Agricultural productivity in Nigeria continues to face several challenges ranging from limited adoption of research findings and technologies to low level of irrigation development, among others.
As reported by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), agriculture remains the foundation of the Nigerian economy.
Unfortunately, the mechanised agricultural production, storage system and preservation of agricultural production have been abandoned for tempting local and foreign income of oil revenue generated from oil sale.
Now that unemployment is biting so hard across the country, the need to pay adequate attention to the agriculture sector as it offers unlimited opportunities for job and wealth creation as well as accelerated economic and industrial growth cannot be overemphasised.
To reverse this trend and push for a transformation in the nation’s agricultural sector, the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) is emphasising the need for massive investment in agriculture that will not only ensure food security but also address the troubling question of unemployment.
Therefore, the Fund is currently sponsoring many scholars in Brazil with the sole objective of under-studying their Agricultural Revolution Policy and its impact on the national economy.
Recently, it struck a partnership deal with Brazil and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) at the First Agricultural Research and Innovation Fellowship for Africa (ARIFA) Symposium, held at Federal University of Viçosa, Brazil.
TETFund partnership with the parties is to build strategic competencies in Agricultural Research for Development (AR4D) by leveraging on the best practice of the South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC) strategy of FARA.
FARA’s Agricultural Research and Innovation Fellowship for Africa (ARIFA) has been supporting the training of Nigerian academic staff to undertake tailor-made MSc programs In Various fields of sciences related to agriculture at Universidade Federal de Viçosa (UFV)-Federal University of Viposa.
ARIFA was launched at the 7th Brazil-Africa Forum in São Paulo, Brazil, in November of 2019, under the leadership of Nigeria’s Minister of State for Education, Barrister Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, and the Ghanaian Ambassador to Brazil, Professor Abena Busia.
Speaking recently in Abuja during a roundtable meeting on the implementation of ARIFA in Nigeria the TETFund boss, Arc Sonny Echono re emphasised the importance of agriculture in addressing unemployment in Nigeria, while enjoining the vice chancellors to put more energy for actualisation of agriculture transformation.
He said, “My charge to you is to make this a personal mission because I’m very confident that if we get it right in agriculture in this country half of our problems will be solved because it is the easiest means of creating jobs.
“Most of those who are being recruited into banditry, who are being recruited into the insurgency, if they are able to work on the land they will perhaps prefer to do that.
“And if we can find modern ways of doing things that will significantly improve revenue because as the yield increases, of course revenues increase and it makes it more attractive.
“As we adopt new technology, develop our mechanization and irrigation we will found opportunities through commercial agriculture and we will be able to absorb the graduates that will produce because most of the issue if you notice, more than 60 percent of those who graduate with agriculture go on to do other things with their lives because we don’t have commercial farming that can absorb this workforce we produced.
“But as we develop the sector, then the demand for personnel in that sector will increase and we will be in position to also improve our revenue.
“There are countries that depend solely on agriculture and they are doing very well and it is the one resource that God has blessed us with.
“I enjoin you to take this message and take this issue very seriously. There may be few mistakes along the line but we should correct ourselves. We should operationalize the centers of excellence as quickly as we can,” the ES added.
Echono said Nigeria can learn a lot from Brazil through partnership given their track record in the area of agriculture, saying that everything is built through national food security and it is the responsibility of all of us to ensure that happens.
The drive to ensure total transformation in the agriculture sector has earned the executive secretary the most prestigious medal of honour award by the Forum FARA in recognition of the executive secretary’s continued effort to support agricultural transformation in Nigeria through Science.
Echono received the award in Accra, Ghana, at the extraordinary steering committee meeting of the Agricultural Research, and Innovation Fellowship for Africa (ARIFA) for his outstanding support and vision for implementing the blueprint of Agricultural Research and Development by the African Union for Nigeria.
He pledged his continued drive to support the agricultural transformation while expressing his commitment to expanding the number of fellows to at least 500, given the encouraging footprint of the programme.
“An Architect by training and well-established agribusiness entrepreneur, he comes to his current position with strong accolades and solid footprints in the Agricultural sector. As the erstwhile Permanent Secretary of Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Arc Echono demonstrated a commendable support for the efforts of FARA as the Capacity Development Cluster with accelerated vigour.
“You are the first recipient of this kind of honour, so it is my pleasure to give it to you in recognition of what you did for us in the past and what you are doing now. It is very inspiring for us,” says Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo, the executive director of FARA.