Making Agriculture an enterprise   

By Dr. Ikem Adimorah

Introduction

Generally, human activities as means of sustainable enterprise are profitable if a conducive environment is created by the economic promoters of a particular society.
With the advent of 'petrol economy' and its attendant influence, agriculture began to be relegated. Many people were trained at different professional activities. Majority of the active workforce of the society is now in the cities in search of white-collar jobs, which are not readily available. At this level, agricultural exports began to dwindle.
With this scenario, do we still expect the emergence of young farmers, especially while farming remains at the old stage of subsistence, bearing in mind that though the farmer toils all day without being able to adequately fend for the needs of the family?

Indeed, agricultural ventures or businesses can be lucrative and attractive if governments and other development partners pay adequate attention to some of the factors or issues to be raised here:

BUFFER COMMITTEE
There is nowhere in the world where agricultural activities are left for the practitioners alone to bear the burden of losses. These usually come in forms of adverse weather conditions and disease outbreaks.

There is an urgent need for the governments and relevant agencies to stand behind genuine farmers to ameliorate their losses in order to sustain their businesses. For this, we are strongly advocating for a standing Agricultural Buffer Committee (ABC) at all the three tiers of government in the country, which if fully empowered and properly constituted will:

Produce a comprehensive data base of all the performing farmers in the state according to their different groups e.g. poultry, fisheries, piggery, crops etc; 

Liaise with research institutions and other agencies for the purpose of providing improved inputs and other technical assistance;

Organise training workshops and seminars that may make farmers more knowledgeable in their trade for greater output;
Ensure stability of prices of agricultural produce in and out of season. This they can achieve by assisting farmers to build storage facilities for periods of glut with a view to ensuring adequate supply in the days of scarcity; and
Offering advice to the government where special attention or intervention is needed.

The Agricultural Buffer Committee may comprise:
Staff of Ministry of Agric, members of various agricultural groups and cognate agencies and Input dealers as well as service providers

INFRASTRUCTURE
Good feeder roads are required in and around farms for easy evacuation of farm produce. Electricity and water are also vital not only for human activities but also for live stocks and crop farming to boost productivity.

FARM SETTLEMENTS
Government is expected to encourage or create farm settlements in different locations in the state for peaceful and organised farming activities, a situation which may encourage cottage business activities.

LAND ACQUISITION
Government policy enhancing real farmers to gain access to farm lands will go a long way in boosting food production. Such lands can also serve as collateral for loans in finance institutions.

AVAILABILITY OF INPUTS
This factor has posed serious challenges to farmers at various times. For instance, in poultry industry, we have witnessed in recent times the hatchery of poor quality pullets/day old chicks that never survived the test of time which led to huge losses to the farmer. At present, there doesn't seem to be a choice as most of the chicks come from western part of the country.

Again, cost of production has remain one of the major challenges as incessant increase in the prices of feed has continued unabated, resulting in the dwindling capacity utilization of many farms in the state.
It is also necessary to note that many fish farmers have lost huge sums due to acquisition of runts in the name of fingerlings which never grow well at the end of the day. Such farmers shut down their farms, especially realising that they lack the power to enter into partnership.

 

POLITICS AND AGRICULTURE
Issues bordering on agriculture should not be influenced by political considerations to allow positive impact of such policies, not only on agricultural outputs, but also general economic growth. It has been discovered that most well thought out policies and programmes are usually abandoned midway and new ones started. There should be continuity of good programmes.

 

CONCLUSION
We are of the view that all stakeholders should be involved in sector formulation of policies affecting agriculture to achieve the desired effect.

It is also necessary that investors are not left to bear obvious risk in agriculture particularly in poultry business which seems to be quite a fragile one.

If concerted efforts are made in these directions, there is no doubt that agriculture will take its rightful place in contributing to growth of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) and the multiplier effect which it will have in job creation for the teeming youths
       Ikem Adimorah is a veterinary       medical doctor practising in           Asaba, Delta State capital.

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