By Philip Yatai
The OCP Africa Fertiliser Nigeria Ltd. on Friday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with three research institutes in Nigeria to solve soil fertility problems and boost wheat production.
The MoU was signed at the Inception Workshop organised by OCP Africa to inaugurate the Soil Mapping and Fertility Evaluation for Formulation and Validation of Wheat Specific Fertilizer in Nigeria project.
Mr Caleb Usoh, OCP Africa – Nigeria Deputy Managing Director and Country Manager, said at the event in Kaduna, that the project would address the problem of soil and its effect on wheat production.
Usoh, who was represented by the organisation’s Business Development Manager, Nigeria, Mr Akintunde Akinwande, said that OCP Africa had signed a similar MoU with the Nigeria Institute of Soil Science.
“Today, we are here to sign another MoU with three prominent research institutions in the country to collectively proffer solutions to soil fertility vis-à-vis wheat production.
“We are partnering with Lake Chad Research Institute, Maiduguri, with a mandate to improve wheat production in Nigeria and the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T), Ibadan, with the mandate on soil fertility.
“We are also partnering with the Centre for Dryland Agriculture, Bayero University, Kano, the Centre of excellence for dry land agriculture.
“These series of events only affirm the OCP Africa’s commitment to support the development of Nigeria’s agricultural ecosystem,” he said.
He said that wheat production in Nigeria was faced with several problems such as poor access to improved seed varieties, inappropriate fertilizer and agrochemicals and poor irrigation system.
Usoh identified other challenges as lack of funding for wheat research systems and poor knowledge of wheat agronomy.
According to him, these problems have kept wheat production at dismal level, such that farmers struggle to produce just about two per cent of all the wheat consumed in the country.
“We sincerely applaud the enthusiasm with which our research partners have accepted this challenge.
“We call on all stakeholders in agriculture, governments, donors and developmental agencies, farmers and the farming community, to support this laudable project as it requires collective efforts to achieve the desired result,” he said.
Prof. Veronica Obatolu, Executive Director, IAR&T noted that farmers were not getting the expected result in wheat and other agricultural production because the problem of soil has not been addressed.
According to her, testing the soil will enable the production of specific fertilizer that would ensure maximum yield of crops per hectare.
Also speaking, President , Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Salim Mohammed, commended OCP Africa for the initiative to address the major challenges faced by wheat farmers in the country.
The president, who was represented by the association’s chairman in Kano State, Malam Musa Shehu-Sheka, said that none testing of soil to determine fertilizer suitability was partly responsible for the low yield being recorded.
The Kaduna State Commissioner for Agriculture, Hajiya Halima Lawal, said that partnership and collaboration was needed to tackle the challenges confronting wheat production in the country.
Lawal, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mr Sabiu Sani, said that addressing the problem of soil and fertilizer would significantly boost wheat production to meet local needs.