Stakeholders list strategies toward tackling challenges facing farmers

 Ahead of the wet season farming, some stakeholders in the agriculture sector have expressed diverse opinions on how to tackle the challenges facing farmers and strategies toward boosting food production.
They spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in separate interviews across some South West states and Kwara.
Dr Idris Badiru, a Principal Lecturer in the Department of Agriculture Extension and Rural Development, University of Ibadan, said extension service must be strengthened to enhance adoption of research outputs.
Badiru also stressed the need to strengthen research institutes and enhance their collaboration with universities.
He said farming in Oyo State like in other states was dominated by smallholder famers, adding that farmers’ access to credit requires a multi-dimensional approach.
The don stressed the need to make the CBN lending initiative in agriculture work.
He also said the Bank of Agriculture must be alive to its responsibilities by exercising its mandate.
The Country Manager of Harvestplus, an international NGO, Dr Paul Ilona, said for Nigeria to meet its food needs, there was a strong need to introduce and commercialise technologies that would reduce drudgery in production.
He urged the Federal Government to add value to the curriculum of agriculture institutions, adding that there was need to shift from theory to practical studies.
``The only way we can stem food importation is to truly promote agriculture to a large extent and make it easier for farmers while attracting youths who will be future commercial farm managers, `` Ilona said.
Also speaking, the Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in Oyo
State, Mr Olumide Ayinla, said this year’s rain might not result in good productivity as farmers commenced planting two weeks ago due to insufficient rain.
On the level of farmers’ access to farm inputs, he said they had not collected any input, adding that farmers buy them on their own.
``Collecting credit facilities is the worst experience we have heard because they ask us to bring level 14 officers and building plans as collaterals.
``These are not easy for farmers, we use our cooperative societies.
``No fertiliser has been given to us since the inception of this present government.
``We received about four trailers under the last administration and it was not enough for the more than 30,000 registered farmers in the state, `` he said.
He also stressed that the greatest challenge was the persistent encroachment by herdsmen on farmlands and appealed to the government to intervene.
``We also need access to good roads to our farms and financial support,” Ayinla said.
In Akure, the Ondo State Farmers Congress called for the provision of tractors to boost commercial agriculture.
Mr Emmanuel Giwa, the President of the body, said farmers in the state were ready for the season but required support in the area of farm inputs.
Giwa, who is also the Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in the state, recalled that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) had donated three tractors for use of farmers in the three senatorial districts of the state.
The AFAN boss, who said the tractors would aid in food production, also called on the government to ease the process for acquisition of loan facility.
The chairman said the requirements to obtain loans such as Certificate of Occupancy were not easily accessible for peasant farmers and called for a review of the process.
Giwa further said the government had not taken steps to reduce or subsidise prices of farm inputs.
He also decried the absence of adequate storage facilities, saying many farm produce rot away when there were poor sales or transportation problem.
``Some of the crops produced by farmers waste away in large quantities yearly because the farmers find it difficult to transport their produce to the nearest market due to bad roads.
``The assistance of government is also needed in the construction of small dams in local government areas to boost irrigation, `` he said.
Giwa further suggested building of fish ponds by the government, saying this could serve as a source of employment for youths.
He, however, said farmers in the state had commenced clearing and heaping in preparation for the planting season.
Farmers in Ogun, on their own part, called on the state government to assist in facilitating access to credit facilities and farm inputs in order to boost food production.
Some of the farmers also expressed regrets that lack of farm inputs and credit facilities had prevented them from taking advantage of the early rains in 2016.
Mr Olusegun Dasaolu, the Chairman of Ogun Chapter of AFAN, told NAN that ``while the rainy season is on, farmers have not actually accessed any input and funds to work with.``
``I believe the problem of the late budget has limited the supply of these essential facilities to our farmers and it is affecting us.
``Now that the problem of the budget has been solved, the government should please help us to increase access to various agricultural credit facilities and also supply us with farm inputs.
``I think there is need for proactive action by the Federal Government and the state government because agriculture is time-bound.
