By Joke Adeniyi-Jackson
Agriculture which was the mainstay of the Nigerian economy in time past, suffered dwindling fortunes with the nation focusing on oil as the major revenue earner.
However, given the present day economic realities, there is an urgent need for the country to diversify its economy and as such, agriculture is believed to have the potentials to give Nigeria the desired lifeline. Hence, efforts by government at all levels to leverage on agriculture to reinvigorate the economy.
There, however, is no gainsay that agricultural mechanisation is essential in transforming agricultural productivity in Nigeria through increased production and reduction in losses, thus contributing to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). To accelerate the mechanisation of the agricultural sector of the economy, the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation (NCAM), has been designing and developing efficient machineries and technologies in order to reduce drudgery and improve quality of agricultural production and food security not only in Nigeria but in Africa at large.
But, this effort has been undermined by multi-faceted factors, which have made the expected revolution in the sector a mirage, as there is low adoption of these simple and low cost equipment by small and medium scale Nigerian farmers. This, therefore formed crux of an Agricultural Mechanisation stakeholders’ meeting held at the premises of NCAM, Ilorin, Kwara State, last Tuesday.
With the theme:” Towards extension of new innovations in agricultural research and development,” speaker upon speaker and participants at the event, xray the problems and proffer solutions to the challenges militating against the adopting of indigenous technologies for agricultural mechanisation in Nigeria in particular.
The participants comprised of Agricultural Development Programmes (ADPs) Managers from Sokoto, Kaduna, Oyo, Nasarawa, Benue, Kano, Ogun, Niger, Ekiti, Katsina, Kwara, Osun and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and staff of research institutions across the country.
Others in attendance were members of Cassava Growers Association (CGA) and All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN).
In his welcome address, the Executive Director of NCAM, Engineer Muyideen Yomi Kasali noted that the introduction of technologies is the best way to increase productivity to reduce drudgery, improve timeliness of operation, increase productivity per hectare and thus improve the socio-economy of the farmers.
He, however, lamented that though NCAM has developed several problem-solving agricultural equipments and implements, most of the technologies have not been adopted by farmers.
He enumerated the factors to include, the financial incapacitation of farmers who are predominantly peasants; lack of synergy between the farmers and researchers; inconsistency in government policies and dearth of extension workers.
“There are other factors which include socio-cultural practices, poor linkage between research extension and farmers, inadequate access to credit facilities by farmers, lack of in- training for extension workers and poor funding of institutions responsible for extension workers such as ADPs,”he further noted.
While decrying the penchant for imported agricultural machineries by state government, he pointed out that patronage of indigenous technologies will bring about employment generation, create new innovations and help the sector grow to international standard.
” State governments have penchant for imported machineries even without recourse to the Centre mandated to regulate imported machineries and also certify same for suitability to the Nigerian agricultural clime.
“These imported machineries are subjected variation in temperature, thus leading to their breakdown in a short time. Furthermore they are imported without taking into consideration availability of their spare parts. It is in these areas that local technologies have an edge over imported machineries,” the NCAM boss added.
Kasali bemoaned the low ratio of extension workers to farmers, which he said is 1:35,000 which is a far cry from the World Bank recommendation of 1:800.
“This ratio is absolutely too low to have meaningful impact in the Agricultural sector. This, coupled with lack of incentives for extension workers has made adoption of local technologies impossible,” he stated.
According to him, NCAM has successfully produced technologies in every crop value chain in the country including complete processing technologies in rice processing, oil palm production, cassava and coffee processing.
Others are tractors, yam heaping implement, 4-row grain planter, motorised hand guarded multi- crop planter for small holder farmers and rice reaper, among others.
In his paper presented at the event, an Agribusiness expert, Dr. Bello Achem said the wealth and economic self reliance of any nation is directly related to the level of scientific, agricultural and technological development.
“Agricultural innovation plays a significant role in fighting poverty, lowering unit costs of production, boosting rural income and reducing hunger.
Achem noted that farmers will only adopt technology they are aware of or heard about, adding that education has positive and significant relationship with adoption of agric technology.
In his keynote address, the Executive Director of National Agricultural and Research Liasion Services (NAERLS), Prof. Mohammed Kabiru Othman, stressed that agricultural mechanisation is yet to receive the attention it deserved in Nigeria, in spite of its immense benefits.
Represented by Prof. Yusuf Muhammed Abdullahi, he listed issues affecting the extension of Agricultural Mechanisations Technologies (AMTs ) to include affordability, availability, low demand of locally-produced technologies, lack of enabling laws to facilitate business and gender issues
Speaking on the topic: ‘Extension and Commercialisation of Agricultural Mechanisation Technolohies; Issues, constraints and way forward,” he said there are inadequate frontline technical extension personnel to disseminate developed AMTs.
The constraints to the commercialisation of AMTs in Nigeria, according to him are inadequate or non-functional iron and steel industries; lack of infrastructural facilities for commercial production and manufacture; poor structure of engineering family; poor funding of research centres; lack of believe in locally produced machines by the investors or users as well as lack of capital for commercial production venture.
The professor then recommended as way out of the challenges, the control of importation and patronage of local technologies, revitalisation of government policies, provision of financial assistance to local fabricators such as bank guarantees for concessional loans.
Others are improvement of local fabricators’ enterprise capacity through research and training; a broad partnership between the public-sector and private-sector agencies and actors; manpower development etcetera.
Rising from syndicate groups the participants also put forward their recommendations aimed at addressing the impediments against adoption of AMTs by farmers.
*Improvement and motivation of extension agents to be able to effectively extend agricultural mechanization technologies (AMTs);
*Introduction of subsidy on finished agricultural mechanization technologies as it is beimg done for fertilizers, seeds, etcetera;
*Resuscitation of government owned steel industries as a way to make raw materials for the fabrication of Agricultural Mechanisation Technologies (AMTs) available;
*Need for NCAM to strengthen the feedback mechanism of the proven extended technologies;
*Involvement of private sectors in the commercialization of proven technologies;
*Massive recruitment of extension personnel at all levels;
*Adequate budgetary provisions for extension activities to meet the Maputo declaration;
*NCAM should identify stakeholders in the agricultural mechanization sector and provide the leadership role to synchronize their activities;
*Advocacy visits to states and demonstration of technologies to address the needs of the farmers;
*Intensification of awareness through various mass media, workshops, seminars and demonstrations of agricultural mechanisation technologies (AMTs);
*Legal framework should be put in place to allow NCAM deliver on her mandates;
*NCAM should ensure regular updating of database of AMTs across the country, and
*Cost of airing extension technology services by the broadcasting stations should be subsidized to assist in reaching out and extending relevant technologies to the farmers and agripreneurs.
In addition, the meeting also afforded the Centre the opportunity to showcase its technologies to the participants.