VIEW POINTS

In this part of my blog, i share my view point on various happenings in ARD especially in Nigeria and Africa

THE ROAD TO 2030: ERADICATING POVERTY AND ACHIEVING SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION .


adeI wrote this article for the 2016 International Youth Day and it was first published on Rural Reporter’s website

Mallam Audu works out of the agro shop smiling. He has just purchased all the input for this season’s planting and also got his 30 minutes advisory session from the agro dealer. Two thousand kilometers away, Mr Obi takes delivery of fresh tubers of yams; two bunches of plantain and a basket of tomatoes just 20 minutes after ordering from a mobile app.  The roads leading to Thai community are now well paved and the first textile factory is up and running with quality cotton supplied by farmers in the community. Aba is now home of quality textile with exports to the other regions of Africa. You might wonder, when did all these happen? The year is 2030.

Of course many will say, “These are just wishful thinking and dreams”. They are however very achievable. The role young people in Nigeria, and indeed Sub Sahara Africa, have to play to make all the above a reality cannot be over-emphasised. Little wonder then that this year’s International Youth Day focuses on three fundamental elements –eradicating poverty, achieving sustainable production and consumption by the year 2030. While a whole lot goes into achieving these, agriculture and agribusiness plays a major role. It is also one of the few sectors that can conveniently engage young people solving issues related to hunger, mal-nutrition, unemployment and ultimately food security.

THE ROAD TO 2030

Much is needed to achieve this goal it is however achievable. This article highlight 3 kick off steps needed to achieve this by 2030. It is important to note though that actions are required from now to make this reality To start with, an all inclusive stakeholder consultation is needed. This consultation will involve both public and private sector in agriculture, the farmers, youths and women, donor organizations ,research institutes, health care organization and other organizations or agency that play a role in the agriculture value chain to mention a few. The purpose of this consultation will be to have a holistic need assessment of what is needed to improve and transform agriculture. It will also be an avenue to priotize key focus areas and synergize across board on steps to take to achieve the set goal.

One of the fundamental outcomes expected from this consultation should be a clearly defined value chain transformation road map for each key commodities and agricultural services. A consultation usually ends with a long list of needs to be address and responsibilities to be shared. Due diligence needs to be done to this to ensure every one knows the role they have to play and in what areas of the sector.

It is on the basis of these that required increased investment need to be provided. The Feed Africa Report by the African Development Bank clearly stated that Africa requires US$315bn- US$400bn to realize the Sustainable Development Goals on poverty and ending hunger. It is thus imperative that consistent and purposeful effort be made to provide funding to transforming agriculture and it value chain. This should start with increased allocation of budget to agriculture and related sectors by the governments. It is also important that the government allows the private sector handle the job of running agribusiness while they focus on issues like regulation, health care, research, infrastructure to mention but a few.

Young people are dynamic and energetic. They are also not blinded to the challenges and pressures of the times we live in and as such might not be quickly drawn to engaging in agriculture as they believe that a white collar career in other sectors will provide a better life for them. Of course not every one will be in the agriculture sector. It is however important to note that more than ever before the sector needs intelligent, hardworking, smart and entrepreneurial young men and women to engage in the various aspect of the value chain. It is thus important that changing young people’s perception toward agriculture be given attention.

To succeed in this, a couple of things need to be done

  • Improving the lifestyle of existing smallholders to reflect success by helping them do agribusiness rather than just farming
  • Promoting the success of young people who are doing well in agribusiness
  • Parents and educational institutions promoting from an early age importance of growing ones food through backyard farming and school gardening
  • A joint collaboration by the public and private sector to fund scholarships to study agriculture and to provide grants and loans to young people with ideas in agriculture and agribusiness These kick off steps needs intentional efforts from all involved.

