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Author Topic: Agriculture is Nigeria's way out of the woods, says IITA boss  (Read 3066 times)
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Francis Umeoguaju
Expert in Bioscience Issues
Posts: 657

« on: September 13, 2011, 09:02:58 am »

Agriculture is one of Nigeria's most powerful tools for addressing its goals of creating more employment, better public health, and greater economic growth. Peter Hartmann, Director General of the Ibadan-based International Institute of Tropical Agriculture has said.
Speaking at the monthly lecture series of the National Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER) in Ibadan on Wednesday, Mr Hartmann, with his presentation titled "Forging an economic transformation: the role of agricultural research and productivity", demonstrated how the transformation of agriculture would stimulate small- and medium-sized industries, widely acknowledged as the engine of economic growth.
According to the eminent agricultural scientist, the need to focus on agriculture stems from the fact that the sector accounts for 70 percent of the people in Nigeria' rural areas, the growing demand for food and, more importantly, the about 44 percent contribution of agriculture to the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Mr Hartmann however cautioned that achieving economic transformation would require more investments in agricultural research and development and the development of infrastructure. He also said that Nigeria needs to build its defence against biological threats to crops, "just as is being done for the military".

He noted that agriculture in Nigeria in recent decades has been a neglected sector, adding that gains have been constrained by weak institutions and inadequate infrastructure. "These constraints are well known. Less known are the limited application of technologies, the low skill base in the sector, and its aging population. The young are fleeing rural areas and the production side of the sector. Similarly, financial institutions view the agricultural sector as risky and so it receives a very small portion of commercial credit," he said.

According to him, getting the young interested in agriculture and developing a supportive financial system to facilitate the access of farmers, traders, and processors to credit could go a long way in addressing several national needs.
He described the agricultural setting in Nigeria as "dynamic," explaining that the problems and challenges facing the sector could be turned to profits.
For instance, the postharvest losses in Nigeria could be turned around with more processing of what farmers harvest.
Further, the IITA boss called on Nigeria to depend less on development partners, to move from comparative agricultural production to competitive production, to improve human capital, and to tap into the vast human resources available-the youths-for development.

The Director General of NISER, Olufemi Taiwo, a social science professor, said the lecture was timely, considering government's efforts at repositioning agriculture as a prime mover for Nigeria's growth and development.
Mr Taiwo, who was represented by Femi Olokesusi, said that the transformation of agriculture would bring many benefits to the country, like reduction in the level of unemployment and conservation of foreign exchange, among others.
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