With Africa?s population predominantly engaged in agriculture, it is prudent for the continent to tap into the enormous opportunities and rapidly unlock the potentials for creating wealth through agriculture, says Nigeria?s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina.

Dr Adesina, who was speaking at the World Food Prize in Iowa, USA (October, 16-19, 2013) said Africa must involve the private sector to unlock the potential of agriculture.

?Agriculture is a business, not a charitable development program. Therefore, we must get the private sector to unlock the potential of agriculture??.

?What is needed is creating opportunities for millions of farmers to connect to markets, private agribusinesses that add value to what they produce, to propel them out of poverty into wealth??, he emphasised.

The minister says the first decision was to stop looking at agriculture as a government-run, charitable development program across rural Nigeria with sound policies, programs and innovation which could spur growth, jobs and income.

Dr Adesina stated that agricultural policies in Nigeria ensure that the private sector seed and fertilizer companies sell farm inputs directly to farmers, instead of to the government.

To cut out the rent-seeking middlemen who for decades have cheated farmers, Nigeria launched an Electronic Wallet System for farmers to pay farm inputs from the private sector.

?The system allows smallholder farmers to receive subsidized electronic vouchers for seeds and fertilizers directly on their mobile phones. Farmers use their electronic vouchers on their mobile phones to pay for farm inputs from private sector agricultural input dealers??, Dr Adesina said.

In the past two years the system has reached over 5 million farmers and enhanced food security for 25 million persons in rural farm households. Women farmers – who never got fertilizers and seeds for decades under the old government system, have better yielding fields with subsidized farm inputs they receive on their own mobile phones.

?We took stock of the fundamental resources such as abundance of land, water and human capital that Nigeria is blessed with to support agribusiness.

?Our focus would be on creating eco-systems in which small, medium and large-scale farmers would not only co-exist, but also flourish together. We would do more than plant new fields.

?We would also create value-added foodstuffs from our staple crops through an aggressive import-substitution program and policies that would encourage new investment in food production and promote agriculture sustainability and resilience??, he added.

By Samuel Hinneh, Des Moines, Iowa, USA, Courtesy: B4FA Media Fellowship

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