There is no folding of hands and waiting to be spoon fed. Youth, need to get involved in shaping the future they want for themselves. Join in policy discussion, partner with others in areas of interest in agriculture and agribusiness, be ready to learn and get trained if needs be. Display qualities of hard work, honesty and endurance to achieve set goals. If opportune to get funding please use wisely for intended purpose.

 

2030 is not far off from us. As a young person are you prepared to take needed steps to achieve these goals. We all should take sometime to think about this and see areas we can contribute. A little bit of effort will collectively yield good results. . – See more at: http://ruralreporters.com/the-road-to-2030-eradicating-poverty-and-achieving-sustainable-production-and-consumption/ | Rural Reporters

ROLE OF AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY IN DEVELOPING ECONOMIES 2

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According to Wikipedia (2006) a developing society is one with relatively low standard of living, undeveloped industrial base and moderate to low human development index (HDI)

Chassy (2003) reported that 800 – 850 million people are malnourished, more than 200million of these are children, many of whom will never reach their full intellectual and physical potential, another 1-1.5 billion humans have only marginally better access to food and often do not consume balanced diet containing sufficient quantities of all required nutrients and majority of this nutritionally at risk population live in developing countries and this number will grow as human population growth is  ever on the increase. The question now is how will Agriculture carter for this pending problem of food shortage and the expected increase in nutritionally at risk people while maintaining a healthy environment and biodiversity? Will it be by expanding cultivated land area? Or by increasing the use of inputs? How friendly are these practices to the environment? It can only be achieved through crop and livestock improvements (Biotechnology) as stated by an international conference of experts convened World by the Bank, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the food and agriculture organization (FAO) in 1992.

Biotechnology has prospects to remedy the problem of food shortage as research in this field aims to develop plant varieties that provide reliable high yield, at the same or lower costs by breeding in qualities such as resistance to diseases, pest and stress factors which will contribute gainfully to food production while maintaining a healthy environment by reducing the amount of fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides used in farming. These shows clearly that biotechnology seeks to improve Agricultural practices by making it cost effective, increase productivity and bridging other gaps which pose serious challenges to Agriculture. These gains will lead to capacity building, create numerous jobs, and reduce poverty as well as ending malnutrition. Annon (2002) reported that the United Nations Economic and Social commission for western Asia Cooperation with International Labour Organization (ILO) sought to identify the best approach for regional capacity building in new  technology to improve employment rate, sustainable development and poverty alleviation in developing Arab Nations came to a conclusion that identifying new technologies, adopting, regulating and implementing them will serve the purpose for national economic and social development. In the report, it was emphasized that countries that adopt a better approach to the four novel technologies of biotechnology, genetic engineering, biomaterials and informatics will develop a better capacity for economic and social development than their counterparts.

It becomes very pertinent in this era of dwindling oil prices and mass unemployment that Nigeria incorporates biotechnology into its agricultural programme as the Present administration seeks to savor the economy by diversifying it to Agriculture which promises to be the best substitute. It should however be noted that for Agriculture to be worthwhile, appropriate technologies (Biotechnology) must be employed rather than relying on the very crude techniques that will not carter for the present day challenges posed to Agriculture e.g. Climate change, erosion and leaching of farm lands, arid and unfertile lands etc.

LIMITATIONS/PUBLIC PERCEPTION

It is obvious that to meet the food demand in a developing economy like ours using a novel technology like biotechnology requires meeting a number of social, political, economic and technical challenges.

