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By: Segun Lawal

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo says the World Food Prize (WFP) award to Dr Akinwumi Adesina, will stimulate people’s interest in agriculture.

Obasanjo disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa state in USA.

He said that the award was an inspiration to all those involved in the agriculture sector either in the aspect of research, production, marketing or financing.

“So what does this do, it encourages anybody in agriculture in the same way that Nobel prize in any of the areas that it has been created to serve will encourage people in that area.

“And every aspect of agriculture be it research, be it production, be it marketing, be it financing in all aspect of agriculture.

“It should be an encourager and that is why it should help us not only in Nigeria but in Africa generally.

On the zero hunger forum, Obasanjo said it was geared towards achieving sustainable food security and nutrition in Nigeria.

The essence of the forum was to see how the national report on agriculture was being implemented at the states level.

He said that the implementation of the forum would involve every states of the Federation including the Federal Capital Territory.

The Nigeria zero hunger strategy review 2030 was launched in January.

It was aimed at achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) that emphasises the prominence of food security and nutrition in member states.

Obasanjo said that agriculture should be driven at the rural communities and states level, adding that the duty of the Federal Government was to provide conducive environment.

According to him, the forum selected eight pilot States including Sokoto, Benue, Borno, Ebonyi, Ogun, Ondo, Kebbi to add impetus to efforts of sustaining food security in the country.

He said that the aim of creating the pilot states was for the forum committee members to actively monitor activities in those States.

“For the first two years we want to involve about half a dozen of states and now we have made it eight states because we want to be meeting in those states quarterly.

“We want to see what they are doing, how they are doing it and what can others learn from them, what can we advise them to do. We have had the first meeting in Benue state, we are having the second meeting in two weeks’ time in Ebonyi state.

“And the Benue state the first one we had was fairly successful. We saw what they are doing and we were able to advise them what they should do differently and they have taken it up.

“We were able to help them where they need help internally and even where we think they can get external assistance.

“After that we may make it six states per year so that within five years we will have covered the whole 36 states.

Obasanjo said that the eight pilot states were taken for the first two years, adding that every states was on but“ we are visiting these eight pilot states in the first two years.

The forum membership consists of Minister of Agriculture and Health, African Development Bank, Tony Elumelu Foundation, Obasanjo Foundation, Dangote Group and others.

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Agriculture

Ondo to Train 18,000 Youths in Agribusiness

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No fewer than 18,000 youths in Ondo State have been selected to partake in the training in various fields of agriculture organised by the state government as part of efforts to create employment through agriculture.

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu disclosed this during the presentation of certificates to 40 participants in a training programme on the cassava enterprise project organised by Star Deep-water Petroleum Limited in partnership with Partnership Initiative in the Niger Delta and the Ondo State Agricultural Business Empowerment Centre, recently.

The governor, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Agriculture, Mr. Akin Olotu, stated that 1,000 youths from each of the 18 local government areas of the state would participate in the programme, adding that it would start next year.

According to him, the state government will also provide soft loans for graduates who are interested in agriculture.

“This administration is committed to taking the youth out of unemployment through agriculture,” he said.

The governor stressed the need to make agriculture attractive to the youth, urging them to embrace it.

He stated that the state government had commenced moves to lay the foundation for economic development in the state.

Akeredolu also explained that the state government recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in Oke Luse, Ose Local Government Area of the state on how to develop agriculture.

Also speaking at the event, the Market Development Officer, PIND, Mr. Emmanuel Nwala, said the 40 youths who received the certificates were recruited and commenced training in 2015, with each participant allocated 2.5 hectares of land to cultivate cassava.

According to him, all the participants have planted cassava and are awaiting harvest, adding that PIND and other organisations involved in the training were excited to see “what these farmers do with their businesses and their earnings, and the impact they will make on their communities.”

Nwala expressed optimism that the partnership would go a long way to address the challenges of youth unemployment in the state and would also serve as a model for boosting income.

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Agriculture

Nigeria Has Saved $600m From Rice Importation – BOA

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Nigeria has saved over $600m dollars (N216bn) from the importation of rice alone from Thailand and other countries since the nation’s domestic mass production flooded the markets under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.

