Today’s report is actually the size of an elephant and imagine for a moment that you are faced with the small task of confronting a whole barbequed elephas maximus…? Such is the setting for today’s piece which is partially an account of the Nigerian Guild of Editors’ conference held last week in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Obviously triggered by the dark images hanging over the nation’s horizon, the editors (apparently unbeknown to them) put up a crash programme on how to save Nigeria via agriculture revolution. It was perhaps the most stirring agric summit one had attended and it turned out an eye-opener for the crowd of editors and senior journalists from across the country. The only downside was that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture was missing at a forum that was perfect for presenting its new plan – The Agriculture Promotion policy (2016 – 2020). More on this later.
Stars of the story: Of the numerous speakers on parade, three examples stand out because their stories are not only stellar, they exemplify the power and ingenuity of youth; signalling to us that our great nation would yet rise to her billowing glory regardless of the scourge of poor leadership.
The first to wow the crowd was a feisty young man known as Lucas Adeniji. If his energy could be converted to megawatts, it would probably light up half of Lagos; he is the managing director of Niji Farms and Allied Services Limited. Established four years ago in Kajola, Oyo State, the farm, he said, has about 3,000 acres of cultivated land of mainly cassava, yam and maize.
An internationally-acclaimed agric entrepreneur, Lucas has managed to work his business through the entire agric value chain. In other words, he fabricates production and processing tools, he cultivates, processes and has even developed both local and international markets for his products. He collaborates at various levels with such major organisations as College of Agriculture, Umuagwo; National Root Crop Research Institute; International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan and the Honeywell Group to name a few.
He has a number of processed and packaged foods to his name, such as Niji yam flour, Niji garri, Niji fufu, Niji vita, etc. which are available in markets and malls across the country.
The ‘uncowed’ milkman: The Economist of London after an interview with Alhaji Muhammad D. Abubakar in his Kano farm, it typically, titled the story ‘uncowed’. Such is the impact Abubakar is making with his L&Z Farms Limited in Kano. According to him, he left his bank job a few years ago to establish his dairy farm. And till today, his is the only full process diary farm in Nigeria which produces fresh milk.
Successful and self-assured, Abubakar dropped a few, shall we say, verbal bombshells which had the large hall in disarray. One, he said 70 per cent of the powdered milk we have been lapping up in this country is not consumed anywhere else on the globe because they are infused with fat and used only as additive in manufacturing.
Two, but here is the banger, he told us that MOST OF THE SO-CALLED POWEDERED MILK CONSUMED BY NIGERIANS CAN CAUSE CANCER. He would not name any brands but challenged the foods, drug and consumer agencies to run their tests and disprove him.
Three, he told us so many other things we did not know. The so-called Fulani herdsmen he said do not actually need to move about or stay in large ranches for that matter. They wander about out of survival instincts. If they were aggregated into small cooperatives and there was a sure market for their products, there won’t be any need for them to ‘suffer’ so much wandering about.
He continues: “If there were large dairy farms and meat processing factories that are off-takers of their products they would organise themselves around their living quarters and neighbourhoods. It is about creating viable value chains.”
To drive home his point, he made us to understand that milk is better taken fresh and in liquid form; that is what obtains in other parts of the world except Nigeria. His fresh milk can be found in supermarkets in major cities of the country. He is not shy to say he has become successful from producing and selling milk in Nigeria, a feat no other firm has achieved.
His company is assessed by the international accounting firm, Price Waterhouse Coopers and at least three multinational companies have applied to partner him. Just like what our leaders are wont to do, foreign companies (investors) come down to Nigeria to seek him out.
Lastly, L&Z Farms runs on generator for 24 hours because of the nature of its products (fresh milk, yoghurt, cheese and chickens) which need to be refrigerated all the time; he has never borrowed a dime from any bank nor enjoyed any government financing. He urged Nigerian professional to take the huge advantages in agribusiness, especially at the processing end.
Pretty Miss Farmer: This is the moniker by which Ms Mosun Umoru is commonly known by today. And she is indeed beautiful – tall, delicate and finely slender, any man would want to follow her to the farm if that is what it takes! She is the managing director of Harvesters Farms Limited in Ile Ife, Osun State. A 3000-acre farm city, it is an integrated farm that embodies many agric chains – from production to the dining table. Numerous processed products from the farm which include garri, rice, etc, are already in supermarkets in the country.
She is hands-on, being able not only to drive her own tractors but she can maintain them as well. A graduate of Lagos State University and Stanford in the USA, she has created the very important though intangible advantage of making agriculture look cool to Nigerian youths who think agric is dirty and not ‘lucrative’.
PMB’s Agric Promotion Policy (APP): So many other speakers spoke at the NGE conference including the managing director of the Bank of Agriculture and many agric commissioners, but these three stood out and made huge impact. One had expected the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development would have stormed the venue to sell its new strategy document released in June, but that was not to be.
It is a story that would be told here another day soon. Suffice to say that it is a better articulated work compared to the Agric Transformation Agenda of the last administration. But articulation can be very cheap when put beside implementation.
Back to the top, Nigeria’s agribusiness today is like a whole barbequed elephant: so gargantuan, so sumptuous yet so dauntingly offensive. How would you approach your elephant?
The Imo conundrums
Last week on this portion of space, one had interrogated the rationale for the deprecatingly novel three-day work week being mooted in Imo State. It is bad enough that the state’s civil service had been in the doldrums in this dispensation; to now design a lackadaisical work regime is to finally bury the bureaucracy. Perhaps the government may wish to completely do away with the civil service; whereupon we shall have the 8th wonder of the modern world in Imo State.
Passing through the streets of Owerri, Imo capital last weekend, it is apparent that a hurricane had wreaked havoc on some major streets. Orlu road, Okigwe road and Mbaise road were troubling spectacles with wailing and mourning on the trail of the whirlwind.
Now these roads were freshly revamped and dualised, but the governor is said to want make them eight-lane roads. Well the motive maybe noble, but eight-lane roads through the city cannot be the priority of a state that cannot pay its workers. Especially if we remember that many inter-state roads in Nigeria are still two-lane. Thus, knocking down shops, offices and buildings without compensation and in a time of hunger borders on callousness. Worrisome signs indeed.