The Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) Resource Centre has called on government at all levels to make agriculture attractive to young farmers in the country.
According to the group, the country was at the risk of going hungry as the current average age of the Nigerian farmer has increased to 60.
The Executive Secretary, HEDA Resource Centre, Sulaiman Arigbabu, stressed that the federal government must as a matter of urgency, implement policies and programmes to support young farmers as it is done in other climes, saying that this is the only way to achieve food security.
Arigbabu, while speaking at an interactive session for agric sector leaders and selected Lagos candidates for the 2019 general elections tagged: “Meet the Farmers,” in Lagos, said Nigeria can no longer rely solely on oil as the mainstay of the economy owing to the fact that agriculture currently employs the highest labour work force and also the largest contributor to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) after oil.
“We have taken farmers for granted. We have taken food for granted. We need to pay attention to agriculture and we are saying to Lagos State that agriculture can add a whole lot to the Lagos economy. It can even go as far as securing the State against the shocks that will definitely as oil price continue to dwindle,” he said.
According to him, agriculture has the potential to lift millions out of poverty and create millions of jobs for the nation’s teeming youthful population.
“This young population needs government programmes and policies to support them in their endeavours as it is happening in other climes and this is why we are presenting the farmers manifesto, which is a document where we have identified along with the farmers all the issues that affects the sector.”
He stated that in Lagos State, budgetary allocation to agriculture was below one per cent, saying that the quality of spending does not maximise the production potential neither does it support small scale farmers.
Also speaking at the event, the Chair HEDA Management Team, Suraju Olanrewaju, said HEDA and other organisations had chosen to broaden and deepen the conversation around food security and agriculture as a major issue for the elections.
“What we seek to achieve is an atmosphere where candidates listen to farmers, listen to the farmers’ manifesto and then on the basis of that, tell the farmers how they plan to address various concerns of the sector,” he said.
He stated that issues of food production, distribution, storage and access to loans, inputs and machinery as well as the positioning of agriculture as the main earner of the economy was a central issue for the election if truly the country is serious about lifting millions out of poverty, creating millions of jobs, reducing the disease burden and diversifying the nation’s economy away from oil.