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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Obasanjo expresses fear over youths’ unemployment in Nigeria

Chief Obasanjo

The former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has expressed fears that a time will come when Nigeria will witness a revolution if government fails to address youths’ unemployment and poverty.
Speaking recently at the West African regional conference on youth employment in Dakar, Senegal the former president said the growing rate of unemployment among youths is alarming that the effects can only be imagined.
He asserted that there is absence of serious, concrete, realistic, short and long term solution to youth unemployment. He revealed that the youth employment rate which was at 72 per cent in 1999 was reduced to 52 per cent in 2004 and as at 2011 was at 71 per cent again.
Incentives to be created by national leaders according to Obasanjo should include a special attention to agriculture business as against mere farming.
Obasanjo said there is need for easy access to land and micro credit, and the need to review the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) in order to accommodate issues around youth unemployment and job creation.
He also advocated the review of school curriculum to enable undergraduates spend additional one year to learn entrepreneurship.

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Adesina advocates mechanised farming to lure youths into farming

Adesina, Agriculture and Rural Development Minister

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina has said that the use of tractors on farms would attract youths to farming.
Speaking in Abuja recently, Dr. Adesina said creating market for contract tractor service providers would lead to mechanising the sector which will in turn provide jobs for many industrious youths.
"To get the youth into agriculture, we must rapidly mechanise our agriculture," Adesina noted emphasising the need to come up with a comprehensive system that would facilitates a strong relationship between financial institutions, tractors manufacturers and vendors, and other relevant parties towards making it affordable to own or lease tractors.
Adesina also confirmed that Nigeria doesn’t have up to 20, 000 functioning tractors in the country and this make Nigeria one of the countries that have the lowest number of tractors in the world.
He further added that the federal government has commenced the design of a new initiative that would give a new generation of young commercial farmers to help transform the agricultural sector and feed Nigeria today and in the future.
“To feed our rising population well into the future, we will need young commercial farmers," he said that the farming population is ageing rapidly, making it to difficult to meet the increasing challenges associated with markets and technology.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Global food price index down by 1% in October

Traders at the Oshodi Market, Lagos

The October Food Price Index by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation recorded a two-point drop, a one per cent drop from September.
The price index for October was at 213 points against 215 points of the previous month.
The Food Price Index made available to NaijaAgroNet showed that the decline is characterised by the reduction in international prices and freight rates, lower cereal purchases which has the capability to push down the world food import bill of the year.
Commenting on the latest price index, FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva noted that a set of conditions and measures were put in place to stop international food price from spiraling up as it did in 2007-2008 and 2009-2010.
One of the important measures, da Silva said is the improved international coordination and market transparency by the G20's Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) which assisted in preventing panic and putting a stop to the worst drought in decades, which is already leading to a food price crises.
"Droughts or floods are not what cause crises, its lack of governance," the FAO boss said, adding that there is a need to strengthen the global governance of food security.
NaijaAgroNet further gathered that the first 10 months of the year experienced food prices on average of 8 per cent lower than the same period in 2011, and food forecast for 2012 was $1.14 trillion, about N179 trillion.

Yinka Awosanya/ED
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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Haiti needs N11.62b for agric rehabilitation, FAO

Colossal damage in Haiti caused by Hurricane Sandy

In order to help rehabilitate Haiti's agriculture sector for the next one year, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Haiti Government are jointly seeking $74 million, about N11.62 billion.
The fund is important as the sandy, Superstorm of October really caused colossal damage to Haiti's crops, land, livestock, fisheries and rural infrastructural alike.
NaijaAgroNet learnt that the October 23 hit was the third disaster in few months. The October 23 superstorm was a three consecutive days of intense winds and heavy rain leading to severe flooding which damage and destroyed homes, farms and public infrastructure.
The three disasters has also cost the Government of Haiti to loss $254 million, about N39.9 billion and affected the living condition of 1.5 million people.
FAO in a press statement made available to NaijaAgroNet revealed that the Superstorm also resulted in over half a million Haitians being food insecure.
FAO and Haiti Government would be using about N628 million of the needed amount to immediately assist 20,000 families to enable them make it through the winter cropping season which starts in December.
FAO Senior Emergency Coordinator in Haiti, Adam Yao said that the recent natural disasters in the Caribbean country need a robust response of the UN agency to support ongoing government efforts.

