We must develop agriculture ? House Committee Chairman
From AIDOGHIE PAULINUS, Abuja
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
House of Representatives Chairman on Agriculture, Mr. Gbenga Makanjuola, has reiterated the need to develop the agricultural sector in Nigeria.
Makanjuola, who spoke at the media training workshop on agricultural technology organised by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) in Abuja, noted that prior to the emergence of oil in the 1970?s, Nigeria had been a major exporter of agricultural commodities, including cocoa, groundnuts, cotton, rubber and palm oil.
He, however, said the increased aggregate food production had not necessarily translated into improved food security and nutrition.
?Yields per hectare and soil fertility are very low due to unavailability of fertilizers and improved seeds.
?With a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$40 billion, Nigeria is Africa?s second largest economy. Yet, over two-thirds of the population live below the poverty line, the majority residing in rural areas.
?Currently, the sector contributes 40 per cent to the GDP against 13 perc ent from oil, with crop production accounting for an estimated 85 per cent of this total, livestock for 10 percent, with remainder made up by fisheries and forestry.
?Against this background, concerted efforts must be made, as a matter of urgency, to improve the performance of agriculture, agro-processing, trade as well as the nation?s stock of infrastructure to enable Nigeria take fuller advantage of emerging opportunities in the domestic and international markets,? Makanjuola said.
While noting that the current food security challenges and failure of the agricultural sector were unarguably a reflection of agricultural sector in Nigeria, Makanjuola said the agricultural sector?s contribution to economic growth and sustained rural development remained to be fully exploited.
?With poverty incidence of about 70 per cent, about 90 million Nigerians are poor, representing over one-third of the Africa?s poor.
?Poverty in Nigeria is mainly rural as nearly three quarters of the poor or 85 per cent of the extreme poor live in the rural areas and depend on agriculture,? he noted.
In her remark, the Communication and Partnership Manager, AATF, Nancy Muchiri, while noting that the workshop was important and timely, said it offered an opportunity for journalists and scientists to meet, discuss and share information, knowledge and approaches on science reporting and especially agricultural biotechnology reporting.
?The media is a partner in all human development endeavors and one cannot do without their involvement. We know the critical role they play in informing and educating our people on what is going on. It is therefore crucial that journalists know what we are doing for our people, get to understand the methods, reasons and meanings of what we do so that they can be able to inform and educate the public appropriately,? she remarked.