Agric: A steadied approach towards sustainable food security.

“It is a known mantra that organisations are charged to think outside the box. We at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Food Security have decided to think without the box if we are to achieve our mandate.” __ Hon. Minister of Agric & Food Security, Sen. Abu Kyari.

The Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is set to launch the renewed hope wheat revolution initiative in November, through of course the Ministry of Agric & Food Security; which is aimed at enhancing food security and achieving self-sufficiency in Nigeria. This is to be kick-started in November with over 70,000 hectares to be cultivated across wheat production zones, with an aggressive expected yield of 875,000 metric tonnes. Presidential approval was sought by the Agric. Minister, for the blending of important fertilisers to support this year’s dry season farming, while already making provisions for next year’s farming season. This approval has been expeditiously granted by President Tinubu, which includes the Train the Trainer program for extension agents involved in dry season farming in collaboration with wheat producing states and other partners. This was unveiled at a press conference on the 7th of October, 2023; by The Federal Ministry of Agric., under the leadership of the Hon. Minister of Agric. Sen. Abu Kyari, and his counterpart, the Hon. Minister of State, Sen. Aliyu Abdullahi.

The Federal Ministry of Agric and Food Security has well over 43 agencies, with a huge number of development partners both foreign and domestic. This has necessitated the prudent approach of the new Leadership of the ministry, in taking it’s time to receive briefings from all of these agencies and partners, to be able to properly assess what they have met on ground: before embarking on a new drive to implement Mr. President’s Food Security initiative, with workable plans that can harness the structures and existing policies and plans on ground. To this end, the ministry is in the process of carrying out a robust stakeholder analysis that will provide a working stakeholder map showing who does what, where, when and how, while identifying mutually beneficial areas for Small Holder Farmers, Large Scale Farmers, Processors, Marketers and the Organised Private Sector. This will largely enhance resource utility, thereby reducing duplication and wastage. The National Agricultural Technology and Innovation Policy, NATIP, 2022-2027, shall be a guide with lessons learnt from its implementation processes. It was resolved that all the programs and policies of the ministry will be aligned to attaining Mr. President’s priorities of: Food Security, Job Creation, Poverty Eradication, and Women and Youth’s inclusivity and an enabling environment for Private Sector participation in governance and economic activities. These were impressed upon in the Minister’s presser on Friday, 7th October, 2023 at the Agric Ministry’s Headquarters.

It was also revealed that a National Agricultural and Food Security Summit will be held in November of 2023; to produce an Action Plan with an implementation and sustainability Strategy. The National Council for Agriculture and Food Security meeting in Cross River State to be held in November of 2023, would produce a strategic operational plan for Federal-State-Local Government joint implementation strategies. There will be a new transparent regime for the mechanisms and processes for the distribution of fertiliser and Agro Pesticides along with other inputs to farmers across the country. Significant investments are to be made in Animal-Feed crops, fodder and pasture production as an antidote to the farmers/ herders clashes by focusing on the development of paddocks, foliage and fodder estates equipped for all year round production. Of utmost priority is the take-off of the National Agricultural Development Fund. Another is to have a collaboration with the Water Resources Ministry, to unlock the huge irrigation potentials of the River Basins Development Authorities and other flood plains in the country to ensure all year round food production. Most of these are contained in the short term plans and goals of the ministry. These include the establishment of Agricultural Marketing Incubation Centres (Agribusiness Development Centres) for youth and women in the six geo-political zones of the country.

Other midterm actions to be pursued by the food security ministry include: The development of Digital/ ICT Mobile-based agro industry system and E extension platforms to support farmers through the establishment of the national centres in the 6 agro-ecological zones of Nigeria with a command and control Office in Abuja. There’s also, meat, dairy eggs, fish and other protein from animal sources that would receive special Intervention to increase productivity and target a 10% year on year annual growth rate. Interesting long term plans detailed by the ministry include but not limited to: the repositioning of the Universities of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicines to play key roles in the nation’s Agricultural Transformation processes by developing practical approaches to mechanisation and production.

Perhaps a 2nd instalment of this piece would be necessary to fully capture the very diligent work that the Federal Government’s Food Security initiatives team is putting together. The thirst for immediate or magical results towards ensuring Food Security is hardly a month or two’s job. Not even a quarter of a year can detail a visible or tangible result dashboard. The wet season is almost done and so therefore; the Minister and his counterpart have to concentrate on a dry season approach which in the long run, would be the main buffer to the traditional wet season farming which is usually dependent on very precarious and uncertain factors for its success. Dry season and mechanised farming, alongside animal farming, are the most vital components of the agro-allied industries that thrive on the successes of a nation’s agriculture and food security system. I am optimistic that Mr. President’s pick of Sen. Kyari and Sen. Aliyu, to head the Agric & Food Security Ministry, is one desirous of assured results not just for political points or optics. It is a decision borne out of a desire to have them deliver real-time, long term results whereby self-sufficiency in food production in Nigeria will not only be achieved; but be sustained.

Tahir is the Talba of Bauchi.

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