Yinka Awosanya

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Decisive actions needed for small scale farmers development-IITA boss

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Director General, Dr. Nteranya Sanginga has affirmed the need for decisive actions to help small-scale farmers in order for food security in Africa not to remain elusive with isolated successes.
Speaking in Australia recently at the Crawford Fund annual conference, Dr. Sanginga said the assistance for the farmers should be to help them grow more valuable crops.
IITA revealed to NaijaAgroNet in a press statement that low soil fertility and nutrient depletion are obstacles to food security in the continent despite the achievement recorded in crop improvement.
A back up of the IITA boss about land depletion is a recent study by the institute conduction in Great Lakes region of East Africa which showed the majority of the soils in that region are now barren with very little fertility.
IITA attributed the barrenness of the soil to years of mining as well as insufficient replacement of nutrients by smallholder farmers.
Dr. Sanginga also advocated the adoption of Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM), the application of soil fertility management practices, and the knowledge to adapt these to local conditions.
The ISFM, he said would optimise fertilizer and organic resources use efficiency and crop productivity.
According to the Dr. Sanginga, the ISFM presents a means to overcome the dilemma of low productivity which is attainable by offering better returns for investment in fertilizer to farmers.

Yinka Awosanya

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Anambra State: The Flood and Awba-Ofemili People

The recent flooding that affected Anambra State, no doubt, must have exposed it to a lot of characters, administrative lapses and leadership questions begging for some answers, especially concerning the politicking going-on over the flood and affected communities.
Anambra State, is a name ordinarily taken from a popular river linking the River Niger and known as ‘Anambra’ or ‘Omabala’ River. Strategically located in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria, Anambra State is bounded by Delta State to the west, Imo State to the south, Enugu State to the east and Kogi State to the north, claiming to have one of the highest population densities on the continent.
The state comprises numerous thickly populated villages, a number of small towns and a few major towns; some areas are so thickly populated that the estimated density is 1500-2000 persons living within every square kilometre. One of such towns is Awba-Ofemili in Awka-North Local Government Area of Anambra State, which has border with Enugu State via Ibeto-Olo.

Awba-Ofemili, a town cut-off by flood:
Though Awba-Ofemili was cut-off by the recent flood surge, culminating in loss of properties and agricultural products worth billions of Naira, there was no record of loss of live yet. Mainly an agrarian town, Awba-Ofemili, reputed for massive rice production is located less than 25 minutes drive from the capital city of Awka, Anambra State, under normal circumstances where good roads prevail. Incidentally, lack of accessible road has been the bane of development in Awka-North and Awba-Ofemili precisely.
Speaking on the recent flood, chairman, Lagos branch of Awba-Ofemili Development Union (ADU), Mr. Kenneth Okoye told NaijaAgroNet the situation is lamentable, saying that Awba-Ofemili as an agrarian community known for rice production has lost a lot of economic products worth billions of Naira, including cassava, yam and plantain farms, while some building soaked by the flood have since given way.
Describing the flood as unbelievable, says its worrisome that the government of Anambra State did not find it worthy to visit the town in the peak of the disaster, he enjoined well spirited individuals to come to the aid of the towns affected by this River Niger surge, especially Awba-Ofemili.
The Awba-Ofemili town was seriously hit with this surge that farmers no longer attend to their farms, while all the eight villages that made up the town remain drastically affected.
Our reporter who visited the community and spoke to some of the indigenes discovered that one of the villages in Awba-Ofemili, Umuosite, was under water thereby cut off with most residents relocating to a building along Umuosite Road for their safety, while those living along the Umuosite road were sacked as they now use canoe to pass between Umuosite and other villages like Oyeagu and Akpana.