We are thankful to the Nigerian Government for passing the biosafety bill into law, establishing the National Biosafety Management Agency; however we still experience a major problem of social acceptability, which I know is a misconception a majority of the Nigerian populace holds about biotechnology and GM products. In a survey carried out in my 4thyear in 2012, it showed that 85% of Nigerians don’t know what biotechnology entails but have their own personal philosophies in the best ways it appeals to their knowledge, and their knowledge is only associated with the negatives of biotechnology . It should however be stressed that biotechnology is a household name for everything  that has to do with manipulation of living things ranging from the very simple process of alcohol fermentation to cloning of plants and animals. It should also be known that genetic engineering; transgenic organisms are quite different from cloning and cloned organisms. It should also be known that they is no innovation that lacks disadvantages, just like cars, airplanes, electricity had  their advantages and disadvantages so also is biotechnology. Owing to the fact that the advantages of this innovations outweighs the disadvantages, policies, regulatory bodies are constituted to regulate this innovation within the confines of its advantages while on the other hand greatly reducing the disadvantages, this is no exception with biotechnology as the National Biotechnology Management Agency (NBMA) was constituted to regulate the activities of biotechnology, and they will deliver on this core objective. In criticizing biotechnology and its products, we should offer a hard-look rather than our personal philosophies as the problem of social acceptance is a major setback to the proliferation of this technology in Nigeria.

The economic and technical issues relate to funding of biotechnology researches, infrastructure for researches and manpower to put this technology into practice, since it is novel and the practice within the country is small scale. This however have discouraged individuals from venturing into this field of study as it is assumed to have very grim opportunities for its graduates and practitioners, but we have faith owing to the importance attached to this discipline that our well-meaning, experienced and exposed leaders will tap into the potentials of this discipline providing funding which will result in the training of personnel to adequately fit into this field.

CONCLUSION

Agricultural biotechnology will be a major part of the solution to the problem of increasing food demand while at the same time conserving biodiversity. It has been shown to improve yield around the world especially in developing countries and this increased yield will spare land for natural ecosystems to co-exist with agro ecosystems, improve GDP, generate income, create employments and consequently greatly reduce poverty and malnutrition which is the bane of developing countries. We implore Nigeria to join other developing and developed nations who have resorted to biotechnology on the basis of their needs and empirical based reports on biotechnology products by open minded, well-meaning scientist rather than taking queues behind developed countries who don’t have the need we have, who don’t suffer what we suffer, who have adopted the technology with respect to their own needs and claim the entire technology is not safe. We therefore call on individuals, opinion leaders, students, policy makers, authorities in the agriculture sector, private sector, sister and supporting MDAs like the ministry of information, national orientation agency, ministry of science and technology, ministry of finance, ministry of environment to partner with the National Biotechnology development agency to achieve its objectives of promoting and implementing evidence based science and technology of which agricultural biotechnology is cardinal.

You can read the part one here

Written by Opuah Abiekwen(abeikwen@yahoo.com) Graduate of Biotechnology and Genetics, University of Calabar

THOUGHT FOR FOOD CHALLENGE- An enabler for sustainable food security

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More than ever before the issue of food security is a priority for us all. Day in day out around the world researchers, scientists, policy makers and stakeholder from various sectors even outside the agriculture sphere are working hard to proffer sustainable solution to the issue of food security. They are in labs, workshops, meetings to conceptualize solution and map out way forward. Many of these ones are old and are doing these activities not just because of the 10 -30 years or less they have to live but because they are also concerned about what becomes of the future generation( young people like myself and the child unborn). They have a lingering question at heart

BY 2050 WHAT WILL THE OVER 9BILLON PEOPLE FEED ON?

Have you thought of this yourself? Have you got some ideas in your head on how things can be made better? Have you been discussing this with a group of friends a week or two back? Have you wondered about how you can contribute to this burning issue even though you are just a student? I HAVE GOODNEWS FOR YOU

For the past 2 years, young people, students from around the world have gathered to pitch ideas and solution to the issue of feeding the world in a sustainable and environmentally manner. They have met at what is known as the “Thought for Food” Summit. They meet here not to just pitch, they network, prize money is won and of course they party to their success. Watch this video that highlights last year’s event

This year will not be am exception as the THOUGHT FOR FOOD CHALLENGE is again open to student teams to sign up for this prestigious competition with over 10000 USD to be won. I personally have followed the #TFFChallenge for two years and I can tell you these three things

  • It is absolutely worth all the effort
  • I have not seen a team from West Africa or Nigeria qualified to the top ten teams that are able to pitch their ideas at the #TFFSummit.
  • This year provides an opportunity for teams of students in Nigeria and West Africa to show case their ideas and get the chance to pitch their idea

So what needs to be done?

