By Stanley Onyekwere
Last week, the 10th edition of the National Agricultural Show rounded up with a clarion call on stakeholders to redouble their effort towards development of agriculture as a business in Nigeria. And this, by most accounts, remains critical to achieving the much desired goal of ensuring food security and and sustainable development in the country.
The show, a five-day event kicked off at its ground located along Abuja-Keffi road, in Nasarawa State, with display of variety of agro-allied products and machineries amid funfair, adding value to this year’s World Food Day celebration. This year’s edition was themed:”Agriculture for Sustainable Economic Diversification And Growth.”
Retrospectively, it was actually the World Food Day that gave birth to the national Agric show, which started in 2007. And the show is being organized by National Agricultural Foundation of Nigeria (NAFN) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN).
In his welcome address at the opening ceremony, Chairman,Senate Committee on Agriculture, Abdullahi Adamu, told the gathering that the showpiece is fashioned towards showcasing Nigeria’s enormous agricultural potentials, resources and products.
He noted that Nigerians have responded to the clarion call by the current administration to explore the agricultural sector as the nation looks to diversify.
Adamu, who is also the Chairman, Board of Trustees of NAFN, commended the federal government for its commitment to development of the agriculture in the country.
He however stressed the need for introduction of a fair pricing mechanism for Agricultural products and facilities, in order to encourage farmers and other stakeholders in the sector.
Similarly, President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Kabir Ibrahim, described the theme of this year’s show as apt, as it is the affirmation of their determination to identify with the agricultural programme of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s-led federal government.
According to him, the government’s agricultural initiatives are recording successes in food and fiber production and engaging the populace in the diversification process.
He assured that the agric showpiece provides a unique opportunity for participants and other stakeholders to establish business contacts and acquaintances.
Also, in his keynote address, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, expressed delight that the show formed part of the activities for the celebration of 2017 world food day with the theme “change the future of migration: invest in food security and Rural development.”
The minister, who was represented by Dr Bukkar Hasan, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, over the years, Nigerian agricultural sector has been focusing on the conventional paradigm of harnessing resources to sustain food security.
“Presently, the Ministry is committed to making the sector a pivot for economic stabilization in diversification generating employment and creating wealth in the country.
“In response to the world food crisis and incessant high cost of production due to rural urban migration the Ministry has imbibed the culture of promoting best practices in agricultural development.
He listed some of the measures taken to include: improve access of farmers to input and credit facility in rural areas a effective application of research result. Others are, provision of employment opportunities and vigorous involvement of youth and mainstreaming gender in agricultural development; building of a National extension system, and driving agriculture through commodity value chains approach.
He therefore noted that expectation to change future migration will require the cooperation and commitment of all stakeholders to addressing the problems of dwindling revenue earnings, rural-urban migration and food insecurity in the country.
On his part, Country Director of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Suffyan Koroma stated the event presents the opportunity for its commitment to food security and sufficiency to liberate Nigeria from hunger.
On his part, Governor of Nasarawa State, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, who was represented by his Deputy, commended the organisers of the show for providing a platform for advancing development of Agriculture.
The governor reiterated the need for stakeholders to support government in providing the enabling environment to boost to agricultural sector.
As succinctly opined by the National Coordinator of NAFN, Dr Samuel Negedu, there were brokerages of businesses during the show, which is part of what this type of exhibition helps to do.
According to him; “in Nigeria we have areas where productivity is on, but unfortunately, you find out that you will be searching for a particular product while there is glut of the same product in another place.
“Essentially, we are trying to create an avenue where industry players can meet at very little cost to them, because of high percentage of people that visit them during the show, to know what they have to offer.
“For a few years to come we will be able to continue with this forum, whereby players can meet and broker business relationships, it will promote agric business in Nigeria.”
Interestingly, Negedu noted this year’s edition was a good show, considering the situation of the country, in terms of ability to mobilise resources and attend functions outside stakeholders comfort zone.
In particular, h observed that this year’s Agric Exhibition had a very good attendance especially with the private sector- both the small farms operators and aspiring big farms were here in good numbers, adding that very notable research institutes were around, despite the constraint they have in funding.
