Sunday, 30 November 2014

The dynamics of the agriculture have changed

In the last couple of years, Nigeria has witnessed a gradual growth of youth involvement in agriculture. RUTH OLUROUNBI caught up with one of the young players in the sector, Olawale Ojo, who insisted that agribusiness is fundamental to Nigeria’s economic development.
What is Agropreneur9ja and what do you people do?
Agropreneur Naija is one of the services rendered by an agribusiness enterprise called AGROPRENEUR Nigeria. Its focus is on young people who are either interested in agriculture or who are already into it. The main thrust of activities is to use social media to promote, sensitise and inform the youth about agriculture, the opportunities embedded in it and how they can successfully be part of the revolution in agribusiness across the world especially in Africa and by extension Nigeria.
How is Agropreneur9ja?
Agropreneur Naija has existed for two years and a half now with lot of advancement and achievements along the way.
What roles do you, as a young person in this sector, think the private sector needs to play to boost agribusiness in Nigeria?
The private sector has a huge role to play in Nigeria. They are numerous but let me highlight a few: They have the role of been in business. They shape they market by not only responding to demand but also ensure they set the standard to make the agribusiness environment favourable to all players; the private sector also have the role of driving change via their engagement with government and not for profit organisations and they also have the role of helping to shape policies.
Also, the private sector players are also to be friends of farmers, they are to provide them with quality input, financial literacy, technical training , linkages to market and also enhance technology adoption across the value chain.
We both know that the potential of the agriculture sector in Nigeria is huge. What I’d like for you to walk me through is how huge these potential and opportunities are. Could you do that for me please?
The potential for agricultural development in Nigeria is indeed huge. And this potential can only be seen when we take a value chain approach. Agriculture is not only about farming. Three fundamental things have been observed as achievements for countries that have put agriculture first- food security, wealth creation (economic stability at households) and employment for many.
To explore the potential we have in agriculture, let me use a crop we are all used to – rice.  To have what we eat at the end of the day a lot of activities and actors are involved. First, we look at the seed producers, the distributors and then retailers who in turn sell the seed to the farmers.
The farmers take up the seeds, buy farm inputs (agro chemicals, sprayers, fertilizer etc) they then have to prepare the land either manually or mechanically. People are paid wages to plant, at some point individuals are gotten to either weed or spray the field. Fast forward, individuals engage in harvesting, threshing and bagging.
To get it to the market, another set of individuals are involved in transporting the produce. The produce is either sold directly at the market or aggregators come to buy from the farmers. This then goes on to the factories where we have another set of individuals involved in the various processing stages from cleaning the paddy to bagging the final produce that comes to our tables via distributors, retailers and market women and men.
This is just when we look at the farming sector, we have not explored the research world, academics, extension services, storage, export etc. The dynamics of the agriculture world has changed and we no longer live in a time when a farmer produces for himself and some for sales. The environment has become competitive with the need to link farmers to markets, in a business oriented and demand driven approach to be able to meet the needs of globalization, rapid urbanisation, rising incomes and changing diets. Thus you see that there is lot of potential for us.
As a player in the agric sector, what, in your views, are needed to strengthen the sector in terms of production, technology and personnel?
To strengthen, the sector more work needs to be done in research, linking research to the field or farmers, enhancing adaptation of these technologies via trainings, proper extension service is a must to. Aside this mechanisation has to be given a priority. If we want to meet the rising demand and also ensure we have the next generation of farmers (youth) on board then we cannot continue with the hoe and cutlass method.  Agriculturist need to have access to technologies and machines to enhance productivity across the value chain. Cottage industries need to be put in place in rural communities. ICT for agriculture needs to be implemented at all levels of the value chain.
The public sector will have to serve as enablers for the private sectors. Ensure research and development is given priority, Provision of infrastructures to enhance productivity these includes irrigation, rural roads, storage facilities etc. Favorable policies also need to be put in place and implemented. The private sector also have the role of ensuring they are not profit driven only but that their delivery be it product or services are of best quality and meets the need of their market.
As a company we are involved both in animal and crop production. Coupled with advocacy and capacity building of young farmers as we believe they have the role of taking agriculture in Nigeria to the next level.
From your perspective, do you think agribusiness is the only way of increasing and developing Nigeria’s economy?
Agribusiness is fundamental but not the only thing needed. We need continuous quality research; we need to have our universities filled with academician that know not just text book agriculture. Policy makers also need to be up and doing. Extension service needs to be enhanced to meet the needs of the sector. The financial institutions also need to step up to the reality of the agriculture sector. Effect regulatory system and agencies have to be functional across the value chain (it is food thus health and nutrition needs attention).
Agribusiness will only succeed and be sustainable when other features are being enhance and implemented. All these can only be achieved when there is close collaboration between both the private and public sectors; the public by providing enabling environment, while the private drives the market. 

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