Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Agriculture and rural development

Verghese Kurien (1922-2012), father of the White Revolution, empowered Indian farmers through cooperatives. He democratised farming from the grassroots – through several institutions and based on his belief that “by placing technology and professional management in the hands of the farmers”, the lives of millions of poor people can be improved.

Kurien’s intriguing success story, captured in a film clip on Amul.com, pays tribute to him for making Indian agriculture of, by and for the farmer. It took Verghese Kurien to turn a barren land into one flowing with milk; an ordinary farmer into the owner of India’s largest dairy cooperative; to persuade farmers to accept their wives’ economic equality.

Nigerian youths can emulate Kurien’s dedication to farming. In 1979, Kurien founded the Institute of Rural Management whose mission is “to promote sustainable, ecologically-friendly, and equitable socio-economic development of rural people through professional management.” 80 percent to 90 percent of farmers in India are smallholders. For farmers with no more than a cow, Kurien turned India into the world’s largest producer of milk.

His model is one Nigeria, a developing country yet to tap its agricultural wealth, can replicate. Thankfully, 2012 has been designated by the UN as the year of cooperatives. Kurien’s “Operation Flood Programme, of which Milk Producers’ Cooperatives were the central plank, emerged as India’s largest rural employment programme.”

Kurien believed that India’s greatest asset was its people and dedicated his entire life to helping rural Indians to fully develop themselves. He put in place systems and institutions that harnessed the power of people to promote their larger interests.

The Presidential Special Scholarship Scheme for Innovation and Development (PRESSID) to sponsor outstanding students in science and technology for postgraduate studies in the top 25 universities in the world – and other initiatives like Tony Elumelu Foundation’s Agric Fellowship – can replicate the scholarship system that inadvertently led Kurien to stay in Anand, Gujarat. He was assigned to this backwater by the government to serve his bond period after completing his Masters degree in the US.

From the foregoing, it is imperative that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, coordinating minister for the economy and minister of finance; Lamido Sanusi, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); and Akinwunmi Adesina, minister of agriculture and rural development, work in tandem. Young Nigerians that benefit from government’s scholarship programme can be assigned to Nigeria’s high-potential breadbaskets. In these regions that straddle Nigeria, chances are that other Kuriens will revolutionise the cultivation and distribution of cotton, tomato, maize, cassava, soya beans, rice, cocoa, leather, palm oil and aquaculture, thereby transforming Nigeria’s agriculture.

It will take private and public cooperation to implement what CBN has identified as key policy requirements, i.e., the provision of inputs: fertiliser, seed, R&D, infrastructure, land use; cultivation: extension services and irrigation; logistics: storage and price stabilisation; and processing: cluster policy. These policies will complement education and training in rural development centres (preferably established by like-minded individuals, communities and non-government organisations, like the academies and free schools in the UK).
Original Article Here

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