``Once the farmers are not able to plant at the normal time, it means this year is over, but as it is, we can still catch up a little if the government can quickly intervene, `` he said.
Dasaolu also noted that the earlier challenge of credit facilities ``ending in the pockets of political farmers `` had been solved in the state with the creation of farmers` cooperative groups.
``Initially, we were recognising farmers based on individual capacity, but we have now moved from that level to a cooperative system whereby they form themselves into cooperative groups, according to what they produce.
``This arrangement has helped us to know the true farmers and we are able to monitor the use of the loans and to ensure that the loans are repaid as at when due.
``So, all the bottlenecks that the government has been complaining of has been removed and I see no reason why we should not have easy access to loans.
``Currently, fertiliser is not available and individual farmers have had to source this input on his own, `` he added.
He noted that several meetings between the farmers' association and the state Ministry of Agriculture had not yielded any fruitful result.
Dasaolu also identified the issue of land clearing as a major challenge facing farmers in the state.
He called on the government to assist the farmers with heavy machines to clear their farms at affordable price.
``Assistance in land clearing will boost food production, it will make prices go down, it will also ease the process of planting and subsequently help to do farming on a large scale to attract the youth into the sector.
``If you clear 1,000 hectares of land and plant maize on it between one or two weeks, and you put your chemical and maintain it, before you know it, it is ready for harvesting.
``This is easier and better than having just one plot or one hectare and using cutlass and hoe because such process will delay the work of the farmer and also delay production, `` he said.
The state Commissioner for Agriculture, Mrs Ronke Sokefun, however, told NAN that the government had continued to assist the farmers in various ways.
She said that government in collaboration with the Bank of Industry had made available a loan of N1 billion to the farmers in the state.
The commissioner, however, said the problem of default in repayment by some farmers had denied some others access to the facility.
``We have made several hectares of land available to farmers for rice cultivation in Yewa North, 50-hectares and for cocoa farm and a plantain farm in Alagbagba in Odeda Local Government.
``We cultivated a 50- hectare oil palm farm in Imeko- Afon Council Area; there is the Green House in Kotopo, which has started to produce high-yield tomatoes and pepper as well as various cassava farms, `` she said.
In Ekiti State, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Kehinde Odebunmi, said it was the vision of the administration to make every farming season a huge success for farmers.
He disclosed that government planned to boost employment as well as raise 50 per cent of the state's Internally Generated Revenue from agriculture-related activities.
The commissioner said most of the agricultural programmes put in place by the state government were already coming to fruition.
This, he said, was responsible for why government deliberately budgeted as much as N580 million for the agriculture sector in the 2016 budget.
Similarly, he said government had begun the process of distributing farm inputs such as fertiliser, germicides as well as seedlings to verified farmers in the state.
He explained further that efforts were on to create new markets for farmers so that they could sell their produce for profit.
The Secretary of the state chapter of AFAN, Mr Abiodun Kalejaiye, confirmed that the Ayodele Fayose-led government in the state was a farmer-friendly one, but urged it not to rest on its oars.
An official of the Ekiti State Agricultural Development Programme, Mr Olu Fatoba, however, called for sensitisation of farmers as the rainy season sets in.
According to him, agricultural activities in the country, especially peasant farming, continues to witness dwindling fortunes yearly due to ineffective and inconsistence policies.
He warned that the current rains may not be stable until June or late July and may not end until December.
In his contribution, a Senior Extension Officer in the state Youth in Commercial Agriculture Programme, Mr Kunle Awosusi, explained that in wet and dry seasons, soil nutrient diminishes while erosion increases during wet season.
``All plants need at least some level of water to survive, therefore rain, but not too much of it is very important.
``While a regular rain pattern is usually good for healthy plants, too much or too little of it can be harmful, `` he said.
Another expert, Dr Kayode Oladele of the Department of Agriculture, Ekiti State University, said wet season farming has the potential of leading to flourishing vegetation and increased crop yield, if well managed.
He, however, cautioned that the period could be a time of deprivation as farmers await the full maturity of their crops which had been denied moisture throughout the preceding dry season.
