(AGENDAWATCHDOG) – Andrew Kwasari, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Agriculture, recently disclosed that there are ongoing moves by the Federal Government to salvage food production through an agricultural programme, known as “Agric for Food and Jobs Plan” (AFJP), within one year, to help cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the sector.
AFJP is totally different from the Anchor Borrowers Programme launched in 2015 by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, which intends to create a linkage between anchor companies involved in the processing and smallholder farmers, SHFs, of the required key agricultural commodities.The priority crops targeted by the AFJP is also different from that of ABP which include Rice, Maize, Sorghum, Soybean, Groundnuts, Cowpea, Cassava, Millet, Livestock, Horticulture, Palm kernel & Cotton; while Sesame Seeds, Hibiscus, Cocoa, Hides and Skins; and Horns and Hoofs are targeted for the export market.
The programme targets 2 million smallholder farmers across the 36 states of Nigeria and FCT and aims to produce 10 million tonnes of food (carbohydrates, animal protein, and edible oils) within the next 12 months. The key department of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development responsible for the implementation of the AFJP are the departments of Extension Services and the Department of Farm Input Supply Services.
AFJP, a joint venture between FMARD, State Governments, as well as other relevant stakeholders including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), private sector via out-grower schemes, and farmers across the country, is aimed at increasing locally grown food supply, while simultaneously creating employment opportunities in the agricultural sector.
This will be achieved through investment in the sector by way of providing zero-interest input financing options such as fertilizers and seeds to farmers across the 36 states of the country and the F.C.T, to produce a harvest that can sell domestically and internationally. This will, therefore, increase agricultural productivity, create job opportunities in the sector, ensure the continuity of the country’s food supply chain, and help the economy recover speedily.
The programme will be run for a duration of 12 months with an aggregate of 2 million hectares of land, and livestock targeted across the country. In collaboration with the N-Power Scheme – a part of the Federal Government’s Social Intervention Programme, trained enumerators have been sent out to identify farmers and their farms to ensure proper targeting of beneficiaries.
Registration of farmers will also ensure appropriate linkages to quality private inputs and services supply schemes and reduce none performing loan rates which are caused by side selling, political farmers, and inappropriate timing and targeting of loan disbursement.
Upon completion of the identification and registration phase, an evidence-based database of farmers will access input financing facilities to carry on their 2020 wet season farming, as well as a guaranteed market in the form of assigned off-takers.
Experts from around the world, have stressed the importance of agriculture in mitigating the impact of this pandemic on the global food supply chain, which calls on developing countries including Nigeria to channel massive investments and population towards food production, which the Federal Government remains committed to the production of quality and affordable agricultural produce, as well as the creation and protection of jobs in the sector.