In a bid to stem the huge loss from agricultural output from which Nigeria lost $10 Billion in the past 20 years, plans are currently afoot to raise the country’s food and export output through an innovation programme of injecting new inputs to boost production tagged the N2Africa project.
A Senior Development Officer of the project at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, IITA, Edward Baars, stated this to the News Agency of Nigeria in an interview in Abuja, Wednesday, where a stakeholders’ meeting to review the level of performance of the Public-Private Partnerships in terms of technology dissemination to farmers is holding.
The N2Africa Project is a research innovation to expand output capacity of Nigeria’s agriculture by increasing biological nitrogen fixation and the productivity of grain legumes among smallholder farmers.
In the past 20 years, researchers believe that Nigeria lost about $10 billion in annual export opportunity because value-added per capita in agriculture only rose by less than one per cent annually.
Explaining how the new input practice will work, Mr. Baars said: “We are working towards setting up an information centre, where farmers in their comfort can get relevant information on new inputs. This will be the most efficient information distribution hub to farmers. Farmers can call or send us voice messages anytime they have any challenges. With the system available, every farmer can manage his/her supply chain because private sector inputs supplier has been sitting on the fence without direct contact with farmers.
“As a mode of implementation approach, the project (N2Africa) has developed a public-private partnership with legume value chain actors to achieve the project’s vision,” Mr. Baars, stated, adding that “the vision includes knowledge transfer, legume technology dissemination, access to input and output.’’
He noted that “Most times, farmers cannot access input; they do not have money to buy inputs and we do not know what their demands are”, as such “to close that gap on information, these are some of the efforts we are making to make the system work.’’
Even though agriculture still remains the largest sector of the Nigerian economy and employs two-thirds of the entire labour force, the FAO has consistently argued that production hurdles have significantly stifled the performance of the sector.
Mr. Baars added that the N2Africa project would in turn help to enhance soil fertility, improve household nutrition, and increase the income of smallholder farmers.
“The project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is designed to ensure that the benefits of legumes are impacting positively on rural livelihoods and their production environment.
He said that significant progress had been made on the use of inoculants and fertilisers because soybean and cowpea production had increased in six pilot states in the country.
In a related development, a development association in Kaduna State is promoting new scientific storage techniques and technology by using a solar powered dryer panel to overcome post-harvest losses among local farmers to reduce farm produce losses due to lack of processing machines in rural area.
Research findings indicate that 80 per cent of agricultural production in Nigeria is wasted food due to poor and proper storage.
Yahaya Ahmed , the Director of the group, Developmental Association for Renewable Energy in Nigeria, DARE, during the panel inauguration at Sabon Garin Ba’awa in Makarfi Local Government, Kaduna State, stated that “the solar powered dryer was introduced to the rural farmers through a revolving fund”.
“Our target is to reduce the quantum of food crops being damaged and the attendant financial losses incurred by farmers. The dryer has an efficacy period of 25 years and farmers can use it to dry all their farm produce such as tomatoes, pepper, ginger, mangoes, in both rainy and dry seasons within few hours,” he said.