The TFFChallenge allows for university students (Undergraduate-Phd) from all field of study to explore and generate sustainable ideas that can help feed the world. Take for example in 2014 the team FoPo Food Power from the Lund University Sweden came up with the idea to convert unsellable and almost expiring food into food powder with dozens of uses including space mission, humanitarian aids and lot more. The powder has a longer shelf life than fresh produce and preserves nutritional qualities, properties and taste. This team came out as runner up and went home with $5000.

I am absolutely certain that the teaming number of youth in universities in Nigeria can definitely come up with an idea worthwhile and the TFFChallenge gives you the place to showcase it.

Here is what is needed

  • Sign up on www.tffchallenge.com
  • Form your team of 3-5 students from different fields,
  • Begin the TFF Challenge and develop your Project.
  • All project development and submission is due by Dec 1 2015 as finalist will be announced on the 15th of December 2015.

We all have a role as young people to contribute to the kind of future we want for ourselves and the generation to come. And this competition is one avenue to do so.

Personally I encourage all Nigerian students who are innovative and have got great ideas to team up and sign up for the TFFChallenge.

For more guidance download the student info pack here

WASTE MANAGEMENT: A KEY IN SOLVING CLIMATE CHANGE AND SUSTAINABLE LIVING.

Waste Management
Nigeria is a great country with lot of resources that can keep the country in a very high standard of economy. A lot of people Nigerians look at these resources and think it’s something that they can only misused and get away with. Rather we can make use of this potential and make our community a better environment for all citizens.
According to Wikipedia, “Waste management is the “generation, prevention, characterization, monitoring, treatment, handling, reuse and residual disposition of solid wastes”. There are various types of solid waste including municipal (residential, institutional, commercial), agricultural, and special (health care, household hazardous wastes, sewage sludge).”
As we know Climate Change is a big deal and a time bomb to our environment which it has eaten deep into Nigeria’s environment. We also know that the government is already faced with many things concerning the well being of the people which leads to selfish reason of mismanaging the climate change fund separated for the use of the citizen. With this position I see it as a need to call on the present government and Nigerian’s in Diasporas to all help us to call for what the country is facing.
As a Climate Change activist I am using this platform to #Call4Climate solution with a way of tapping into Waste Management opportunities. Climate change is emerging as a major challenge for every community and the basic processes of climate change are, by now, well understood the changes are set to accelerate in the future, bringing diverse, severe impacts around the world, much of the warming is due to human emissions of greenhouse gases, and the world is warming.
How do we make people feel waste management isn’t a problem but a solution to climate change?
Most people in Lagos Nigeria have no idea why there is such a fuss about waste management. People are mainly motivated by what they get in return. Once they tap into waste management, they notice all the other benefits – cleanliness, less flooding, less disease… and then they understand why it’s a good idea to carry on doing it. From a good example of a company in Nigeria called Wecyclers, they have been doing great work in making use of the Waste and recycle it to make a better society and not only that they als0 help the people to make money from it for sustainable leaving.
Waste Management can be of help to curb the issue of Climate Change and we still make a sustainable living for all. Waste management tools should be directed towards the effective mitigation of Green House Gases (GHG) and the provision of sustainable co-benefits.
Moreover, waste prevention, minimization, material recovery, recycling and reuse represent a growing potential for indirect reduction of Green House Gases (GHG) emissions, through decreased waste generation, lower raw material consumption, reduced energy demand and fossil fuel substitution or avoidance.
The most important issue for Nigeria is post-consumer waste which could be a renewable energy resource, where the value is exploited through biomass production, anaerobic digester biogas, thermal processes and even through landfill gas utilization. My dedication towards this cause also makes me to be part of different initiatives to practice what I say with my support to different organization to make this happen. Education is a key to push sustainable environment through waste management.
There are plenty of important things that we should know about waste management and disposal in order to ensure that we are safe, as well as that Nigerian’s are keeping the environment safe. It is our choices and tasks our government to know how we will dispose of waste. However it is always in our best interest to take a look at all of the options that we have available before making the choice of sustainable living.

