A one-day forum organised by the Agriculture and Rural Management Training Institute (ARMTI), Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, sought to strengthen efforts to boost farmers’ incomes, build sustainable food systems and eradicate poverty through policies, reports
In sub-Saharan Africa, poverty is prevalent in rural areas. This is because the pace of agricultural progress and rural development has been slow and uneven to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets.
According to analysts, Nigeria continues to face major challenges in the implementation of rural development programmes, despite its strong growth. Key among the challenges are unacceptably high-level of poverty, especially in rural areas, unemployment, uneven impacts of new technologies and effects of climate change and natural disasters.
In the light of these, experts at the 21st Agriculture and Rural Management Training Institute (ARMTI) Annual Lecture in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, tried to review the role of agric policies and how they could be used to eradicate poverty in the rural and remote areas to ensure that no one is left behind.
A key observation of the forum was that eradication of rural poverty has remained a challenge. This is because farmers face many constraints, such as lack of access to basic technologies, limited use of modern agricultural inputs, such as drought-resistant seeds and eco-friendly fertiliser, as well as limited access to resources.
To reverse the trends, the experts said there was need to support farmers by investing in agriculture and engaging in productive, revenue-yielding activities.
ARMTI’s Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr. Olufemi Oladunni said it had become critical to increase farmers’ income, enhance their access to markets and financial services, and promote sustainable, climate resilient agricultural development processes that would improve household nutrition through policies.
Addressing the 21st Annual Lecture, Oladunni stressed the need to address constraints that limit farmers’ access to agricultural input, finance, extension service, which provide knowledge, technologies and practical training to farmers and markets.
The institute, according to him, believes in empowering farmers to reduce poverty, increase food security, thus, improving nutrition and strengthening resilience.
He said: “ARMTI’s Annual Lecture is one of the platforms through which the institute plays a leading role in the agricultural and rural sector of our nation. Through our lecture and also our national seminars, we gather technocrats, academics, practitioners and other stakeholders in the sector to brainstorm together on an identified topical matter towards charting a way to move agriculture towards its rightful place in our economy. Over the years, this platform has served to help in contributing to policy development and proffering useful solutions to nagging problems in the agricultural sector.
“Part of the mandate of ARMTI is contribution to policy development to move the sector forward, and today, we are extending the privilege of participating in this esteemed task to you all. This is the time for Nigerian solutions to Nigerian problems. As we rub minds and we share from our collective experiences, you will see how paradigm shifts and directional mandates will begin to emerge from the stream of ideas we will be sharing.”
Oladunni said the agriculture sector was the highest employer in the country, with the capacity to do so much more, if it is harnessed. “If we can get agricultural policies right, then we can begin to be on track as the giant of Africa in food security, employment and income generation, as well as setting our economy where it truly belongs.”
The Vice-Chancellor, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Prof. Charles Arizechukwu Igwe, said the potential of agriculture in the country was huge, noting, however, that Nigeria has been importing major stable foods, such as rice, wheat and fish to augment local supplies; and has been spending substantial amount of foreign reserves on importation of food items.
Speaking on “Agricultural policies in Nigeria: Unlocking full potential by identifying challenges and solution”, Igwe said despite agricultural policies enacted and implemented over decades, the sector was yet to maximise its potential and bring about the desired development to the nation.
His words: “Nigeria’s poor performance in agriculture, despite its huge agricultural potential and apparently laudable policies, stems from the undercurrents of various challenges that have undermined the development of the sector over the years. Therefore, unlocking Nigeria’s full agricultural potential requires that these challenges, be tackled head-on.”
He said the agricultural sector suffers from infrastructure challenge, including lack of motorable roads, insufficient railroads or irrigation dams. “They are thus unable to operate to support scale-driven agriculture. That imposes an added cost (up to 100 per cent) on the delivered price of agricultural produce in Nigeria, making it uncompetitive compared to global peers.’’
Igwe observed the shortcomings of the National Agricultural Research System (NARS) to generate and commercialise new technologies that meet local market needs, saying to reverse this, farmers needed incentives, including access to credit, improved seedlings, and research and extension education.
Igwe said the potential for domestic and foreign investments in various agricultural sub-sectors in Nigeria are huge, adding that agriculture could play a key role in the nation’s economic growth if backed by extensive irrigation, high-yielding crop varieties, more efficient markets, and mechanisation, enabled by policy reforms and investments in agriculture research, human capital and roads.
SOURCE: THE NATION