LAUDING FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S POVERTY REDUCTION POLICY (PRP)
By Ajayi Dada
The Federal Government through its Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development recently announced that it would soon establish 774 Service Centres for farmers across the country thus stressing the importance of food security to national development. This will be another laudable attempt by the Federal Government to reduce poverty in our country if the policy sees the light of the day eventually, and made to continue after the initiator must have left office.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Sabo Nanono, who announced the proposed programme during a town hall meeting in Kano late in October added that several farmers from across the country would be able to access improved seeds and other farm inputs from such service centres when they become operational. A case of practically involving the grassroots in nation building and development.
The town hall meeting was attended by members of the All Farmers Associations of Nigeria(AFAN) in Kano. I guess the farmers, as critical stakeholders in this prime sector will be thanking their creator for putting it into the hearts of the policy makers in the agriculture sector to involve them in a proposed project of this magnitude.
We pray and hope that when it is time for its implementation, some people of influence will not hijack it, rather, it is the people that will use it to transform the society that will be the beneficiaries.
Thumbs up to AFAN members for still believing that fortune resides in the forest and with resilience coupled with perseverance, there will always be light at the end of the tunnel no matter how long it takes. This is because farming and by extension, agriculture, has remained a noble profession since the creation of man.
God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after he had created them and gave them dominion over everything on earth that he created before them.By inference, Adam and Eve could be said to have been farmers since their lives would have been significantly influenced by their environment in that garden then. This is one of the reasons why we must take our practice of agriculture very seriously, first as a passion, hobby and finally as a profession.
Kudos also goes to Mr Sabo Nanono for coming up with such a laudable initiative that will possibly alleviate food insecurity in the country. It complements the saying that when hunger is removed from the home of the poor, then, the problem of the family is half solved.
However, the minister and the ministry should put necessary machinery in motion to ensure its success because of past experiences relating to programmes that were national in outlook. A quick flash back into the past may help us evaluate how we have performed in some well-intentioned schemes but poorly managed either by those who initiated them or by their successors.
A time was in the country when the government encouraged farmers to cultivate cassava in large quantity with the assurance of buying the product from them for export. What has become of that lucrative gift today after the initial offer? What about the yam-for-export scheme? We are good at evolving new schemes but we do not have the patience required to grow, nurture and fine-tune such potentials into international standards for our good and that of our country.
Till date, many Nigerians are yet to obtain their national identity cards that was introduced during the Olusegun Obasanjo-led administration with the late Chief Sunday Afolabias the Minister of Interior, supervised the exercise then.
The Nigerian Identity Management Commission (NIMC) saddled with the responsibilities of issuing new identity cards to Nigerians is still grappling with capturing most Nigerians on its data base not to mention issuing them the cards.
One would have expected that the NIMC would have gone into partnership with the banking sector that is saddled with the responsibilities of issuing bank verification numbers (BVN) to its numerous customers. No doubt, that policy seems to be one of the most successful in the annals of Nigeria when it comes to data collection.
Still evergreen in the minds of most Nigerians is the 6-3-3-4 Education policy by the Federal Government several years ago and the subsequent importation of various science and technical equipment to be installed in secondary schools across the country. Such were meant to be for students with bias for vocational and technological aptitudes after their completion of the first three years in the secondary school.
The policy was to encourage students to pursue vocational studies in the last three years of their secondary school education up to the end of their final year in technical education which they could also pursue in tertiary institutions. However, most of such equipment had rotten where they were stored, some allegedly stolen while some could not be accounted for by past managements of schools here they were kept.
One may ask; were there teachers trained to lead students in assembling of those equipment then? Was it a case of anything that belongs to the government belongs to nobody in particular and as such no one could be asked to be accountable for their not been functional?
Some years back, the government commenced the provision of close circuit television (CCTV) monitors across the country to curb crime wave. No sooner than the scheme took off in some states than it was abandoned. Its installed panels can be seen in some states while in others, it did not even take off at all.
I have raised these posers so that the incumbent minister of agriculture would realize the enormous task and challenges involved in the proposed project and the need for him to hit the ground running. The previous ones never succeed because of inadequate planning; those saddled with the continuation of such schemes never believed in them but urged by the desire that start something new on assumption of office.
Setting up service centres in 774 local government areas of the country for farmers is, indeed, a big task that requires adequate planning from all parties that will be involved for its overall success because he who fails to plan definitely plans to fail. The government must always encourage the farmers to form and register co-operative societies for recognition by the three tiers of government as well as by local and international donor agencies and NGOs who have special interests in food security. It is a known fact that the three basic essentials and necessities of life are: food, clothing and shelter. With these in place, every other thing will fall in line.
Also, the government must work hand-in-hand with the various institutes that promote agriculture and food production at the national and state levels. They will be ready to advise the ministry on areas where each local government area has comparative advantage in terms of farm produce to enhance bumper harvest and discourage wastes.
Most agricultural institutes through their years of research findings must have come up with results vis-à-vis crops that will be suitable for cultivation in particular local government areas or those within the same regional proximity to maximize profits after harvest. Similarly, such synergy will help the ministry to know the type of agricultural tools, chemicals, fertilizers and crops that will be ideal for each local government farming area.
Also, the ministry must train agricultural extension officers who on the other hand will be training local farmers on the proper planting of crops and in the application of chemicals to weed bushes from farmlands and on the appropriate ways of applying fertilizer on crops in right proportion as and when due.
The success of this initiative will be a litmus test for our local government administrations across the country who have been clamouring for autonomy from the states. If they are able to make a success out of the initiative, their names will be etched in gold and become a force to reckon with in discourses relating to national development. However, if the reverse becomes the case, Nigerians will have no option than to consign them to the dustbin of forgetfulness as a major failure among key players in national development. Hence, they have the ball to play to their own advantages or otherwise, to make or mar their own future.
The local government areas and their agricultural departments must be ready to take the bull by the horn instead of indulging in buck passing to see the programme succeed from its take off to completion. They must acquire enough plots of land where they will have demonstration farms that will serve as practical models for the training of other farmers on crops good for their areas. Such model farms will teach farmers the various new breed crops, when and how to plant them; how to weed bushes around them, apply various chemicals and fertilizers that will encourage bumper harvest.
Also, there must be specimens of barns, silos or storage facilities where crops that had been harvested can be stored to guide against wastages or sold off at ridiculous prices during harvest season. That will prevent scarcity of such commodities later in the year while farmers will not be happy because of what they will realize for selling their produce at cheap prices during harvest season. With the availability of storage facilities, farm produce will be available all the year round for sales to those willing to buy either for consumption or to cultivate during the next planting season.
All these will be achievable when the relevant stakeholders at the local government levels and experts from the ministry, faculties of agriculture from our universities and agricultural institutes are involved in the planning and implementation of this good policy proposal.