President of IFAD, Dr. Kanayo Nwanze
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has warned that Nigeria may not survive the impact of the projected 100 per cent increase in the country’s population by the year 2050, unless a vibrant agricultural scheme that embraces pro-poor researches and youths’ participation is imbibed.
The international agro-financial institution, based in Rome, Italy, stressed that it was imperative for governments to create vibrant rural economies that offer attractive opportunities to young people in Nigeria because of the need to double its food production by 2050 to meet projected demand.
The President of IFAD, Dr. Kanayo Nwanze, pointed this out during his visit to the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Oyo State, and also noted that agriculture presently employs two-thirds of Nigeria’s population, but ironically farmers remained poor despite being employed.
“With Nigeria’s population expected to double in 2050, the question is; what is the level of investment in the youths of today. Our leaders should start thinking long-term and not short-term because Nigeria’s future will not be viable without a vibrant agricultural map. Oil money has not transformed Nigeria in the last 40 years and it will not, unless someone changes that,” he said.
He called for more priority attention to be paid to the youths because the fate of the country was in the hands of the future generation.
“By investing in pro-poor locally- tailored research, and by approaching smallholder farming businesses and establishing the conditions for those businesses to thrive, and by investing in young rural people, we can create a brighter tomorrow – not just for our rural population but for Nigeria as a nation,” he said.
Nwanze said that agricultural research can ensure that the smallholder, the fisherman, the pastoralist, the forest dweller and the herder have the means to adapt to climate change. “It can ensure that poor rural people, whose lives and livelihoods depend on the earth’s productive capacity, have the means to produce more and to produce it better.
“To revamp agriculture in Nigeria, we must harness the best of pro-poor agricultural research and push the frontiers of innovation. We must develop innovative and climate-resilient solutions, such as seeds that are more tolerant to drought or to floods, and make sure they are available to resource-poor farmers. If we don’t, our agricultural productivity will remain unacceptably low,” he added.
He also pointed out that it was not always the most advanced technology that reaps the greatest rewards. To him, “Sometimes, the best way to grow food is to go back to basics.”
He disclosed that IFAD has a $90 million portfolio to support Nigeria’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda in the next three years and has already invested close to $600 million in the country’s agricultural development.
He noted that smallholders need access to financial services so that they can invest in and grow their businesses. “This is why IFAD is supporting a scheme to make cheap credit available to smallholders through microfinance banks, financial cooperatives and member-based rural finance institutions”, he said.
Nwanze also noted that today, opportunities in African markets dwarf opportunities in export markets because of the growing investment trend coming to Africa which is a good opportunity to increase land under cultivation by 100 per cent and develop the agro-industrial sector to meet growing demand for food from the growing middleclass
In his welcome address the Director General of IITA Dr. Nteranga Sanginga, remarked that agriculture has the potential to reduce the global scourge of unemployment for youths especially here in Nigeria.
He said that IITA could assist IFAD in accessing robust-ready-to use technological packages and practices relevant to target groups of its investment projects in sub-Saharan Africa to increase crop yield and improve food security, specifically in the area of enhancing the competitiveness of high quality cassava flour value chain in Nigeria.