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Ayodamola Owoseye
March 24, 2010 12:26AM
Some of the farmers at the NAAEP centre with the founder Ms. Ajayi. Photo: Ayodamola Owoseye

Private investors in the agricultural sector have appealed to government at all levels and other private individuals to participate in developing a mechanised agricultural environment for the purpose of food security in the country.

Temitope Ajayi, the founder, Nigerian American Agricultural Empowerment Programme (NAAEP), in an interview with NEXT, called on increased funding for agriculture, particularly giving greater access to small scale farmers to go into mechanised farming.

Ms. Ajayi argued that this was the only way government can effectively alleviate poverty among the people, while also ensuring food security for the teaming population, one of the main targets of the millennium development goals.

'The development of the agricultural sector is the key to the survival of humanity and poverty alleviation in the country. If there is food, there will be strength for innovations and development,' she said on Monday in Epe, Lagos, site of the 100-acre small scale farming scheme for farmers.

The NAAEP initiative
The NAAEP initiative is a programme where farmers will be allocated plots of land according to their capacity and choice of farming. This includes mass crop farming such as cassava, ethanol corn, rice, as well as animal husbandry and aquaculture.

Ms. Ajayi explained that the plan is to ignite an agricultural revolution in the country by teaching farmers new cultivation techniques.

'We have conducted a 24-week training and seminars for people interested in agriculture on how to get empowered through it. We have also procured 100 hectares of land and have been given the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) on the land by the Lagos State government. We are on the next stage of giving the participants plots of land for building houses and farming, as the programme will be based on farm settlement.

'We are doing this because we realise it is better to teach people how to fish than give them fish. The only way to alleviate poverty in the land is to empower the farmers. For instance, the recent tomatoes scarcity from the north has shown the need for more people to go into farming to feed the nation,' she said.

A welcome enterprise
Samuel Aedeta, a farmer at the settlement, said the project will be a new era for him and his farming activities as he has been engaged in small scale farming for about 25 years.

'This will help increase food cultivation, for stability, as this is the life wire of any country,' he said.

Fatoki Oluwafisayo, one of the participants at the seminar and a prospective settlement farmer, commended the idea of teaching and encouraging the youth to embrace agriculture through mechanised farming, as most youth run away from farming because of the traditional methods and hazardous nature.

'Most youth like me have no problem with being farmers but the lack of finance to develop and cultivate large mass of land has been a problem. The collateral asked for by the banks for loan procurement is a major problem affecting the development of the agriculture sector.

'This scheme is a welcome one as it will empower the youth to have something of their own and more people will be ready to embrace farming, especially if the tools are modern techniques of farming,' he said.

Collective support
Ms. Ajayi also pleaded for collective support from private individuals and governments to invest more in agriculture by providing financial aids in form of land, mechanised tools, and improved varieties of seedlings to farmers to enable them expand their operations.

'Our target is to be able to feed Nigerians by the next harvest season. We also hope to export in the nearest future but this we cannot achieve alone. It is time the government, well meaning Nigerians as well as corporate bodies, invested in agriculture by making more funds available for the sector.

'It is saddening that food items are still very expensive in a country where we have about 75,000 thousand hectares of arable land which is left uncultivated and this should not be so. That is why we are borrowing this initiative from America where food is cheap and available to all. Through investments in mechanised farming, Nigeria can improve the lot of our farmers and the economy as the whole,' she added.