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Innovative agriculture, stimulant for economic development —Experts

EXPERTS at a forum on smallholder farmers have advocated for a new economy driven by agriculture and urged farmers to consider agriculture as an enterprise. This call was made at a dialogue session targeted at youth farmers in the value chain of agriculture, recently organized by the Enterprise Development Centre (EDC), Pan Atlantic University, Lagos, in partnership with the British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation (BATNF).

Innocent Azih, an agriculture expert, in a keynote address on the theme, “Role of Smallholder Farmers in the New Economy,” said, “agriculture is the pillar of the policy framework of the Federal Government’s economic diversification bid.”

He added that with the right policy stimulus, such as research support, robust food security programme, market access facilitation, inputs delivery, adequate infrastructure, among others, this objective could be achieved.

Highlighting the role of smallholder farmers in the nation’s agricultural sector, Azih urged the farmers to seek innovative ways of increasing the domestic production of the entire commodity grown by them, infuse technology in production, seek information and update their knowledge. He specifically identified the youth as the key drivers of the new economy, noting that they have the passion, education and energy to accomplish it.

During a panel discussion, Fatai Afolabi, Technical Committee Member (BATNF), observed that the rhetoric had moved away from agriculture to agribusiness. “We are beginning to talk about value chain and food, and not just commodity,” he added.

Speaking further, Afolabi noted that innovation is very critical to value chain development, saying: “All value chain must come to terms with innovation. Innovation is key. It doesn’t mean changing the way things were done in the past, but doing it differently and better.”

Another member of the panel, Mezuo Nwuneli, Managing Director, Sahel, noted that farmers must approach business opportunities in agriculture with greater care. He advised smallholder farmers to see farming and grain as a science which needs to improve yearly in tandem with other parts of the world, and tailor innovation towards improving agribusiness.

Olusola Sowemimo, Founder, Ope Farms, who was also a panelist, counseled that “there is the need to create a scheme that can enable youths to test the waters.”