Blog post by
Olumide Idowu
Campaigner Specialist
Climate Wednesday
olumide@climatewed.org
@OlumideIDOWU

Six tips for Nigerian banks to help financing agriculture

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As I sat in the e-conference Hall of the Kenya School of Monetary Studies, the venue for the 2nd African Continental Briefing organized as part of the Fin4Ag Conference: Revolutionising Finance for Agri-value chains, I could not but help listen attentively as Esther Muiruri, the General Manager Marketing and Communications, from Equity Bank gave the presentation on “Banking Agriculture in the Eastern African Region”. As she spoke, all I could say to myself was “These are the things the banks in Nigeria should be doing to finance agriculture”.

Today I am going to share the 6 things done by the Equity Bank in East Africa, that in my view, I believe Nigerian Banks will find helpful if implemented both for them as a business and for the beneficiaries (players in the agric sector).

  1. Understand the client: the risks in agriculture are not perception, they are realities. As a matter of fact, there are some conditions that the farmers absolutely have no control over. Thus, it is important that bank understand the farmers, the peculiarity of their business, be it cropping or animal production. What this does is to enable the banks develop and offer products and services tailored to the need of the client.
  2. Know the kind of value chain the client is into: This helps the banks identify and know the players in the sector the client is. Who are the buyers? What is demand like? How effective are the other players in the chain.
  3. Recruiting Agric based employee: The Equity Bank, according to Esther Muiruri, ensures they employed people with agricultural knowledge base and this helps them to have people on the ground who can relate to the feelings of the farmers, and more importantly, build a relationship with clients (farmers/growers), that in turn, aid to serve as a risk mitigation strategy. These employees are of course trained in money management and finance.
  4. Offering trainings for farmers: these trainings help the banks to understand better the activities of the farmers in terms of their growing cycle and practices. It also help to get feedbacks and monitor the progress of the farmers and other value chain player throughout the season.
  5. Provision of financial training programme: The farmers are given financial education to aid their businesses and also encourage them to save so as to be able to have access to investment money from the bank.
  6. Partnership: To be able to serve their client well, the bank partners with relevant organisations like AGRA, IFAD, input dealers, commodity buyers and this enables them know the acceptable standards, new best practices and technology available.

To be able to finance the agriculture value-chain, fund providers must understand what goes on in the agricultural system. Sitting in offices and waiting for client will not help. Activities need to be on the ground. Banks need to be in the shoes of the farmers, growers and agribusiness owners to know and meet their needs. And the only way to achieve this is by building relationships and going all the way out to provide tailored services and products for farmers and relevant value chain players.

Will the Nigerian Banks take up this task and make changes that will help in revolutionising agriculture and agribusiness? Will they contribute in removing so many smallholders out of poverty helping them increase their income and be better player in agribusiness? Only time will tell..

Photo credit: C. Schubert/CCAFS

First Published here

Increased agricultural investments in Africa, an absolute necessity

 

Ten years ago, African leaders peered into the future and decided to plan ahead. They agreed to invest at least 10% of their national budgets into Agriculture in what is called the Maputo Declaration. Unfortunately, so far, only a handful of countries have lived up to that promise.

These include Ghana, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali and Burkina-Faso. Others, in contrast, are yet to fulfill this agreement. Nigeria, for example, has reduced its allocation annually, with a mere 1.47% allocated to agriculture in the year 2014. The question, therefore, is what needs to be done?