Women leader calls on Obi, FG, NEMA
One of the residents and women leader in Awba-Ofemili, Madam Christiana Nweke said that the level of flood reached a lintel of one of the storey buildings along Umuosite Road and made the road, especially leading to farm lands around that area unaccessible, whilst the flood lasted.
The women leader called on the government, especially Gov. Peter Obi to quickly come to their aid, while praying that the flood subsidises permanently.
It was further gathered that the only major road leading to Awba-Ofemili, which has been begging for attention over the years, was cut off too as indigenes trying to access Awka the capital city of Anambra State, were being ferried at four points before they could even get to neighbouring town like Ugbenu.
At the Agu-enu part of the town, especially behind the St. Paul’s Catholic Church, the flood was not stopped, as it took the church land for granted.
Further investigations showed that Hon. Mrs. Joy Enweluzor, the chairperson, Awka-North, visited the Awba-Ofemili town on canoe with her team of executive and promised to send food stuff and other aids to the town.
Our sources said that several letters on the flooded Awba-Ofemili and environs have been communicated to the governor of Anambra State, who is yet to visit the affected town personally.
They called on the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Anambra State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) not to forget Awba-Ofemili town in the course of their distribution of aids to flood victims.

Gov. Obi of Anambra State
Flood disaster emergency fund
Despite the fact that the Anambra State government set up a three-man Flood Disaster Emergency Fund Committee made up of the Chief of Staff and Commissioner for Economic Planning, Prof. Mrs. Chinyere Stella Okunna, Ms. Ngozika B. Okoye, Hon. Commissioner for Finance and Mrs. Azuka Enemo, Hon. Commissioner for Local Government, the flood victims in Awba-Ofemili are yet to see the light in having such a committee in the state, especially in Awba-Ofemili, where every relief material have been stored away in Ugbenu due to bad road.
Secretary to the Anambra State Government, Mr. Oseloka H. Obaze, who confirmed these in a press statement made available to NaijaAgroNet, adding that two bank accounts, namely at Diamond Bank - 0028548840 and Fidelity Bank – 4020912984; were opened for this purposes and to facilitate the work of the state government in alleviating the effects of current flood rage across the state.
The Anambra State Government (ANSG), thus, invited Anambrarians and the Nigerians at home and in diaspora as well as all well-meaning citizens of the world to rally support for the affected citizens of Anambra State, as one of the most affected states by the flood.
The bigger challenge, he said, would be in the medium and longer terms, when the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) would need to be returned to their respective homes, rehabilitated and resettled after the flood receded completely.
Canvassing for vote:
The ANSG, he said, would be counting on the Federal Government, its agencies, especially NEMA and international partners, to join hands with the state in overcoming the unprecedented humanitarian challenge.
 “We thank all those who have expressed concern in cash or in kind or sent goodwill messages about this catastrophic disaster,” he said.
ANSG acknowledged that well-meaning citizens and organizations have also been making donations in kind, through SEMA.
All in-kind donations, Obaze pointed out should be directed to the SEMA office along the Enugu-Onitsha Road (by J-Jumac Hotel), Awka, even as SEMA could be reached by phone 08037424242.
NaijaAgroNet confirmed that the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) Mr. Obaze visited the Awba-Ofemili Amensea axis of Awka-North LGA, but could not get to Awba-Ofemili due to submerged road.
However, it has been argued that if it had to do with votes, the Governor Peter Obi-led government of Anambra State, would not have sent the SSG and even the SSG should have found a way of getting to the town, Awba-Ofemili, to canvass for votes, which they got in good numbers at the last election.

