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Monday, 17 November 2014

SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE: A DATE WITH NDIDI O. NWUNELI (MFR)

A man with a hoe on his shoulder, cutlass in one hand and a hat to protect him from the sun, is literally the first thing that comes to mind if you grew up in Nigeria and took the compulsory Agricultural Science class. Even with a Masters degree, it took two hours of brilliance for me to realize that I was among the ignorant percentage when it comes to Agriculture. Mrs Ndidi Nwuneli (MFR) introduced us to a world of Sustainable Agriculture as she graced us with her presence and wealth of knowledge at the “Meet the leader” event organized by the Abuja Global Shapers Hub.

Ndidi is a Harvard Business School graduate with past experience as a management consultant with McKinsey & Company. She returned to Nigeria and founded FATE Foundation, LEAP Africa and NIA. Currently the Managing Partner of African Alliance for Capital Expansion (AACE), Director of AACE Foods, Co-Founder Sahel Capital. She has provided advisory services to DFID, Ford Foundation, World Bank, Oxfam, Nigerian Ministries of Education and Youth Development. She was also listed as one of Africa’s most powerful women by Forbes.

Her desire to be a part of the agricultural sector was inspired by her anger at: The level of malnutrition in the country, amount of waste of farm produce and the high rate of importation of imported food. Now that I have your attention, I will like to share some interesting facts about agriculture and its sustainability in Nigeria.

Do you know that:

1. Agriculture accounts for 60% of employment in Nigeria
2. In the rebased economy, agriculture constitutes 22% of the GDP, it was previously 40%
3. For most of our agriculture products, we produce 1/3 of yield compared to our counterparts in other parts of the world with the same amount of land.
4. Agriculture is more than just primary production (planting and harvesting). We have distribution, logistics, processing, ICT, financing, packaging and amongst many others.
5. We have 65 agricultural research institutes and 30 schools of agriculture in Nigeria
6. Nigeria is a leading producer of Cassava, Sesame seeds, Sweet potato, Cashew, Okra, Rice and Fish
7. We are the largest importer of wheat
8. We are the second largest importers of rice
9. Average Nigerian spends 73% of his earning on food: U.S 9%, Brazil 25%, China 35%, Cameroun 43%

So what are the challenges affecting Sustainable Agriculture?

Low yield
No improved seeds
Poor mechanization
Access to financing
Access to Infotech
Irrigation problems
Lack of extension workers


Most young people today do not care about Agriculture as it doesn’t appear glamorous. There is the desire to work in offices, behind computers and make money. In most cases we do not even want to know about the sector. Some people are scared about the risk involved in agriculture but there are several modalities being put in place to reduce the challenges being faced in the Agriculture industry. A good example is; FAFIN: Fund for Agricultural Financing in Nigeria

Opportunities in Agriculture

Input

Production/processing

Storage and distribution,

Livestock,

Financing

For an event which was meant to last under an hour, there were so many questions from the shapers who were interested in Sustainable agriculture. I was one of the shapers who wanted to know how newcomers in the sector can have access to financing even without having a hands-on experience or educational background in the sector. Ndidi used herself as an example stating that it is important to practice the following:

Research
Learn from volunteering, it builds your credentials
Be disciplined
Have a board with competent people
As an employer, invest in your employees
I can go on and on but I believe you already get the point of all we have discussed. I left there with a new perception of agriculture and I may just be starting my own agriculture related business.

By: Andy Madaki
For www.abujaglobalshapers.org

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