He noted that generally, the show picked up on the third day; and was at its peak on the fourth day, with the high turnout of people visiting the various stands at the show ground and private sector participation. He disclosed the Agric Ministry have about 120 participating institutions-both government and private stakeholders who showcased at the event.
However, he decried that a good number of the states were not around; even as he wished the ministry of Agricultural and rural development was able to strongly reach out to the states to let them the need for them to participate in the show. This, according to him, was lacking, and because of it the participation was poor.
“We have learnt a few lessons, and we will keep on building on them, with the hope that we will reach our ultimate desired goal.
“Our plans are, first to reduce the fatigue that comes from being repetitive, in terms of our programmes; we also want to encourage people to not showcase only primary agricultural products but to come with value additions-that will make the difference in taking the show to a higher ground,” he stressed.
On the state of facilities at the show ground, the NAFN’s Coordinator, explains “the condition of facilities at our disposal has become a pain on our neck. We have made submissions to Central Bank Nigeria (CBN), to see if they can help develop the facilities, but that has not happened yet. If it happens, it will reduce the cost of organising the show.
“Also, it will help build up the interest of people to participate, because for now, the cost of participation is very high for both the exhibitors and us (the organisers). We hire tents, canopies and tables.
“So, for now, what we have as facilities are relatively inadequate to support the level of activities at the show. We also have location issue, in terms how to preserve whatever we bring in here, because multiple burglary has been the bane of our situation.
“What we need to do is to make deliberate advocacy to the private sector stakeholders to buy into the show. Sometimes people are weary of partnering with government, but we are not government, we are NGO, so as much as possible we will be in a better business is the private sector would come in, take on this facility (the show ground) and generate activities within the environment during the year, I think the sky will be our limit. One thing I have learnt in life is that when you have difficulties, it makes you think more of alternatives, and I think we have come to that point.”
On her part, Assistant Coordinator of African Women Initiative for Agricultural and Rural Development, Mrs Lydia Samson, who led the group’s contingent of farmers who participated in the show, said it was a very fruitful venture.
She described it as a very good forum for people to meet and exchange ideas, most especially women who constitute majority of participants on the ground.
“Women farm to feed themselves and then take some to sell in the market; but this time around, the story is different – they are beginning to process, package and brand their products. And this is an added advantage to the African women.
“We meet with other people who are experts and in government, and gave us ideas on how better to produce and process our crops. And even travelling and meeting people is a very good education, that is why we keep advocating that more women should come and participate in the show by next year,” she expressed.
Not left out, Director, Vet Services, Kano State Ministry of Agricultural, Dr. Shehu Bawa, who led the largest contingents to the show, disclosed that groups of farmers all 44 local governments of the state exhibited varying agricultural produce and locally fabricated machineries.
He said since the inception of the Show, the Kano have been making its presence felt at the ground, because of commitment to development of agriculture in the country.
Unlike a few other states who stormed the show ground with different agro-allied products of comparative advantages, Kano added colour to the whole event with their cultural troupe and mobile Zoo, in addition to exhibition of agro products and technologies.
Interestingly, the centre of attraction was the Kano Mobile Zoo stationed within the Kano State Pavilion, mounted and operated by Kano State Zoological& Wildlife Management agency.
In particular, students and pupils were educational tour, to experience nature and wildlife at Kano Mobile Zoo spot within the Kano State Pavilion. With N100 Tickets, people were ushered into the place to experience nature and wildlife.
Nevertheless, the place of the show in the promotion of agriculture as a veritable business in Nigeria cannot be overstated, as it serves as a veritable tool of agricultural extension services. It’s a unique annual event that allows farmers to interact and exchange ideas while exhibiting their farm produce and experiencing first hand information the current global best practices in agricultural production technologies that boost activities in the sector.
Equally, the show couldn’t have held at a better time than now when the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has fashioned a road map to ensure diversification from oil sector to the non oil sectors as the major revenue earner of the country, thereby reviving the agricultural sector to ensure food sufficiency and sustainable development.