There has been an up rise in the conversations around agriculture in recent times across Sub-Saharan Africa and especially here in Nigeria
Are these conversation important and making the expected impact? Or are we still playing around?
Personally, I have attended a good number of exhibitions, seminars and trainings and when I attend “new events”, and meet familiar faces from previous events I have attended and we interact, many times it feels like their questions weren’t answered from the previous ones or they are yet to understand the responsibilities that were explained at the previously attended events . When I attend these events; especially the last 5 I have been privileged to attend, Responsibilities have been the FOCUS.
Even if it is the same things from the same facilitators from the previous events I have attended; the focus has remained the same: Future of Agribusiness, Value addition and Forming alliances or cooperatives. Could it be that the picture of the necessary issues isn’t clear enough to people attending the same kind of events or they just need Reassurance that this is the Sector to be in?
In the Yoruba language (An Indigenous language spoken in Nigeria), there is an adage or proverb that can be literally translated in English as: “A Goldsmith beating the same spot continuously has a goal in mind”. I cite this to show that a few problems that these experts must have identified and are right in our Faces; audible to the blind and glaring to the deaf (I hope you get the twist) which only requires basic solutions like Good Road and Electricity.
Personally, I think that Nigerians generally don’t want or expect too much from the government; We want basic Amenities; But we know that irrespective of what the government is offering or what is readily available , Nigerians are hustlers and resolute about making things work. We can actually scale up or cover larger grounds but it gets depressing seeing other nations of the world leaving us behind. (Who did we offend???? LOL)
I believe the conversations, events, tweet chats and exhibitions serves as a driver for communication and raising awareness about the incredible opportunities available in Agriculture and its tremendous potential to change the economy of nations not just those of us in Africa, creating platforms for engaging individuals and government parastatals as well. These are all fantastic initiatives.
However, at the grassroots, some practices are still the same. People still have lots of post-harvest loses and it’s almost like all these events are only engaging urban dwellers.
There are some initiatives by the Government already in place such as:
- Giving out fertilizers,
- The “Culture of Quality” and Global G.A.P. (certification process) in the Nigeria agro sector is ongoing through:
The establishment of a standing inter-ministerial technical committee on zero reject of agricultural produce and non-oil-exports in Nigeria, co-chaired by Ministers of Agriculture and Trade with MDAs / Regulatory agencies as members and with technical support by UNIDO
Establishment of Nigerian Agricultural Export Control Plan as recommended by the EU, with HS codes for goods and manufactured items, and as strategy to lift the present ban on Nigerian dried beans and prevent ban on other agricultural produce.
- HMA Recommendation of the Export Control plan to Ministry of Trade/EU for inclusion into the Trade/EU Country programme for Nigeria. (By so doing, the plan is secured for the next five years (2018-2023)
- Nationwide advocacy on agricultural quality control & standardization, which has prompted establishment of the units in some ministries of agriculture across board Validation of Conduits of Excellence in the Agro Sector.
- Establishment of National Quality Awards to encourage producers, processors and marketers of Agro produce and manufacturers, inclusive, in line with ECOWAS recommendation in Addis Ababa.
- Zero Reject Initiative changing mind-set of farmers and extension workers on indiscriminate use of chemicals
However, it feels like the individuals have resorted to fixing most part of the challenges themselves. (I mean; how many farmers get the fertilizers, how many policies are in place to help small scale farmers and their enterprises? Have they been implemented? How is the cost of transportation like and how much is spent on preservation?) It feels like there is no end in sight to individuals having to make this sector work.
What is the way forward?
I recently attended an Exhibition and all the foreign counterparts I spoke with at different times at that event from Italy, France, South Africa and Russia had the same thing to say: “Hold your Government Responsible”.
From our conversations, they advised that small businesses should come together to form coalitions who will actively hold the Big Industries dependent on Small And Medium Scale Enterprises responsible who will then in turn hold Bigger companies with a Bigger audience Responsible and these ones because of their Influence will be able to hold the Government Accountable especially for the sake of implementing and seeing to it that policies aren’t just made but seen to the end that what they were made to do is DONE.
So again, I’d ask: are these conversation making impacts? Or are we still playing around?
In my opinion, these events and conversations are bringing more light to the situation of things in the agricultural sector, more people are coming to see the needed things to do and, solution providers are getting more attention whether they are real farmers or Internet farmers, processors or insurance companies.
I am delighted about the conversations but much more, I am interested in results. Everything Good they say takes time; well, I hope that we are on the Slow and steady highway and we aren’t just on the same spot.
How can the small and medium Scaled businesses hold the government accountable?
- They need to get educated about the policies in place for them, those been passed and those in the works so that they can hold the local representatives to accountability and they can also be involved.
- When policies are passed and not implemented or money is not used for what it was released for, Stakeholders should start campaigns which can be trending hashtags that will bring awareness to the situation at hand(social media is such a powerful tool these days), SMEs should hold peaceful protests
- SMEs should form coalitions from grassroots to the biggest platforms possible or available. These could be social groups, Professional groups and this will facilitate the holding of large industries accountable who will in turn hold the Government responsible because of their influence.