President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, said a total of $11 billion had been invested in the agricultural sector by private investors and development partners since the agricultural transformation agenda of his administration was launched in 2011.
The president spoke at a session of the ongoing 22nd Summit of African Union Heads of State and Government dedicated to the consideration of measures to boost agricultural production and food security in Africa.
He charged African countries to emulate Nigeria in its decision to give agriculture a priority as a viable business and not as “a development programme.”
According to him, agriculture has been yielding positive benefits for Nigeria.
“Over 65 per cent of the arable land left to feed nine billion people in the world is in Africa. We must not depend on others to feed our continent. We must feed ourselves, and do so with pride because Africa cannot be truly free, until it can feed itself.
“Greater priority must continue to be given to food security. But for this to happen, we must change how we view agriculture. Africa must end decades of treating agriculture as a development programme. We must focus on value chains, stop exporting raw materials and instead focus on high-value-added products.
“That is why Nigeria is strongly pursuing an aggressive programme to unlock the vast potential of its agricultural sector. Nigeria launched the Agricultural Transformation Agenda in 2011, with the goal of increasing our domestic food production by an additional 20 million metric tonnes and creating 3.5 million jobs by 2015.
“So much has been achieved since then. To ensure that our farmers get farm inputs directly, we developed the electronic wallet system, which allows farmers to get their subsidised seeds and fertilizers directly via electronic coupons on their mobile phones.
“Within two years, six million farmers have received their farm inputs directly via their mobile phones. Our farmers produced an additional 16 million metric tonnes of food, which is over 70 per cent of our target of 20 million metric tonnes for 2015.
“This has improved the food security of 30 million persons in farm households. We expect to reach 10 million farmers with the electronic wallet by this year, which will improve the food security of 50 million persons.
“Our approach of treating agriculture as a business is paying off. About $5 billion has come from our local private sector into fertilizer manufacturing. An additional $4 billion has come in from private sector in the agricultural value chains. Development partners have put in close to $2 billion in support of Nigeria’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda.
“Nigeria is ready to share its successful experience with other countries, so that this novel approach can be used all across Africa to empower farmers” Jonathan said.
He called for a continent-wide affirmative action in support of women farmers, declaring that Africa must give greater recognition to the role of women farmers and evolve new policies to support them.
“As the African Union embarks on this Year of Agriculture, we must recognise the role of our women farmers and evolve bold policies to support them. Agriculture is the future for Africa and that future can only be secured if we do more to support women farmers,” the president added.
Also at another occasion in Addis Ababa, Jonathan called for the need to urgently expedite action aimed at strengthening AU mechanism for the promotion of peace, security and political stability on the continent.
The president in an address at a session on peace and security in Africa at the AU summit, which opened yesterday, said the recent crises in South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) had reinforced the urgency of establishing the proposed African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC).
He said instruments within the current African peace and security architecture should, in the interim, be activated with a view to preventing the degeneration of conflicts into warfare.
“Although we have agreed on the establishment of the ACIRC as an interim arrangement, pending the operationalisation of the African Standby Force by 2015, it must be said that the present situation provides us the opportunity to review the existing mechanisms for conflict prevention in order to make them very effective,” he said.