Just before the curtain:
Does it then not make sense that an alternative route should have been used in ensuring that those victims, especially in a town like Awba-Ofemili, should have been reached through airlifting of such people and materials.
This is a poser for the leadership of Anambra State under Mr. Peter Obi to answer. By the way, how much will it take the government to get these aid materials airlifted?
Another school of thought argued that its only the military that has the helicopter for such kind of services. If so, is this flood disaster not enough to attract military sympathy? Or are we waiting for deaths to be recorded?
It is true that aids have been sent to Awba-Ofemili by the state governments, Senator Nwabueze Ngige, Hon. Emeka Nwogbo and his state house of assembly counterpart as well as the LGA chairperson, the fact is that these aids materials have not reached the destination, the people of Awba-Ofemili, because there is no road and airlifting of these materials probably was an option for the donors and state government particular, in spite of efforts to get them notified on the efficacy of delivering the materials appropriately.
There is need to have an operational health centre in place to cater for the residents of Awba-Ofemili. We must not wait until there is one outbreak or another.
Also, it is certain that some of the items may even have gotten bad due to poor storage. What this tells us, sadly is that if it had been a more serious thing than what was seen, no live, actually would have been saved from Awba-Ofemili?

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Lagdo Dam flood disaster: Matters Arising

A water-submerged settlement

Water is one of the gifts of God to mankind and other living creatures.  It comes in form of rainfall, oceans, rivers, streams, or lakes etc.  Because of its indispensability to human existence, the amount and nature of water available determines the flow of development.  It’s importance is such that some school of thought believe that “water has no enemy”.  One of them was Nigeria’s Afrobeat musician, late Fela Anikulapo Kuti who dedicated one of his sound tracks to this belief.  However, there are complex patterns of water uses with far-reaching consequences.
In Africa, almost all major rivers are shared by two or more countries.  Altogether, water management represents one of the region’s most urgent development challenges. This requires developing laws, regulations and institutions to manage their water resources in ways that are economically productive, socially acceptable and environmentally sustainable.
In water resources management, the conservation and management of wetlands and floodplains are critical because of their productive capacity. The World Commission on Dams (WCD) has observed that the rights of downstream communities have historically been ignored. The present flood disaster in Nigeria is another case in point. Flood is currently ravaging many of such communities spread across Kogi, Adamawa, Taraba, Benue, Anambra, Enugu, Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa and Imo States.
This particular flood is a consequence of over-release of water from Lagdo Dam in Cameroun.  The operational incompetence or negligence by the Camerounian dam operatives and the passivity of successive Nigerian governments have undermined the livelihoods of over 400 vulnerable downstream communities across the country.
As the flood rages, it is wrecking havoc in every conceivable way, on both great and small.  Even the President’s country home was not spared. Poverty and environmental degradation lie both at the beginning and the end of the chain. Hundreds of people have lost their lives; about 88,740 have been displaced and property worth billions of Naira submerged. Food insecurity is increasing as numerous live-stocks and farmlands have been overtaken by flood. Recent reports reveal that some oil fields have been submerged as well.  Floods are among the most frequent and costly natural disasters in terms of human hardship and economic loss.
A visit to some of the displaced people’s camps revealed that they are far from being rehabilitated. What you see is, a people who have lost all their possessions and are at the verge of  losing their own lives should a serious epidemic break out now. Their over-crowded tents are mostly situated in school premises, church compounds, and uncompleted buildings. Expectedly, this environmental challenge has resulted to social and psychological problems.
There have been reported cases of sexual assault and rape, possibly due to desperate lifestyles prevalent in a state of anomie. Also, due to heightened trauma, some women have gone into forced labour. Meanwhile, we are yet to hear of deployment of counselors to the camps.
The affected Nigerians are earnestly waiting to feel the impact of the huge funds released by the president to affected states. They are also anxiously waiting to see the extent to which the 34-member Presidential Committee on flood will ameliorate their pains. Elected political office holders from the affected areas should seize the hour to compassionately touch their people. They should address the problem on ground with real solutions.  Corporate bodies, billionaires around the corridors of power, national awardees, and indeed all well meaning Nigerian must arise.
It is time to be our brothers’ keeper!
This flood disaster raises a lot of critical questions; when shall our governments begin to heed expert warnings and adequately prepare for emergencies? What are the governors of the downstream/coastal states waiting for before they will draw-out and commence implementation of clear-cut master plans? What is the National Assembly waiting for before they pass the water resources bill (and other key sector bills) before it?
The bill, if passed, will kick start water sector reforms. Right laws, political will, adequate and monitoring mechanisms are crucial for meaningful negotiation, contribution and collaboration with neighboring countries so that water usage upstream does not affect our downstream communities again. Let us arise, with hearts of servanthood, so that we can build a future that puts few strains on the society and the environment.

