Opinion: Exploring the business side of agriculture

It was one of Nigeria’s most articulate and innovative Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, and presently, the President of African Development Bank (AFDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina; who made a proclamation that though was not new, resonated with majority of progressive Nigerians that have passion for the agricultural sector.

In 2015, in Dakar, Senegal, he stated, “Agriculture is not a way of life, or a social sector. Agriculture is a business. A business that will help countries to diversify their economies, reduce their dependence on food import, create jobs and revive rural areas”.

This is a direction Nigeria should be looking at, as a way out, as we battle with a number of unsettling and nagging economic challenges that confronts us. This include among many others: dwindling external revenue due to decline in the price of crude oil, weakening of the naira against the dollar, a depleted foreign reserve, unavailability or dilapidated critical infrastructure, alarming increase in unemployment, and unbearable high rate of abject poverty.

With the above challenges, agriculture seems to be our most viable option as we seek to diversify the economy; which represent an escape route out of the ticking time bomb that might implode this nation, if our multifaceted challenges are not timely are squarely checked. To buttress this fact, it is only appropriate to borrow the statement from a World Bank report, it posited and rightly so “that agriculture is up to four times more effective than other sectors in reducing poverty”. I must add that it has more potential than any other sector to stimulate our economy and promote inclusive development through the creation and redistribution of wealth.

Agriculture as a business puts into consideration the value chain that makes engaging in the endeavor profitably viable. It starts with the farmer through to transportation of farm produce, availability of storage facilities, processing industries, and the market.

The value in the chain can only be tapped when the right policies are formulated and implemented, business friendly regulations are put in place, transparency and accountability in the budget implementation process is ensured, critical integrated infrastructure are made available, huge private sector investments are attracted, increased funding and focus on research, unhindered access to affordable farm inputs, improved access to credit facilities, mechanization of the agricultural sector, tax holidays for startup processing industries, strengthening of market boards, adequate insurance coverage, stability and security in the polity.

The business opportunities in the agricultural sector are enormous. If the above listed steps are dutifully put in place; the country can create massive wealth, generate employment for our teeming youths, reduce poverty and become a net exporter of both raw agricultural outputs and other by-products. It is estimated that by 2030, the value of food and agribusiness would reach one trillion dollars. With the increasing high growth rate in the world’s population the business opportunities in the agricultural sector would continue to be boundless.

When put side by side with the fact that Africa imports food worth thirty five billion dollars, aside the huge importation of other by-products from agriculture, the time is now to turn back the balance of trade in favor of Africa, with Nigeria taking the lead role through exploring the business opportunities that agriculture presents.

Thankfully, Nigerians are beginning to see agriculture beyond a dirty endeavor characterized by crude labor-based activity with low return on time and effort. The youth especially are beginning to champion new innovations in the agricultural value chain; as many of them cannot still come to terms with going into the dirt associated with farming.

Just of recent, I met a young man who developed a software app that connects the farmer with the market for his/her output. Also a friend of mine, owner of BASIS Farm, is also presently into agri-tourism that targets to directly employ a minimum of one hundred fellow youths in Kaduna state. These are just a few that need encouragement to serve as a model for many others to emulate.

An agricultural sector that is business driven possesses an attractive force for youth and women due to its viable commercial opportunities. The need has never been more evident for smallholder agriculture in Nigeria to be transformed from just being a subsistent activity to one characterized by innovation, technology, increased access to the international market and profitability.

Globally, a key thrust of present agricultural development strategies is to increase productivity, commercialization and competiveness of agricultural commodities and enterprises. To which countries like Kenya have keyed into through its Vision 2030 and Agricultural Sector Development Strategy (2010-2020).

This has been of advantage to the country through the development of new forms of partnership, institutions and financial instruments in support of growing business enterprises in agriculture.

It is in view of the above that the Coalition of Associations for Leadership, Peace, Empowerment & Development (CALPED) on the 19th December, 2015, in Kaduna; brought together key stakeholders to generate discussions on the theme, The Business in Agriculture: Prospect for Youth and Women in the Era of Change.

The programme had the following guest on the high-table: the Honorable Commissioner, Kaduna State Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Representatives of Kaduna State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Representatives of Kaduna State Ministry of Youth and Sports, Representatives of Kaduna State Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Representative of Bank of Agriculture, Representative of Assistant Head of Agriculture Pampaida Millenium Village Project, CEO of Leapman Legal, and representative of International Farmers Community Development Association.

The Honorable Commissioner of Kaduna State Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, who was the Keynote Speaker at the event, took out time to assure participants by his presentation that truly Change in the agricultural sector in the state is here.

He enumerated the various steps being taken by the present administration in making agriculture more attractive, profitable and viable. He challenged participants to look up the 2016 budget of the Ministry to see the projections of expenditure in boosting the sector and make it attractive for agribusiness owners.

He further challenged the participants to be more hard working and also employ innovation in their farming activities as government is looking forward to attracting investors into the sector. Other guest further reechoed what the commissioner pointed out, encouraged participants to develop business plans and also talked about the various funding opportunities in the Bank of Agriculture for farmers and agribusiness owners.

The interactive programme, which included a farmer’s exhibition outside the venue, came to an end with a communiqué and policy recommendation for the government to create the enabling environment for youth and women to take advantage of the business opportunities in the agricultural sector. This would go a long way in increasing food security, generate employment, create wealth, reduce poverty and mobilize revenue for the government.

In conclusion, agriculture remains the most significant hope for reviving the economy, providing jobs, reducing poverty and hunger in Nigeria.

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Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Yusuf Ishaku Goje is the Convener, CALPED and can be reached via [email protected]

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