By John Oba
To enhance the free feeding scheme for students, which was part of the campaign promises by President Muhammadu Buhari, the African Centre for Food, Agriculture and Sustainable Development (Afri-CASD) has called on the Federal Government to partner local farmers in the scheme implementation.
The Centre stated that partnering with farmers to drive the initiative would boost food production locally and help reduce the rate of post-harvest losses.
Speaking during a briefing in Abuja, Afri-CASD Director of Communications, Mr. Bolaji Akindehinde said engaging farmers in the scheme would drive positive change in the economy and most importantly motivate farmers to do more.
He said farmers at that point would believe more in federal government’s sincerity to diversify the economy and develop the agriculture sector beyond what some had termed lip service.
The Buhari led administration during his campaign promised to introduce free meals for school infants as part of measures to promote nutrition and education especially in the north east region.
“Can you imagine what will accrue to farmers if the federal or state governments patronise farmers directly through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development or State Ministry of Agriculture while implementing the free school feeding?
“Such gesture would be so welcoming because farmers won’t continue to be at the mercy of buyers who take their advantage due to poor market. When government buys directly from them at reasonable cost, they are fulfilled and they are propelled to plant more. Aside, youths can also be attarcted to the sector. So the partnership is very vital.”
It could be recalled that as part of commitments of the federal government, the Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, at the 4th Annual Accountants Conference recently in Abuja, restated that the free feeding scheme was a core project of the federal government that would in turn yield about 1.14 million jobs and increase in food production.
Osinbajo said the scheme would also increase food production by 530,000 metric tonnes per annum and attract fresh investments up to N980bn.
Akindehinde, who also spoke on factors that discourage youth in agriculture and food increase identified lack of infrastructure, market, finance, post-harvest losses amongst other factors as a major bane to the sector.
According to him, over 40 percent of farm produce get spoilt after harvest due to lack of storage and processing facilities.
“Electricity is quite important especially for the running of large farm equipment, there is no gain saying that agriculture in Nigeria has greatly improved due to the advent of technology and other necessary infrastructures.
“In the past, farmers only venture into subsistence farming, to feed their family and at times sell excess harvest in the market but Growth in agricultural output has been on the increase and farmers have start venturing into large scale farming,” he said