The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, on Friday in Abuja inaugurated an 18-member committee for implementation of Federal Government’s Agriculture mechanisation programme called The Green Imperative Programme (GIP).
The programme, which is estimated at $1.1 billion, is to be funded by the Brazilian Government through a loan from the Deutsche Bank (DB), Development Bank of Brazil and Islamic Development Bank.
The loan is expected to be repaid at three per cent interest rate over a period of 15 years for Development Bank of Brazil and seven years including two years moratorium for the DB.
The programme is expected to benefit 100,000 young people directly and five million indirectly.
This is designed to enable Nigeria acquire 10,000 units of tractors and 50,000 units of assorted implement and equipment for assembly in Nigeria.
It is also meant to ensure training of project beneficiaries for over 10 years and establishment of 780 service centres to assist small holder farmers prepare the soil, cultivate and harvest farm produce.
GIP is further designed to enhance agricultural mechanisation specialised extension services and agro-processing in the 774 local government areas and the six area councils in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Nanono, who is the Chairman of the committee, said the programme was timely in view of the need to feed the Nigerian population estimated at 200 million as well as other African countries that rely on Nigeria.
“The programme would be private sector driven, government would only create the enabling environment and offer assistance where necessary,’’ the minister said.
He advised small agro allied companies and agricultural cooperative societies to take advantage of the opportunity created by government to be part of the agricultural revolution by investing in it.
According to Nanono, Nigeria feeding itself and others is an enormous task that GIP is meant to address, saying, “of estimated 65 per cent arable land in Africa, Nigeria accounts for over 30 per cent’’.
He, however, lamented that in spite of large land mass, running into over 84 million hectares, only 34 million hectares were being cultivated, saying “it is not hectare coverage but yield per hectare that is the challenge.’’
“Findings reveal that we have only 7000 functional tractors in this country. We have only seven tractors by 100 square kilometres.
“Compare that with Kenya that has 27 tractors by 100 square kilometres. The standard is 127 per square kilometres. So you can imagine the task before us.
“All these noise about this project we are launching today is aimed at only 10,000 tractors.
“ So to even catch up with Kenya, we need to have 60,000 tractors, you can imagine the task before us,’’ he said.
Nanono expressed optimism that the programme, which would have service centres in 632 local government areas and 140 processing centres, would achieve its mandate in view of the dire need to boost production in the country.
“Agricultural mechanisation must be a top priority in Nigeria, whether government or private sector, because without mechanisation, there is no way we can feed about 200 million people and get surplus for agro allied industries.
“I think this is going to be one of the most important agricultural projects ever embarked upon by governments in Nigeria.
“It is revolutionary and will engage many people. Government is committed to the success of the project, which discussion has been on for the past five years,’’ he said.
The minister charged all stakeholders to play their parts effectively for the success of the programme.
The Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Dr Abdulkadir Muazu, commended the initiative.
According to him, it is one of the major ways to make farming attractive to youths, who form about 60 per cent of the Nigerian population.
He said the initiative would not only create employment but lift people out of poverty and further ensure actualisation of the diversification effort of government.