Nigerian Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo has declared that the Federal Government will train 100,000 graduates as extension workers out of the 500,000 graduates to be engaged as teachers.
He made the declaration while launching the agricultural sector roadmap entitled: “The Green Alternative: Agriculture Promotion policy 2016 to 2020’’ in Abuja.
The vice president also called for policy alignment of all government’s economic plans. “This particular alignment is crucial. Just to give some obvious example: you cannot have a policy of encouraging local production of food and on the other hand have a high tariff on imported agricultural equipment.
“There is no way that we can encourage local production when we allow unbridled importation of the same things that we are trying to produce.
“There is no way we can do the scale of agricultural production both for domestic consumption and export without ensuring local improved seedling development alongside those that we import and of course encouraging the work of the agencies of the Ministries of Science and Technology who have been making great breakthroughs in local development of agricultural equipment.
“Still on the issue of policy alignment, our social investment programme, which is possibly the largest in recent history, is designed to align with the design of our agricultural and other policies.
“And so, as part of the 500,000 teacher corps that we will be engaging, 100,000 of them will be trained as extension workers for our farms.’’
Osinbajo further said that the road map had identified the inability to meet productivity challenge of self-sustenance due to inefficient farming model inadequate seeds, irrigation, and crop protection.
He said the administration met an economy in meltdown and had to take difficult decisions to repair the huge damage done by dependence on oil, not investing in infrastructure, deepening diversification and increasing reserves.
The vice president said that it became imperative to set the economy on the part of inclusive growth with job opportunities for the huge youth population through positioning agriculture as the focus of diversification.
Osinbajo said there was no doubt at all that if the administration got the agriculture right the economy would be right.
According to him, the home grown feeding programme was anchored on the use of locally produced food for primary school pupils in the country. Osinbajo also said that financing of agriculture was also a crucial policy issue with double-digit interest rate and reluctance of banks to lend to the sector.
He said the administration must develop some funding options in the short term. “The anchor borrowers’ programme of the Central Bank of Nigeria has proved to be extremely useful. “Indeed the phenomenal success of the Kebbi rice programme where the farmers moved from 3.5 metric tonnes per hectre to 7.5 metric tonnes per hectre was largely the result of the single digit credit extended by the anchor borrowers’ programme which they used to purchase the right fertiliser quality and other inputs.
“The Ministry of Finance has practically concluded plans to recapitalise and re-engineer the Bank of Agriculture. “We expect that before the end of this quarter, the Bank of Agriculture should be ready to give single-digit-interest-rate loans to farmers.’’
The vice president commended the Agriculture minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh, for developing an effective roadmap and conducting an advocacy for the revamp of the agriculture sector.
He further said President Muhammadu Buhari’s urgent call to return to the farm was one to embrace the truth of a renewed vision of an agriculture-led economy as an alternative to an oil dependent growth.
He said the agriculture revolution was a call on all to farm, even small vegetable farms. “Interestingly, the only commercial activity that our constitution allows a public officer is farming; so we have no excuse,’’ he added.
In his reaction, the Kogi Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr Tim Nda Diche, applauded the new agriculture roadmap as a viable option for the advancement of the nation’s economy.
He said that the political will of President Muhammadu Buhari was high and the agriculture diversification was best way to avoid over reliance on oil.