By Mercy Omoike
Horti Nigeria and EnGRAIS project have begun a two-day workshop for development of vegetable crops Agricultural Input Packages (AIPs) to facilitate growth of sustainable and inclusive vegetable sector.
Mr Mohammed Salasi, Programme Director, Horti Nigeria, said in Lagos on Monday that the vegetable sector was under utilised with a deficit supply gap of about 13 million metric tonnes into the country.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Horti Nigeria is a four-year Netherlands funded vegetable programme.
While the Fertiliser and Seed Recommendations Map for West Africa (FeSeRWAM) is an e-platform funded by United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) “Feed the Future Enhancing Growth through Regional Agricultural Input Systems” (EnGRAIS) Project.
The workshop is co- funded by Horti Nigeria and EnGRAIS project of the USAID to project vegetable AIPs and the sector’s growth.
According to Salasi, there are lots of interventions in other crops but very few on vegetables.
“Today we are bringing together stakeholders in the agric sector to help develop AIPs for vegetable crops.
“First of all, we have a sister project funded by USAID that has already developed AIPs on a digital platform and also in hardcopies for maize, rice, cassava and others.
“So, when we discussed the programme, we realise vegetable is not part of the available packages that have been developed for West Africa.
“As a programme funded by the Netherlands in Nigeria, we think this document is incomplete without vegetable,” he said.
Salasi said that they invited the government, private sector, agro input companies and research institutes to bring the available technologies on production of vegetables.
He said that they all agreed that this was the right technology and would be able to have it on a platform that was easily accessible by all stakeholders across the region.
Mr Kido Kouassi, the Deputy Chief of party – Implementation, Feed the Future EnGRAIS project said the workshop was geared toward democratisation of agro knowledge and extension services across local farmers.
He said that the workshop was about ensuring that information on agricultural inputs which are seeds, fertilisers and good practices was accessible to the farmers through the e-platform, an online website called FeseRWAM.
Kouassi said that the stakeholders chose vegetables because currently on the platform for Nigeria, there was no information about vegetables.
”We have information about a lot of food crops. Vegetables have potential to increase the quality of the food being consumed.
”They also have a high potential to take the farmer out of poverty and provide him with more income.
“So for this reason, it is important that such a platform that facilitate access to the information that increases farmers’ productivity has information on vegetables.
“This platform tend to democratise access to information so that the extension agent can have access to the right information to pass to the farmer.
”The agro dealer will also have access to that information that normally would have been at the research centre, which he doesn’t have access to,” he said. In response,
Prof. Christogonos Dawodu of the National Agriculture Extension and Research Liaison Services, said that the importance of the workshop could not be overstated as agricultural sector faced formidable challenges ranging from inadequate access to quality seeds and fertiliser to the need for improved agricultural practices.
According to him, these challenges if not adequately addressed, have the potential to hinder the nation’s productivity, food security and overall economic development.
“We applaud the initiatives undertaken by IFDC through EnGRAIS project and the Horti Nigeria.
The workshop is addressing key issues in agricultural landscape and providing innovative solutions that can transform the lives of farmers.
“Collaboration between EnGRAIS and Horti Nigeria is representative of the visionary approach to expanding the reach and impact of agricultural interventions.
“By developing AIPs specifically tailored for vegetable crops and disseminating them through the FeseRWAM platform, we are taking a significant step to empower farmers with knowledge and resources that can enhance their agricultural practices and crop yields,” he said.
Dawodu commended the experts, stakeholders and partners who had come together to make the workshop a reality.
He noted that their expertise, dedication and collaborative spirit were crucial to advancing the agricultural sector.
Also, Prof. Garba Sharubutu, Executive Secretary, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria, represented by Dr Muhammad Attanda, the Director, National Horticultural Research Institute said the workshop was coming at the right time and necessary as it related especially to vegetables.
Sharubutu also said that vegetables had a great potential contributing to food security and alleviating poverty.
“When you plant vegetables, you can start harvesting within three months, there is no other crop with such potential.
“The workshop is very timely and the development of input packages for vegetable will go a long way to enhance performance of the sector,” Sharubutu said.
Also, Mr Abdullahi Abubakar, Federal Ministry Agriculture-Horticulture unit, represented by Mrs Omotosho Agbani, said the workshop was in line with the government’s policies on food security.
Abubakar pointed out that the programme was apt and in tandem with the policy of the present administration geared toward achieving food and national security.
He noted that vegetables known for their nutrients were promoted by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.
He said it was, therefore, heart-warming to know that the workshop would be looking at some basic challenges of vegetables. Abubakar added that the aim was to proffer solution for the good of farmers and food security for the nation at large. (NAN)
Edited by Chinyere Bassey/Vivian Ihechu