MacDenis Igbo

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Investment in science to reduce water risks –Study

Investments into science research has been found worthy of reducing water risks, says the latest study by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in partnership with the United Nations University (UNU) and United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).
The report of a recent study on water-related project has reiterated that investment in science could help in reducing risks that are in connection with water resources.
The study was conducted by the largest public funder of projects to improve the global environment and promote sustainable development, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with the partnership of the UNU and UNEP.
About 200 major international water-related projects over the past two decades were studied which give room for the identification of existing as well as emerging challenges and how science can offer solutions.
A press statement made available to NaijaAgroNet revealed that the study extracted lessons from a portfolio of major trans-boundary water projects involving investments of more than US$7 billion, about N1.1 billion.
It is also revealed that river basins in particular are set to experience growing pressures as a result of urbanization, rising water scarcity and poor water quality.
GEF warns that the linkage between science and policymaking needs strengthening, and that the consequences of poor decision-making are dire leading to water-bankruptcy in some regions in the world with their adverse effects on food and energy security.
The report of the study affirmed a significant drop in the level of dissolved oxygen levels in marine areas which is a critical ecological indicator. A major increase of stored heat in oceans was also highlighted in the report.
Director, United Nations University International Network on Water, Environment and Health, Zafar Adeel said the study underscores how often early ‘alarm bells’ with respect to emerging issues could be heard and must be heeded.
“The report offers helpful recommendations to the GEF to foster this process,” Adeel said.
Some other findings highlighted in the reports include a significant drop in the levels of dissolved oxygen in marine areas over a relatively short period of time which is an indication of critical ecology.
The report also stated that there is a major increase in stored heat in oceans with its negative impact on ecosystem, sea levels as well as human existence.
For GEF’s International Waters Focal Area Coordinator, Ivan Zavadsky affirmed that for over 20 years, GEF had catalyzed the largest investment of its kind in human history. “GEF’s $1.3 billion catalyzed a total of $7 billion of investment in managing shared waters - fresh and marine - in almost every part of the planet, above and below its surface.”
The UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP, Executive Director, Achim Steiner, pointed out that world leaders agreed at the Rio+20 summit in June to strengthen the science-policy interface and to foster international research collaboration on sustainable development.
“This is especially important in respect to water resources at a point in time of unprecedented pressures from climate change and urbanization to pollution and over extraction,” Steiner said.

Yinka Awosanya
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IFAD projects in Yemen worth $230m

Nwanze, IFAD President

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has valued its projects in the west Asian country of Yemen to the tune of $230million, about N36.19 billion.
The United Nations’ specialised agency’s recent pledge to support agriculture and rural development in Yemen to the tune of $41million, brings the total investments in the country’s projects to $230million, as at September 2012
Of the total sum, $130 million was co-financed from domestic sources and the rest by external financiers, such as the European Union, International sDB and World Bank.
NaijaAgroNet recalls that some of the previous projects co-financed by IFAD in the Asian country include a $32.9, about N5.17billion Fisheries Investment Project in 2010, a project which benefited small-scale fishers, their associations as well as poor households that want to engage in aquaculture.
IFAD came up with the Fisheries investment project in a bid to improve the economic status of small-scale fishers through the creation of sustainable and diversified economic opportunities for poor women and men alike with special focus on the development of value chain development.
One of the numerous projects that sum IFAD’s financial commitment to N36.19billion includes the Economic Opportunities Programme early in 2010, which seek to create economic opportunities for the rural poor while working with Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to significantly reduce poverty.
The economic opportunities programme, NaijaAgroNet further gathered also assisted landless households to develop the value chains for coffee, honey and horticulture products, being the three high-value agriculture commodities for some of the selected areas for the project.
IFAD in collaboration with the Government of Yemen introduced a private-sector-led approach to development operations with the economic opportunities programme.
The programme also established a private-public partnership to effectively, efficiently and transparently manage development resources and create synergies, whilst women constituted the key target group for the micro-business.
NaijaAgroNet equally gathered that projects by IFAD in Yemen have supported more than 1.2 million poor women and men alike, helping them build resilience to shocks and conflict, and at the same time improving their household food security and incomes.
However, the new pledge by IFAD will also allow the scaling up of successful investments to cater for additional communities and introduce innovations with the IFAD supported country programmes.
The investments according to IFAD are expected to stimulate rural economic growth and job creation for additional one million poor women and men in the rural areas.
Yemen was one of the first countries to receive financing from the UN specialized agency at the early period of its establishment.
IFAD as an international financial institution created in 1977 as a result of the outcome of the 1974 World Food Conference with the aim of financing agricultural development projects targeted at food production in developing countries, has since inception being working towards the eradication of poverty and food insecurity in developing nations of the world.

