and income through low cost, technology enabled farming solutions by facilitating convenient and affordable tractors services to farmers who have constraints that result to under cultivation.

Appreciating the gesture, the Nigerian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Audu Ogbe pledged that the Nigerian government will not relent in its efforts toward improving the agricultural sector by ensuring food sufficiency in the country through training and support programmes for the youths.

 ‘‘The government is sending one thousand youths for training and extension to teach the farmers how to plant, we are working on seed improvement, trying to reform the Bank of Agriculture, to cheaper credit and bargaining for five percent  agric credit to farmers, organising farmers to form cooperatives so that they become the borrowers,’’ the Minister said.

Mr. Ogbe assured investors that government was taking proactive steps towards ensuring the safety of farmers and investors in the agricultural sector adding that government was working at preventing the movement of cattle-herdsmen from place to place in search of grazing.