By Tosin Kolade
An agricultural extension expert, Dr Bala Shehu, has called on tiers of government to prioritise greater investment in transportation and storage facilities to boost food security.
Shehu told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the availability of these facilitates would attract private investment, improve access to purchased inputs, credits and enhance marketing efficiency in the sector.
According to him, key constraints impeding sustainable and increased agricultural productivity in Nigeria are low access to financial facilities, inadequate extension and advisory services.
Shehu, who is the Zonal Officer, National Agricultural Extension and Research Liason Services, North Central Zone, also listed challenges of gender inequality, poor road infrastructure and storage constraints.
He noted that there was a well-established relationship between the availability of infrastructure and agricultural productivity in Nigeria.
He said “This is being hindered by the non-availability of infrastructures such as road networks, post-harvest storage and irrigation technology.
“Other types of infrastructure such as telecommunications and electricity supply also play a major role, but the impact is more evenly dispersed across all sectors of an economy.
“Limited or poor-quality roads and rail transportation inhibit timely access to inputs, increase costs of inputs and decrease access to output markets.”
On limited access to financial facilities, Shehu said agriculture is a major contributor to Nigeria’s GDP and small-scale farmers play a dominant role in this contribution.
He, however. said agricultural productivity and growth were hindered by limited access to credit facilities.
He said modernising agriculture required a large infusion of credit to finance the use of purchased inputs such as fertilizers, improved seeds, insecticides and additional labour.
Shehu noted that agricultural extension and advisory service had been at the forefront in the delivery of adequate information and technologies to farmers for increased productivity.
He said agricultural extension and advisory service were saddled with the responsibility of disseminating innovation to transform agricultural production for food security and economic development of agrarian communities.
“Agricultural extension and advisory services occupy a strategic position in the agricultural production cycle, as it connects the farmers and research scientists and between farmers and policymakers”.
On challenges of gender inequality, he noted that women constituted a huge portion of the agricultural sector, yet, their productive capacity remains constrained and considerably lower than their male counterparts.
This, he said, was contributing to the low overall agricultural productivity, saying the role of women in ensuring adequate land use and food production, processing, distribution and marketing cannot be overemphasised.
Shehu called for a review of the Land Use Act of 1978, saying with this, communal ownership of farmland would be difficult to dismantle in the foreseeable future.
He said “However, the elements which appear to differ among communities need to be reviewed within the context of each community, towards improving individual titles to farmland, bearing in mind the need for gender equity.
“There is an urgent need for the Federal Government of Nigeria to strengthen its agricultural credit guarantee scheme to reawaken the confidence of commercial banks in smallholder farmers.
“Government must encourage private sector investment in agricultural research and development and act with greater transparency and timeliness in the budgeting, approval, and fund release processes of agricultural research to a change agent.
“The government should sustain the current drive toward improving the access of Nigerian women to farmland, extension services, and related farm inputs, with the active support of local community-based organisations and international development agencies.” (NAN)