Nigeria’s agricultural transformation cannot be realised through foreign direct investment and partnership alone, the former president, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Kanayo Nwanze, has said.
Mr Nwanze spoke in Lagos on Thursday at the International Conference and Expo on Research and Innovations in Agriculture (ICERIA), 2019 on the theme, “Harnessing Sustainable Agricultural Innovations for Economic Development.”
He said it depends on a combination of what the Nigerian citizens can do by themselves.
For any country to succeed, he said, the government, public and private sectors must partner and synergise efforts in business, research and policymaking.
“Development is not what somebody introduces into the country, or somebody does for you. Development is something you do for yourself.
“We should not expect Nigeria’s transformation to be brought out from foreign direct investment and partnership. We must do it ourselves,” he said
He categorised the private sector as the business community, the public sector as responsible for providing research information in all fields and the government as the policymaker.
Agriculture, he said, remains the largest employer of labour, adding that the youth can be encouraged to embrace agriculture if the government makes it attractive as an economic activity and money-making business.
He traced the travails of the agricultural sector to the discovery of oil, pointing out that the government needs to provide the enabling environment and put forward the right policies and institutions to grow the sector.
Mr Nwanze said research has a role to play in growing the sector, while the social scientists have to bear the responsibility of advising the government to develop sound policies.
“It is only when we can prove to the government that research, science and technology matter by taking the products of science and technology and making sure it did not only reach the farmers, but change lives that science would have an impact on the business community,” he said.
He stressed the need for the country to focus on innovations that matter to it, although he expressed fear that as long as agriculture is neglected and the youth uninterested in it, the rural population will continue to migrate to the urban areas.
The migration, he said, will result in a growing reduction in agriculture participation, and the youth ending up living in urban slums and becoming exposed to extremism and drugs.
“If the country does not begin to take action on these problems, our youthful and energetic population will become a sore point in our national development,” he warned.
To innovate the country’s agriculture sector, he said Nigeria create the market for agricultural products; rebuild some of the ancient agricultural farms and having long term approach towards farming.
Also, he said the country must take steps to mitigate post-harvest losses, construct and rehabilitate road networks and provide adequate finance through decentralization of the sector as well as the building of exclusive bank for it.
The Director-General, Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission, Seye Oyeleye, advised the government to make agriculture attractive, especially to young men and women, for them to see agriculture as an economic activity and as a money-making business like Aliko Dangote
Mr Oyeleye who noted that people were still thinking of agriculture as a hoe and cutlass activity, said agriculture has nothing to do with hoe and cutlass anymore.
“That is why we are talking about research and innovation in agriculture,” he said.
He cited the example of Israel growing food it sends to the world from a place that was a desert 70 years ago, while Netherland, an island, is the largest exporter of flour in the world.
Mr Oyelele said these countries were able to do that due to research and innovation in farming technology, wondering why Nigerians cannot do the same at home.