The President, African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina has disclosed plans to launch $800 million scheme to support the agriculture sector.
Adesina said the initiative called the Technology for African Agriculture Transformation (TAAT) was part of efforts designed to encourage technological innovation in the sector.
The AfDB president made this known at the opening of the African Economic Conference (ACE) organised by the bank in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Monday in Abuja.
He said the scheme when implemented would reach 40 million farmers in one year.
He added that another $24 billion would be used to support Nigeria’s agric sector to fight hunger and post-harvest loses.
His words: “To take new agricultural technologies to scale, we are launching $800m initiative known as TAAT. It has a goal of reaching over 40 million farmers in 10 years. We must equally reduce the food system losses along the value-chain from the farm, transport, storage, processing and marketing.”
The AfDB president called for a rapid and inclusive bottom up approach to addressing challenges facing the agriculture sector.
He identified poor infrastructure and access to finance as major challenges, stressing that it became imperative to develop the Staple Crops Processing Zones (SCPZ).
Adesina added that the initiative would also reduce post-harvest losses.
The AfDB president urged African nations to invest in the SCPZ in order to create jobs, stressing needs to support private agro-allied firms through incentives and infrastructure.
His words: “It is important to seek innovative approach to solving finance challenges. When I was the Nigerian agriculture minister, we started NIRSAL which increased lending to farmers by six per cent.
“To drive agro-industrialisation, the role of finance is key so we are investing $24 billion into agriculture in the next 20 years.”
In his remarks, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh denied claims that the nation would face famine by 2017.
The Minister said the Federal Government already mapped out plans to support dry-season farming that would discourage the presumed food shortage.
He noted that about 10 dams would be constructed in States to support farm irrigation system.
He said the country has 33 silo sites with capacity to store about 2 million tons of grains so Nigerians should not panic.
Ogbeh said: “The threat of famine-I think that is a bit of an exaggeration. No danger of famine now. We are doing far better than we did a decade ago. But there is some panic. People are buying and storing. Our neighbours in the West, North and Central Africa are buying, they have always bought. So this is a challenge I am happy about.
“It says to the farmer, there is a market for your produce. So we are not going to face famine. Government will make sure it doesn’t happen. The GES scheme is working.”
On recession, he said, “stop buying rice. Eat what you produce, produce what you eat. We have water, irrigation, capacity so we should go into farming. We don’t have business importing foods.”