The figure represents a fraction of a staggering $22bn (N7.92tr) spent on importation of foods into the country annually prior to the advent of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

The Executive Director, Risk Management and Finance, Bank of Agriculture, disclosed this when he led a delegation of top officials of the bank on a courtesy call to Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, in his office, in Ibadan.

Akenzua said it was worthy of commendation that the country had committed itself to diversifying from the oil economy, with emphasis on the revitalization of agriculture.

He said, he had embarked on advocacy visit around the country to enlist the support and involvement of state governments in the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, which, he said, had freed the country from reliance on importation of rice.

Akenzua said, “We enjoin Oyo State to participate in the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, as we have rejigged the programme to expand the scope of beneficiaries. The pilot scheme was so successful that $600m was saved from rice importation due to massive rice production in the country.

“One or two rice millers in Thailand have closed down because Nigeria, which has always been their major importer, has stopped importing their rice.

“We used to spend $22bn importing food into Nigeria and with our consciousness that every square meter in the country is arable land, we felt that it was not sustainable. Of course, the crash in crude oil price has forced us back to agriculture.”

The ED said that the state could choose a particular crop it wished to produce under the programme, with a promise to either co-fund or completely fund the production of such crop.

In his response, the governor commended the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, for what he called the positive changes he had brought into the agriculture sector since taking over the ministry.

The governor stated that the fundamental problem besetting the country was attitudinal, stressing that the country was not bereft of knowledge, policies and programmes capable of boosting its economy.

Ajimobi said that the state was supposed to be the food basket of the nation if past leaders had seen agriculture as a major solution to hunger and economic driver, as well as a main source of employment for the youth.

According to him, the state was in good stead to be a major Agric hub, judging by the concentration of reputable research institutions in the state, its vast arable land, as well as the location between Lagos, the commercial nerve centre of the country, and the North among other comparative advantages.

He advised the new management of BOA to do all that was humanly possible to sustain the momentum in its renewed drive to revitalize the agriculture sector.

Ajimobi said “You need to change the attitude of our people so they would know that there is money in agriculture. We are in this sorry state today because of bureaucracy and lack of sustenance of past Agric policies. What has happened to Operation Feed the Nation?

“The new management of BOA has started well. I hope you will maintain the zeal with which you have started. Don’t just talk the talk, walk the talk. In the past, some people will just give loans to themselves, which they knew they would not recover and this had crippled the bank.

“Oyo State is ready to take advantage of all opportunities available in agriculture to promote the standard of living of our people. We believe that with the natural endowment in our state we should be the food basket of Nigeria.

“I salute the giant strides of the Ministry of Agriculture under the leadership of the Minister, Chief Audi Ogbeh. I have known him for many years as a man of impeccable character, a professional with high sense of responsibility.”

The governor promised to lead by example by also venturing into commercial agriculture, urging the BOA team to advise him on how he could go about obtaining a loan for the State

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Agriculture

Farmers, Stop Using Fertiliser on Produce for Export – Food Institute

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The Nigeria Institute of Food Science and Technology, NIFST, has on Monday warned farmers against using fertiliser, pesticides, herbicides on produce for export.

This came from the Chairman, Lagos Chapter of the institute, Sunday Bamgbose, in an interview with the Newsmen in Lagos.

He, however, stated that the era of pesticide, herbicide and fertiliser applications in large quantity was over.

According to him, it was time farmers in the country adhere to modern agricultural practices to benefit from food export.

“The food value chain undergoes various processes and if not properly managed can cause a lot of damage or losses to the farmer.

“The rejection of Nigerian yams recently was as a result of the loopholes that existed in the technical aspect of the food value chain.

“In yam exportation, the packaging, mode of transportation, good temperature, among others, is considered.

“The recent development is unpleasant news because it is a negative publicity for the country.

“There is need to do the appropriate thing by involving those vast in the technical aspect of food exportation,” he said.

Mr. Bamgbose suggested that the government should always play its regulatory role in the process of produce for export.

He said that there was the need to always observe the variety of the produce, shelf life, duration which had to do with the storage duration, before a produce was exported.

“If the lifespan of the yam is six months; we should consider the period it will stay in transit, and also the period it stays in the person’s store or warehouse.

“We can now detect if the lifespan will be used up before it reaches its destination to prevent losses,” he said.

The NIFST chairman added that whenever a produce was meant for export, the exporter should always follow the required standards by the country the produce was meant for.

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