By Jonathan Nda-Isaiah and JOSEPH CHIBUEZE, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday reiterated the commitment of his administration to ensure self-sufficiency in food production and stability in prices of commodities in the country.
The president stated when launched the Outgrow Hunger, Nigeria campaign, an initiative of a non-governmental organisation, Agricultural Agenda Nigeria Initiative (AANI), founded by Mr Ephraim Odemwingie.
The campaign was launched on World Food Day, observed on October 16 every year, even as this year also commemorates the 75th anniversary of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), with the theme: ”Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together. Our Actions Are Our Future”
Welcoming the campaign by the AANI, President Buhari declared that the objectives and strategies of Outgrow Hunger, Nigeria complement government’s policies, programmes and efforts on food security.
A statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, quoted the president as saying: ”We are all familiar with the many factors that have constrained efforts to ensure self-sufficiency in food production in the country, leading to the present situation of fluctuating prices of foodstuffs.
”Despite the best efforts that have been made, the challenges persist. But so have we, as a government, persisted in finding solutions, guided by the strong belief that, with the natural and human resources our country is endowed with, starvation is inexcusable”.
The president affirmed that in rising to the challenges, his administration believes in the efficacy of shared responsibilities because the issue of food security affects everyone.
”As the saying goes, a hungry person is an angry person. No country can afford a population of hungry people,” he said.
President Buhari directed relevant government ministries, departments and agencies to explore opportunities from the perspectives of their different mandates to support the campaign.
He also called on relevant agencies of State and local governments to join in the campaign to keep its momentum alive during its two-year span.
Informing the organisers that he was looking forward to personal participation in the campaign, Buhari said, ” Together, we must outgrow hunger in Nigeria. It is in our common interest to do so.”
FG, Farmers To Engage 75,000 Extension Service Workers
Meanwhile, the federal government has approved the employment of 75,000 extension service workers to service farmers across the country.
Interim caretaker president of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Alhaji Farouk Rabiu Mudi, who disclosed this in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP Weekend in Abuja, noted that the government took the decision to address the abysmal shortage of extension services workers in Nigeria.
He said, “I was the one that wrote to the ministry of agriculture informing the minister that extension workers in the country are too small. When the minister saw our papers, he ordered the extension services department to show him the statistics, when he saw the numbers, he almost wept. We have less than 14,000 extension workers in Nigeria. How can you distribute them?”
He explained that it was based on the recommendation of the minister that the approval for the recruitment of 75,000 extension services workers was given by the presidency.
He said Nigeria needs to get serious with its agricultural policies and programmes if it hopes to achieve food security for the citizens.
In his words: “Except we change this charade we are doing in the form of funding of agriculture and government puts in more efforts and more money into agriculture, we will continue to be hungry.
“We need to solve some critical problems affecting agriculture especially the issue of mechanisation. The way we are handling farming in Nigeria is basically manual. That can no longer work in this age and time, we need to move with time. Mechanisation will greatly reduce the cost of production and make farming more profitable for our farmers and make food cheap for our people.
“Another thing that we need to address and take serious is the issue of irrigation. We need to encourage farmers to go into dry season farming; that is the only way we can reduce the losses arising from this perennial flooding that we are having every year. As an experienced farmer, I farm more during the dry season because that is when I can control the volume of water in my farm. If we concentrate on the irrigation method, I believe, we would produce more.”
He further pointed out that during his tenure as AFAN president, his concern was to ensure that farmers take their destiny in their hands.
He continued: “How can we take over the driving seat and drive our business? I want us to take advantage of the Anchor Borrowers Programme to lower the cost of production so that food can become cheap.
“If the food produced in this country can compete with the imported ones on the basis of price or is even cheaper than the imported ones, nobody will go and buy the imported one.
“That is what I am fighting for, trying to get the government to get these inputs to the farmers so as to lower their cost of production and even attract the youths into farming”.