Agribusiness, which is a shift from food-security oriented farming to market, profit, and technology-driven farming as a business has a huge potential to provide self-employment opportunities, income generation, and secure the livelihoods of rural youth.
However, most women and youth do not find agriculture attractive due to the myriad of challenges faced in their quest to venture into agribusiness such as lack of access to adequate farmland, lack of access to finance, markets, and technology.
As part of the efforts towards making agriculture the mainstay of the economy away from oil, President Muhammadu Buhari had directed Federal government institutions to work in synergy in lifting and diversifying the economy, and the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) should be given all the support it needs to expand Integrated Farm Estate across the 109 senatorial zones in the country.
To this end, NALDA Executive Secretary Prince Paul Ikonne said the agency took advantage of the policies in the agricultural sector to make agriculture attractive and profitable by setting up integrated farm estates across the country.
In quest to produce what we eat and eat what we produce, Ikonne said the Authority under six months completed the first integrated farm estate in Suduje- Daura, Katsina State with social amenities such as school, clinic and a residential area, with 120 units of one bedroom apartments for the farmers and their families to live and work on the farm.
The integrated farm estate comprises of 40 poultry pens with a capacity of over 400,000 birds, Fish ponds with a capacity of 200,000 fishes, cow, and goat pens with a capacity of 500 animals, rabbit pens with a capacity of 3,000 rabbits, bee apiary with a capacity of 540 litres of honey per harvest, crop farming, packaging, and processing zones.
The NALDA boss said the Federal Government will be raking in over N1.7 billion in the first year from agribusiness that will be operating in the integrated farm estate.
While noting that the farm estate is established on a 100-hectare land donated by the Katsina State government, he said when replicated across the country will increase Gross Domestic Product (GDP), reduce unemployment and will go a long way towards achieving food security.
He explained that the program is under NALDA’s National Young Farmers Scheme (NYFS), which President Mohammadu Buhari launched in November 2020.
However, President Buhari said the Integrated Farming scheme opens up more opportunities for employment, and most importantly creates a communal-based system that promotes food security, skills acquisition and entrepreneurship.
Buhari while restating his administration’s commitment to lifting 100 Nigerians out of poverty said the farm estate is a landmark in the country’s journey to achieving food security and ensuring that Nigeria eats what it produces.
He noted that with continuous effort being made in the agriculture sector, Nigeria could produce surplus that would be exported.
”No excuse will be enough to remain a mono-economy , with all the challenges in oil production and the fluctuating global crisis when we have such opportunities in crop and livestock production.
“I am confident that Nigeria under my watch will achieve food security in producing most of what we eat, in a good harvest year we may even export our surplus and earn foreign exchange.
“Our vision of a robust agricultural economy continues to provide amazing results. Across the country today, we are seeing rising public and private interests in agriculture, especially among the youth, and a steady migration from subsistence to commercial farming,” he said.
Ikonne said the NALDA integrated farm estate is designed with a complete production chain for food and livestock, an irrigation system so that farmers will have three production cycles in a year.
“This will attract and keep young people busy in crop and livestock production all year round. We are thankful for the visionary steps the President has taken in building and protecting the economy with sound policies, particularly in the agricultural sector, and clearly, we now produce what we eat and eat what we produce,” he said.
Furthermore, Katsina State Governor Aminu Bello Masari said with proper management of the project and a strong irrigation system the integrated farm would serve its full purpose, with benefits to the people and economy of the state.
Capacity and participating farmers
The NALDA boss explained that the integrated farm estate is deliberately designed to accommodate, empower and position a new set of 1,500 agro entrepreneurs every year.
“The integrated farm estate comprises 40 poultry pens with a capacity of over 400,000 birds, fish ponds with a capacity of 200,000 fishes, cow and goat pens with a capacity of 500 animals, rabbit pens with a capacity of 3,000 rabbits, bee apiary with a capacity of 540 litres of honey per harvest.
“We will take in new farmers every year (and farmers pass out and move on to become independent after being trained and making money). This will attract and keep young people busy in crop and livestock production all year round.”
Explaining how the Authority used the 100-hectare land donated by the Katsina government, he said: “This farm is designed as cyclical, where every process is part of a value chain. It is divided into 80 hectares for crop production and 20 hectares for animal production, processing and packaging, with growing of feeds, which include recycling animal wastes as fertiliser for plants, and growing plants to feed the animals.
”The ecosystem is best appreciated with low cost, domestically fabricated machinery like the incubators, ovens, and battery cages which can be easily understood and adapted by the farming community.”
He said the participating farmers are from 13 communities, namely Suduje, Madobi, Kaya, Sharawa, Sukwanawa, Dadin Kowa, Daberan, Benga, Kurneji, Zari, Mazuji, Tambu and Dannakola.
While explaining that the integrated farm has a processing and packaging zone for fish, chicken and pepper, he added that farmers from outside the estate will also have their products, especially pepper processed and packaged so they can get more value.
“The entire farm has the capacity to generate over N1.7b in the first year. This has the capacity to engage 1,500 women and youth directly.
“The Integrated Farming System (IFS) holds a special position as nothing is wasted, the by-product of one system becomes the input for another.
“With the farm’s poultry, fishery, rabbitry and bee keeping unit, about 95 percent of the nutritional requirement of the system is self-sustained through resource recycling,” he added.
On training, Ikonne said farmers are being trained on best agricultural practices in crop farming, livestock, poultry, rabbits and fish farming.
“Sustainable development is the only way to promote rational utilisation of resources and environmental protection,” he said.
In providing financial support, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele said the apex bank would work with Ikonne and his team to explore the potential of providing affordable and accessible finance to the beneficiaries under the agricultural scheme to scale up productivity.
He pointed out that the strategic mandate of NALDA aligned with the current developmental priorities of the CBN.
He said CBN would integrate rural farmers into the federal government’s Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), which is focused on providing five million homes with electricity using renewable energy.
He explained that under the programme, farmers with good repayment records under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) would be eligible to get solar home systems (SHS) to supply electricity to their homes.
He noted that the bank would develop a repayment framework that would allow the farmers to use their farm produce to pay for electricity consumed under the scheme.
The CBN, therefore, added that the initiative was expected to improve the standard of living of smallholder farmers across the country and motivate prompt loan repayment, as well as enhance the sustainability of the programme.
Buhari said with support of public institutions, like the CBN and Bank of Agriculture, credit lines are becoming more accessible, and farming is becoming more acceptable and fashionable.
“With the support of public institutions, like the CBN and Bank of Agriculture, old tools are giving way to more mechanised styles of farming, credit lines are becoming more accessible, and farming is becoming more acceptable and fashionable. Indeed, we are witnessing a revolution in the agricultural sector.’’
Ikonne said the integrated farm estate would go a long way to uplifting rural life through increased income by creating employment opportunities to the farming communities all year round.
“As the number of enterprises increase, the profit margin also increases and further generates employment opportunities for the farming communities all year round and provides better economic and nutritional security. This will go a long way to uplifting rural life through increased income.”