Posted by Ifedayo Oshin on Saturday, January 18, 2014 Under: Personality Profiles & Interviews

Dr. Oluwole Fatunbi  has said that South Africa – Nigeria business relationship should be a win-win partnership” in a response to question about the increasing presence of South Africa businesses in Nigeria. He made this point at an interview with The Nigerian Voice Newspaper at Sandton Hilton Hotel, Johannesburg on the 27th November 2013.

The State of Nigerian Agricultural Sector

Dr. Fatunbi gave an historical background of the sector before the present Nigerian government assumed office. He listed the past challenges facing the sector such as technology generation and dissemination, lack of finance for agricultural research system, inefficient essential system, input supply and output market as well as lack of productivity. All this notwithstanding, the research scientist affirmed that “the system itself is a bundle of potentials’, because, ‘Nigeria has all manners of agrologists and therefore the country should be able to feed itself and also export to other countries.”

Presently, the doctor of agriculture agrees that there has been a big turnaround in Nigeria’s agricultural sector. He attributed this positive change to the leadership of the erudite Minister of Agriculture, Akin Adeshina. “From the policy angle, he is pushing hard to ensure that the country come up with strong policy framework that support small farmers. A good example is the input distribution within the system”.   Dr. Fatunbi believes that the Minister’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda has the capacity to transform the country’s agricultural sector if the process of implementation is well managed and is devoid of politics and corruption.

Nigeria’s has High Yielding Wheat Variety

He gave examples of two commodities- (wheat and rice) that offer huge economic and food potentials for Nigeria if well managed. “It is often said that we lack the comparative advantage to produce wheat, but the North-South of Nigeria has huge potential for wheat production. Different technology has ensured this, and there are different variety of wheat that can do well in Nigeria”, he emphasized.

Dr. Fatunbi regrettably noted that the continual importation of wheat costs Nigeria 4 billion naira per day; the implication of which, he said, “Nigeria is importing poverty worth of 4 billion naira and reducing the poverty of the farmers of the exporting country by 4 billion naira on daily basis.” Therefore, he advises Nigeria to look inward in terms of wheat production. According to him, the wheat produced in Nigeria has been proven to be better as high yielding variety wheat. He believes this same principle applies to rice production in the country.
Technology for Agricultural Development

The FARA (Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa) research fellow is of the opinion that there is availability of technology in Nigeria, “but it needs to get to the end-users’ hands by using framework like the innovation system approach”. He recommends the need to use this “kind of approach that brings technology down on an innovation platform, which brings all stakeholders around the commodity value chain and system of production together”.  With this kind of platform, small-holder farmers will have access to buyers, researchers, extension agents and financiers for profitable enterprises.

Nigeria – South Africa Trade Relations

Dr. Fatunbi sees the trade relationship between SA and Nigeria as a welcome development rather than a commercial colonization of Nigerian economy as it is being muted in some quarters. He observed that South Africa’s entry into Nigerian market is as a result of Nigeria’s fast growing middle class population by 20% and with a dynamic changing social and consumption behavioral pattern.  So, as it relates to SA and Nigeria, he is of the view that, “it should be a win–win partnership”.  He advances a policy initiative “that ensures that agricultural commodities are produced locally, and retail chain are not brought into the country”. If such policy is enacted, the development expert believes that there will be more job creation, more income for Nigerian farmers and benefits for South Africa investors.

Creation of Commodities Value Addition

To support value addition to our commodities, there is need for provision of affordable financing for small scale producers. “Nigeria needs to come up with a very succinct supportive financing mechanism for the small holder farmers”, Dr. Fatunbi advised. He compared Brazil’s agricultural loan rate of 5% to Nigeria’s 18 to 30%. He  opines that Nigerian bank rate on loans cannot support agriculture and does not support competiveness of the commodity that comes out of that system as it is the case in Brazil.

He recommends FARA’s Innovative Funds for Agricultural Transformation as a type of funding model that the Nigerian government can adopt by contributing into development agency which in turn offers credit to farmers at a single digit 5%. “The farmers work within IR on an innovation platform since they don’t have collateral. The innovation platform provides group guarantee for them. There is certainty that farmers can produce and sell as well as pay the 5% loans under the innovation platform”.

Thoughts and Advice to The Nigerian Voice newspaper 

“The first view of the newspaper really shows that it is a good work and it should be supported by all. If you have column on agriculture, I will not mind to contribute articles from time to time. I think this is going to clarify opinions about the image of Nigeria. Erroneously, we have been mislabeled, and an instrument like this is an instrument for public relations… and it is very good. I think this should fall into the hands of everyone and they should and get to know what goes on in Nigeria. Nigeria is a great country with good people and its future is good”.

Dr. Oluwole Fatunbi is a programme officer with the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa- FARA in Ghana. FARA is the technical arm of the African Union that is co-coordinating and facilitating agricultural research and development in Africa. The former University of Fort Hare lecturer, (South Africa) completed his MSc and PHD at the foremost Nigerian university, the University of Ibadan. With 45 scientific publications to his credit, the Nigerian research and development scientist is erudite as they come. His passion is to contribute to green revolution in Africa. And my vision is to see African farmer produce, sell, make money and look like his counterpart in the West and East, he stated.

In : Personality Profiles & Interviews 

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