When 7 out of 10 Nigerians do not have enough to eat, transformational change is needed.
The country has never been short of government plans to revitalise Agriculture, but none have delivered on their promise to underwrite food security, or offered the root and branch reform our agricultural sector so desperately needs.
That is why Bola Tinubu’s proposal for farmers like me is a breath of fresh air.
His plan once again positions Agriculture as the backbone of Nigeria’s economy – as it was before oil led to neglect of the sector. And the backbone of Nigeria’s Agriculture is its small holder farmers (SHFs) but the greatest problems we face are financial and physical security.
For the former,Tinubu has laid out a series of reforms. Commodity exchanges shall be established that will guarantee a minimum price ( GMP) for key strategic crops.
Farmers currently don’t get a good deal because they are squeezed by middlemen. With a decent income assured for the toils of their labour, they will have both more certainty of livelihood and the confidence to expand production.
This will be supported through Tinubu’s plan to enhance our farmers’ collective bargaining power by encouraging veritable cooperatives.
Access to finance and credit will be revamped, providing farmers with the financial tools they need to escape the current cycle of subsistence farming and enable them to invest in their future. With upfront capital, they can procure better inputs such as agrochemicals, good seeds and fertilizers that can increase yields and ward off crop failure in the face of increasing erratic weather.
Producers/Growers can invest in machinery – made more affordable through subsidies – to modernise and optimize their operations.
Many leaders in the past promised to address agricultural finance, but those schemes have often become marred in corruption with insufficient funds reaching those that need them – the very people who feed our country. Tinubu has promised to reform the Bank of Agriculture’s(BOA’s) operation and implement a more efficient, transparent and targeted financing scheme.
Expanding credit lines and improving oversight is a small price to pay for our country’s food security. And in the latter, he has a wealth of experience: as governor of Lagos State, he reformed tax auditing and brought new technologies to bear which were critical in expanding revenues.
His time in charge of Lagos state also demonstrated an ability to deliver infrastructural projects on which businesses can leverage on. With his agricultural blueprint, he can do for rural communities what he did for the city with a supercharged programme to link farmers to markets, connect communities and reduce the costs for both farmers and consumers.
Farmers will get more rural roads and freight trains to bring inputs in and (produce)yields out.
Post-harvest loss is a direct consequence of poor infrastructure, and a tragedy in a country where many do not have enough to eat. Currently, around a third of our Agricultural produce spoils on its way to market. At the same time, when seasonal supply peaks, prices plummet.
Expanding and improving transport links means faster access to wider markets where levels of demand differ. Along with massive investments in grain and food storage facilities, the market will become more reliable for farmers to get a fair price for their produce, and help build up strategic reserves to maintain consistent prices for consumers when supply falls short.
Moreover, Nigeria needs investment in its Agricultural value chains and muscle from international agribusiness. With the processing plants they will help catalyse, the market for farmers will once again expand as produce goes further, creating a more stable demand year-round in place of seasonal volatility. No other candidate vying for Presidency has the experience of Tinubu in bringing international investment and business into the country, which is why the farming community should support him.
Such measures will increase credit availability and income certainty for those involved in agriculture. But the insecurity felt by farmers and threats to farms also burden the agricultural industry. Criminality is pervasive. Only Tinubu is tough enough to tackle it – and has the credentials to prove it.
When he took charge of Lagos, crime was swallowing the city. After retraining, reequipping and refunding the police force so they could go after the criminals, crime rates began to fall. Without the crime, the city’s businesses and enterprise grew exponentially; falling crime and prosperity move lockstep.
I believe he will do the same for Nigeria’s agricultural communities.
I am not the only farmer-leader that believes Tinubu offers the best deal for farmers. Both Miyetti Allah (MACBAN) and Kautal Hore, Maize Association of Nigeria(MANN),Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria(RFAN) and the Federation of Agricultural Commodity Association of Nigeria(FACAN) are all backing his plan because they know he has the knowledge, skills and dogged drive to turn good ideas on paper into real progress for farmers.
Only by bringing security – both physical and financial – to small holder farmers(SHFs) will Nigeria become food secure.
Amongst the presidential candidates, only Tinubu has the strong leadership and experience to deliver these.
The author, Arc. Kabir Ibrahim Faskari, is the National President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria(AFAN).