In Osun, experts canvassed for an operational blueprint for the agriculture sector to boost production and ensure food security.
Dr Ebun Iretiola, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Extension and Rural Sociology, Fountain University, Osogbo, said government must review its policy on agriculture.
Iretiola said policy review on agriculture became imperative for the purpose of making the sector more capital-driven and investor-friendly.
He explained that the incessant life-line funds being voted for commercial banks to bail them out of distress could have been used to help farmers in the country to go into full mechanised farming.
Also speaking, Mr Sulaimon Waheed, a Research Fellow in the Faculty of Agriculture at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, advocated the establishment of farm settlements across the federation.
Waheed said research work on farming activities in the country had revealed that many youths were discouraged from venturing into farming by lack of social amenities in rural areas where farms were located.
He said farming settlements with basic social amenities would attract energetic and intelligent youths to farming.
In his opinion, Dr Ifeoluwa Oyelade, the Executive Director of Divas Farms, Ofatedo, Osogbo, called for provision of more credit facilities in form of soft loans for farmers in the country.
Oyelade called on the state government to provide farm inputs for farmers to enhance food production.
Mr Bamidele Amujoyegbe, the Head of Faculty of Agriculture, Crop Production and Protection, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, appealed to government to subsidise agricultural components for farmers across the country.
Amujoyegbe, said when government does this, farmers would be able to produce food in abundance.
He advised farmers to form themselves into cooperatives to enable them access credit facilities.
AFAN Chairman in Osun, Mr Afolabi Kayode, however, told NAN that crop planting for the year had not formally started because of irregular rainfall in the state.
He said the rainfall would enhance easy cultivation of land by farmers.
``Though some farmers have started planting their crops with the first rains but the farming rules encourage planting when rainfalls become regular, `` he said.
Kayode also said farmers in the state were yet to receive any farm input, adding that efforts were ongoing to facilitate support from the government.
He said farmers in the state had formed themselves into cooperatives to enable them obtain loans for farming.
In Kwara, the state government said it would provide adequate support for farmers to enhance their capacity and boost food production.
Mr Goke Bamidele, the state Commissioner for Agriculture, told NAN in Ilorin that government considered farming a very important sector, which could generate revenue.
He added that the government would evolve policies to help generate credit facilities for farmers in the state.
Dr Folorunsho Olayemi, the Acting Director, Nigeria Stored Product Research Institute, admitted that challenges abound for farmers in the country.
According to him, Nigerians must not wait for government to always solve every problem in the diverse sectors for them.
He said the government could help farmers only by providing an environment conducive for farmers to operate.
``Where government can aid farmers is to make irrigation for them due to climate change; rainfall has reduced drastically and farmers are feeling the impact," he said.
Mr Steve Ojumu, the Secretary of the Sweet Potato Growers and Marketers Association in Kwara, lamented that herdsmen were the bane of their vocation.
Ojumu disclosed that cattle love to eat potato all the time and they usually destroy their crops and farmland.
``Herdsmen are our problem, they allow their cattle to stray into our farmland and eat up our potatoes, `` he said.
He told NAN that farmers were poor because they lack funding and finance to boost their work.
Mrs Iyabo Babatunde, a woman farmer in Asa Local Government Area of Kwara, noted that lack of access to farm inputs was hindering growth and production.
Another woman farmer in Kaiama, Kwara North Senatorial District, Memunat Yinusa, said farming was becoming difficult because government had acquired their land for the National Park.
She urged government to review its policy on the park and set aside some portions for farming.
Yinusa also enjoined government to provide them with the necessary agro-chemicals to deal with pests and ease their farming activities.
Meanwhile, a lawmaker, lshiaku Aliyu-Adams, has appealed to the Federal Government to introduce collateral free loans to farmers in order to have bumper harvest.
Aliyu-Adams, who is the Chairman, Kwara House of Assembly Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources, made the call while speaking with NAN.
He attributed the low level of agricultural activities in Nigeria to inability of genuine farmers to access loans from banks.
The legislator expressed optimism that the nation could achieve food sufficiency if agricultural activities were accorded high priority. (NAN)


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