Yinka Awosanya
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Adesina applauds GEJ over 2013 agric budget

Adesina, Agric Minister
The Nigerian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, has applauded the proposed 2013 budget for agriculture, presented recently to the joint session of the National Assembly by President Goodluck Jonathan.
This is coming as there will be a five-year tax holiday for sugarcane and sugar value chain investors, reports the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
NaijaAgroNet recalls that President Jonathan had proposed the sum of N81.41 billion for agriculture in the 2013 budget.
Speaking on the budget to his ministry, Dr. Adesina said that the amount allocated showed that President Goodluck Jonathan was confident that the sector could once again be the driving force of the economy.
NAN reports that allocation increased by less than three per cent over the current appropriation which stood at N78.9 billion.
The Federal Government also announced a number of measures aimed at boosting the Agricultural Transformation Agenda.
Jonathan, while presenting the budget to a joint session of the National Assembly, said that there would be a five-year tax holiday for sugarcane and sugar value chain investors.
The president added that the machinery and spare parts imported for local sugar manufacturing industries would attract zero per cent import duty starting from January 2013.
He also said that the import duty for rice would be increased to encourage local rice production.
Adesina, however, said that the issue of budget was all about how the allocation was utilised.
He explained that a total of 7.8-billion-dollar private sector funding had been injected into the sector.
“In addition to that we have been able to get so many local companies to process agriculture produce.”
Through the Federal Government’s initiatives on cassava, rice, maize and soya beans, he said that  about 8.1 million metric tonnes of food would be added to domestic supply.
He recalled that President Jonathan had promised that his administration would add 20 million tonnes of food to domestic supply by 2015, adding that this was only the first year.
``That is about 41 per cent of what we are targeting for in 2015. So we are working very hard.’’ Adesina said.
He promised that the ministry under his leadership and that of  Alhaji Bukar Tijani, would ensure that Agriculture Transformation Agenda achieved its aim.

Remmy Nweke

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FAO boss urges academia to join fight against hunger

da Silva, FAO DG

The Director-General of the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), José Graziano da Silva has called on the academia to be involved in the essential and politically important research into rural poverty.
According to José, one of the great challenges man faces today is to make use of academic knowledge to comprehend and improve the life of rural populations all over the world. “We need to look at the reality outside of university walls,” he said.
José in a press statement made available to NaijaAgroNet affirmed that food insecurity, nutrient deficiencies and unsafe food top the list of most pressing issues in the fight against hunger and rural development.
Unequal competition between small-scale and large scale food producers, NaijaAgroNet gathered also contributes to hunger, yet small-scale farmers account for a larger percentage of food produce and any unequal competition will drive them out of operation.
“Academics should look into the issue of governance of the food and agriculture sector, both at global and local levels, and how to achieve a fair distribution of benefits,” José recommended that there is the need to reduce transportation and storage cost as well as food waste and loss if we want more people to be eating healthy diets, based on fresh foods.
The FAO boss also recommended a better conceptual clarification and practical proposals from academics and policy makers.

Yinka Awosanya
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