The National President of the Grassroots Farmers Development Initiative of Nigeria (GFDIN) Eze Anthony has said the problem of Nigerian agriculture is the government have been unable to identify who a real farmer.
He also pointed out the most of the agricultural loans government rolled out in the past have fallen in the hands of businessmen and politicians who can easily produce collateral and access the funds immediately.
Anthony, who disclosed this during an interview with Nigerian Tribune at his office in Abuja, said it is necessary that government have a comprehensive data of real farmers in the country.
According to him “the issue is that government doesn’t know farmers and farmers at the rural areas doesn’t know government, so how do you give loan to somebody you don’t know.
“Government does not have a comprehensive data of who is farmer in Nigeria, so when they release the money, business people, politicians will smartly come and be accessing that money and you think it’s farmers.”
Speaking on the challenges of rural farmers, Anthony said “everything that has to do with agriculture and farming is problem to grassroots farmers. There is no aspect of farming to the grassroots farmers that is easy.
“There is no aspect of agriculture that you can confidently say that government have been able to address. It is only in Nigeria that grassroots farmers does not farm with network of irrigation.
“The bottle necks of accessing funds from government which was discussed over the years, which government pledged support that they are going to reduce are still there.
“The larger percentage of rural farmers does not know there is anything called government funding for agriculture.”
He further noted that the farmers have been unable to access necessary information from the government due to the vacuum created as result of the absence of Agriculture extension workers.
“A farmer that lives hundreds of kilometres from where the government is, how do you think such person know that the government is releasing funds for farmers when they don’t have access to information”, he argued.
The GFDIN President said that over the years, the Initiative have been working hard to see how farm inputs will be made available to farmers at the cheapest cost.
He also said that presently, the GFDIN with thousands of officials across the country have embarked on compilation of the data of grassroots farmers across the country.
“The challenge which we are facing now is how to get mobilities in supplying and getting some of these inputs across to farmers”, he added.
Commenting on the way forward for the Nigerian agriculture, Pastor Anthony said the government should firstly embark on identification of real farmers in the country which will enable them have a target when releasing funds to boost the sector.
“First of all, government should embark on proper identification of who is a farmer, it may take years, but that is the way to go, when you have a comprehensive data of who is a farmers, government will now know the right people to deal with.
“Government should come up with soft policies that will enhance the production of crops in Nigeria. What I mean by soft polices, is that the policies in place now for farmers are too harsh”, he noted.
He further said that the government should encourage farmers by processing their products, partner with Quarantine agency and export these products the same way they are exporting crude oil.