Agriculture underfunded Rep Chiromawa
Alhaji Muktar Mohammed Chiromawa is a member of the House of Representatives representing Kura/Madobi/Garun Malam Federal constituency of Kano state. He is a member of the house committee on agriculture among others. In this interview, he speaks on the problems of farming in Nigeria and what government should do to help the situation. Excerpts:
As a member of the House of Representatives committee on agriculture, can you tell us your assessment of the problems of farming in Nigeria?
There are numerous but I am of the opinion that funding is the major one. Agriculture is grossly underfunded. The underfunding is keeping educated people away from the profession. The elite who would have joined farming and improved on the skills and production capability of our farmers are not being encouraged due to the inadequate funding. Let’s take for example the sourcing of funds for agriculture. One can be a graduate of agriculture willing to go into farming to practice the profession he learnt in school. Let us assume to have access to a family land that you can use but the N5 million to N7 million you need to start with is not there. You need at least N3 million to buy a tractor, N1 million for imputes that include fertilizer, seeds and insecticides. Another N1 million for paying of labourers and other things.
Where can a fresh graduate that has no access to white collar job get the money to pay for all these? The loan system by the Nigerian banks is not favourable. Collateral is attached to the condition of giving every agricultural loan which is not supposed to be so. A young farmer does not have any collateral to provide to qualify for any loan. Agricultural loan is supposed to be a long term loan. For example, if you want to establish mango plantation or any form of plantation that will take several years to start yielding, the banks may not give you loan and say since your plantation will start yielding in five years time, do not start paying us until after the five or even six years. Mainly, juice factories require plantations to be able to function. Wood companies require their own plantations because they cannot be able to just go to someone’s farm today and cut down four trees and go to another farm tomorrow and cut down three more and still expect to function as a wood company. No Nigerian bank can give you loan to establish a plantation that will start yielding in five years before you start paying them. I am not aware of any.
The government has a development bank which is the Nigerian Agricultural Development Bank (NADB). Even the NADB has not captured this in their mandate. So, we need to be serious on funding of agriculture. That is one major problem of the Nigerian farmers. Two, the Nigerian farmer is experiencing wastage. There are a lot of wastages in the agricultural sector because of none processing equipments for agricultural produce in the country. Let us take the issue of the much celebrated cassava flour; any cassava that is harvested and is not processed within 24 hours cannot produce the required cassava flour. So, where are the processing machines?
The farmers can grow the cassava thinking that they can get market for the cassava flour. Since they do not have the equipment to process them, the cassava flour will not be gotten because it takes them over 24 hours to process. The potency has been lost. We need to tackle the problems caused by the lack of processing machines the agricultural sector is facing before we could make noticeable progress.
So, what can the government do in this circumstance?
Government needs to place emphasis on improved seeds. Seed is very important in enhancing agricultural production.
Almost 30 percent of what a farmer is required to do to improve his production depends on seeds quality. The government should be serious in funding and equipping the research institutes to produce high quality yielding seeds to the Nigerian farmer so that they can make farming attractive and profitable. That will provide a lot of employment opportunity for the Nigerian youths and also increase Nigeria’s food security and dependency on locally produced food.
You are talking of underfunding of the agricultural sector while some people are saying the problem is that of misplacement of priority. Government’s plan to buy mobile phones worth N60 billion for 10 million farmers is one example. What is your committee doing to ensure that rather than buying phones, that amount is used for buying improved seeds that you just said is important for enhancing production?
I quite agree with you because I am not in support of using N60 billion to purchase phones for the Nigerian farmers. If it is practicable elsewhere, I am sure it will not be practicable in Nigeria. That amount of money could have been used more judiciously like in providing tractors to clear the vast lands in Nigeria. We could use that amount to procure fertilizer for the Nigerian farmer.
Did the National Assembly appropriate such amount for the purchase of phones?
When you said National Assembly, you are talking of the entire legislature of which I am a part of. I am just ‘a part’ I am not the ‘whole.’ So, the whole will answer that question. I am just a part of it.
How much was appropriated for the purchase of phones for farmers by your assembly?
Still, the whole will answer that question.
At the moment government is distributing improved seeds to farmers free of charge. Is there any immediate plan to go beyond that?
The question is good seeds to the Nigerian farmers. This is the responsibility of the Nigerian government to provide. Precisely, I know I am part of the system but much needs to be done to meet up with the requirement of the Nigerian farmer. Last week, your paper published a report on the problem some farmers in Zamfara experienced with seeds given to them by a seed company. We are talking of high breed seed and you are giving farmers seeds that could not even yield. Something serious needs to be done to assist the farmers with the right things at the right time if we really want them to enhance production.
The seed company said what they gave the farmers was foundation seed and not certified seed. Is it not allowed for seed companies to use farmers to produce certified seeds for them from foundation seed?
Seeds have their own zones. If you carry guinea corn from Benue to Jigawa for example, that guinea corn may not yield because there is a longer rainfall period in Benue than in Jigawa. The rainfall period in Jigawa is shorter. One cannot go to the market and buy grains and give to the farmers and say this is seed. So, when you are buying guinea corn from Benue it is guinea corn but it has longer maturity period than the one from Jigawa. What I understand is that the seed company went to the market and bought grains and gave to the farmers as seeds. Seeds defer from grains.
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