Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, (FUNAAB), Professor Felix Salako, has identified insecurity, as a major challenge confronting agricultural growth in the country.
He said this in his remarks at the first quarterly lecture of the Africa Centre for Excellence in Agricultural Development and Sustainable Environment (CEADESE), of the university, on Tuesday.
Prof Salako called on the Federal Government to underline its commitment to the sustainable growth and development of agriculture by beefing up security in the country.
He also noted the need for the government to increase support for agriculture in the country, submitting that financing is key for the advancement of the sector.
The Guest Speaker at the lecture, Lamin Manjang, tasked the FG to harness the growing potentials of agriculture in the country, by designing an effective funding initiative for agriculture.
Manjang who is the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria Limited observed that Nigeria’s agricultural sector is the next big economic frontier waiting to be fully harnessed.
He said Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $397 billion, noting however that the country’s GDP could grow at near double-digit rates with the right economic policies.
The sector, according to him, requires more stakeholder training, funding, better mechanisation, good road infrastructure and good transportation system and year-round storage systems to get the sector to realise its full potential.
He called on the government to design a well-articulated and executed funding scheme to derive maximum economic and social benefits from the sector.
“The agricultural sector has the capacity to generate more employment opportunities, contribute more substantially to the GDP of the nation and become a strong source of foreign exchange earnings if well harnessed,” he added.
He called for greater ease of finance for agriculture; more focus on creating business knowledge and managerial capacity among SMEs and farmers; as well as more emphasis on encouraging illiterate rural farmers to be part of co-operative societies and have them access funds under the schemes through such co-operatives.
He said “The relevant government agencies and participating financial institutions should demonstrate greater commitment and focus on these agricultural funding programs as tools for economic growth. More funds, including investments in data mining, technology and effective strategies should be deployed to make them work.
“Administrators of the schemes and participating lending institutions should create a framework to simplify and make it easier for all value chain players to access credit with minimal collateral requirements. This rides on the back of an improved credit culture based on some of the policies of the Central Bank of Nigeria to encourage and strengthen good credit behaviour.
“There should be greater autonomy for relevant bodies managing the agricultural financing program. Undue government involvement and bureaucracy constitute a major drawback for such programs. This leads to the apathy of participating financing institutions and the lack of discipline and commitment of beneficiaries, impacting both uptake and repayment.
“There should be greater awareness of the various funding programs for agriculture. These programs have remained largely under-reported. Participating in financial institutions and the relevant government agencies should invest more in enlightenment campaigns through trade unions, associations and co-operative societies. This will deepen penetration.”
The Director of CEADESE, FUNAAB, Prof Olukayode Akinyemi, while highlighting some of the achievements of the centre, said the centre was adjudged the most impactful Centre in terms of number of research publications from Africa in September, as well as having established a World-Class Research Laboratory in addition to other numerous developmental projects in the university.