Poverty, hunger, food insecurity and wastage are sadly characteristics that African countries – like Nigeria my country – all have in common. This is indeed sad because Africa is blessed with all we require to feed ourselves and the rest of the world. Aside this is the increasing youth unemployment that is becoming an increasing burden to our economies. All these are issues we all know and have many times discussed. But of course we cannot keep dwelling on problems.

Less talk, more action

So let’s talk about solutions. In my opinion, the examples of successful African countries need to be studied carefully and, if possible, copied. The viable policies, implementation plans, programs and projects underpinning these successes should be replicated especially among countries in the same region with similar socioeconomic conditions. There is also a need to move from paying lip service to actions that show a true sense of commitment to agricultural investment. As a young person I must mention the need for viable empowerment programmes for the youth in agriculture.

Solutions driven policies

Governments need to pay attention to the next generation of farmers who are highly energetic and also interestingly trying to find a path in the sector. This will also help dispel some of the negative impressions around agriculture. Our leaders need to develop solution driven policies that will create an enabling environment for these young people looking to create a future through farming.

They also need to develop partnerships and collaborations with the private sector for the capacity-building of youth and women in agriculture, develop the value chain, improve access to market locally, regionally and globally. Governments also need to be proactive in providing infrastructure that make rural economies beneficial for agri-producers and other rural dwellers. Of course a better ICT-driven extension service that will let all players in the sector have prompt access to needed information is also of high importance.

In investing in agriculture, African countries have a lot to benefit. Poverty alleviation, massive employment generation, women empowerment, foreign exchange and trade, quality nutrition for citizens and of course the ability to not only feed themselves but others. Doing agriculture by increasing investment in the sector should not be an option; it is indeed a necessity that must be paid attention to more than ever before. Our leaders need to move on from just admitting agriculture is important but also take all required action to increase investment and transform the sector. They just have to DO AGRIC.

This blog post by the author was first published on the ONE Campaign website

ONE is campaigning for African leaders to keep their promises to invest in Agriculture. Join the campaign and sign our DO Agric petition now.

Agric Engineer uses ICT to provide support services to farmers

Yet again, BusinessDay Nigeria, sheds some light into my activities as a youth in Agriculture in the Wednesday 24th April 2014 edition of the newspaper. Spare a  few minutes and read below this piece by Yinka Alawode of Businessday

A young Chief Executive of Agropreneur Nigeria runs his family piggery farm and combines it with his knowledge of Agriculture and ICT to provide business support services to farmers.

Olawale Ojo has a degree in Agricultural Engineering from the Federal University of Technology Akure and a Diploma in Integrated Farming Systems from the Songhai Centre for Production, Training, and Research, Port Novo, Benin Republic.

His inspiration came after his course at the Songhai Centre, which served as an eye opener to him as he worked with other youths planning to launch agribusinesses.

He started Agropreneur Nigeria April 2012. The business provides business support services to farmers, especially young agriculturists. The firm also does advocacy and capacity building for young people. “We believe the future of the agricultural sector is in the hands of the youths when they take it as a business. So, we work on changing the mindset of young people and in turn provide information and business support to help them grow,” says Ojo.

To achieve this, Agropreneur Nigeria profiles successful young farmers called agropreneurs on the internet and share their stories so that others can learn. “That also serves as an incentive to these hardworking young people. We have also worked on agricultural research and share the information via social media to enable a proper understanding of what is happening in the sector,” Ojo says.

He explains that this business is targeted at the youths and it focuses on making agriculture attractive while at the same time introducing modern technology like ICT for agriculture and social media as a tool for knowledge and information sharing in agribusiness.

Agropreneur plans to have a considerable expanse of land separate from the family farm he runs, where youths can be trained in farming and can establish their own businesses. “We also want to engage rural areas by creating access to market for them and providing qualitative extension service for them, especially with the internet. I must say that a lot of youths are beginning to see that the agriculture sector is a gold mine,” according to Ojo.

 

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