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Positioning agriculture as business

Published by The Nation on Thu, 10 Jun 2021


The National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) was resuscitated on June 1, 2020 by President Muhammadu Buhari to develop rural communities through agriculture. JULIANA AGBO examines its role in the last one year.In quest to produce what Nigerians eat and create employment opportunities for youth and women, the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) is supporting the drive for food and fibre security while assisting in diversifying the nations economy, improving household incomes, enhancing revenue mobilisation and generation.The authority, which was established in 1992 but went into extinction in 2000, was resuscitated in 2020 to harness the full potentials of the vast arable lands in Nigeria to empower small holder and large scale farmers.Presenting its one year scorecard to reporters, Executive Secretary of NALDA, Prince Paul Ikonne, said the Authority has identified and recovered its farm estates in Gombe, Borno, Adamawa, Taraba, Niger, Kebbi, Oyo, Imo, Katsina, Lagos, Ekiti, Delta, Bauchi, Yobe, Kaduna, Benue, Kogi, Osun, Anambra, Akwa Ibom and Abia States.Ikonne noted that NALDA has commenced the reactivation in phases, said the Authority has recovered lands in 21 states so far.However, stakeholders in the agricultural sector who commended NALDAs initiative and achievement so far, said year-round employment will be generated in the rural area and increase the countrys Gross Domestic Product (GDP).NALDA soil doctorsUnder this programme, the agency said it would train and engage 30,000 youth as soil doctors across the 36 states including FCT.According to NALDA, the long term goal of the programme centres on engaging young Nigerian into the scientific method of farming to aid better crop yields and food security across the Nation.It said the core essence of the engagement programme is geared towards creating a pool of qualified Nigerian youth who will carry out soil tests, soil management and extension services for farmers across the nation at a very subsidised rate.The programme is targeted at young Nigerian graduates who have a background in agriculture or sciences, the potential graduate must be passionate about agribusiness and food security in Nigeria.The young doctors will assist farmers to evaluate their soil, identify soil nutrients and prescribe fertilisers and crops suitable for their farm lands for a better yield, it said.Ikonne said the animal husbandry programme has recorded huge success as the agency has harvested over 30,000 litres of rabbit urine and 1,000kg of rabbit droppings, which are being used as fertiliser having subjected it to lab analysis and the rabbit farmers are making income from this.The beauty of the rabbit-rearing programme is in harvesting the rabbit waste (urine and droppings) which are sources of an organic fertiliser due to its richness in nitrogen.This will help us to grow organic food, which is healthier for human consumption and our aim is to export the organic fertiliser, he said.On training and empowerment of 30,000 soil doctors, Ikonne said the program had since commenced and over 500 Soil doctors have been trained in Borno and Jigawa states.The essence of this is to equip young graduates with agriculture or science backgrounds with the knowledge of extension services, which include soil testing and analysis and they are being given soil-testing kits in order for them to earn a living while ensuring our farmers are being equipped with best agricultural practices for greater output.This programme is in partnership with the state governments, he said.In line with NALDAs mandate of achieving food security, he said they have embarked on establishing fish villages to engage rural women in fish production and packaging in some pilot States of Borno and Abia states.In Borno, we have started construction of the fish villages in 10 locations out of the 50 locations provided by the Borno State government to engage 2,200 women. While in Abia, the fish village in one location is 40 percent completed, he said.Bem Shija, a fish farmer, said with presence of NALDA in states, many young farmers have indicated interest to be trained in fish farming so as to get value for it.While noting that NALDA has initiated a programme called NALDA Integrated Farms to be established in the 109 senatorial districts across the country, the executive secretary said they have reached out to the leadership of the Senate for Senators to facilitate land donation with the state governments.In preparation for the wet season farming, Ikonne assured that NALDA is prepared for the wet season farming across the country on the recovered farm estates.He added that the state coordinators where the wet season farming will take place have been fully briefed and are prepared, as they have received more land donations from communities in Akwa Ibom, Cross River Yobe, and Adamawa States, among others.Ikonne who also said NALDA engaged in dry season farming of rice in some pilot States of Adamawa, Niger, Yobe, Taraba and Bauchi, noted that farmers were trained on dry season farming of which they were not used to and we are expecting harvest in the coming weeks.NALDA provided all the farmers required for farming ranging from tractors, boreholes, pumping machines, planters and transplanters, fertiliser and seeds.We have a vision to position agriculture in the minds of young Nigerians as business.Our major aim is not only to achieve food security in Nigeria, but to show that Nigeria can work through this NALDA integrated farm estate.This project is directly impacting the rural people in Nigeria, NALDAs core mandate is to develop the rural area, develop agriculture.This will be owned by farmers from the community, thats why we have reached out to senators so that every senator in collaboration with the state government will donate land within their senatorial zone so that we can have them integrated within the country.Economic benefitsIkonne said the ongoing NALDA project will not only achieve food security, but will reduce unemployment drastically.The benefit of engaging our rural women into fish farming and production is not only for local consumption but also for export in order to earn foreign currency.An economic expert, Jide Andrew who spoke to The Nation, said the ongoing project initiated by NALDA would encourage industrial development.As demand for agricultural products rises around the world, this is the time for the country to grow agribusiness, we have a lot of resources to tap wealth from, Andrew said.
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