By Ginika Okoye
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has flagged off an initiative to assist Nigeria in the diversification of its economy.
The Resident Representative of UNDP in Nigeria, Mr Opia Kumah, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on Wednesday that agricultural initiatives were designed to help improve cassava and rice production for small holder farmers to reduce dependence on oil.
He said the initiative known as the Agribusiness Supplier Development Programme (ASDP) was aimed at reducing poverty especially in the rural communities of the country where women were predominantly farmers.
ASDP is an initiative launched by the UNDP in six Africa countries.
They are Angola, Benin Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya and Nigeria, to boost agriculture by developing supply chain starting with the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
According to him, this programme is meant to support the farmers to ensure that through better education and technology, they can produce better products that will boost supplies.
“Nigeria has a good population in agriculture so if you double the income of the people in the agricultural sector especially the small scale farmers, you will make significant impact on poverty reduction.
“Our vision for this project is nothing short of transforming the economy of this country by making the people at the lower level to make more income for their labour.
“This initiative will also help those at the top end of the supply chain to ensure that the products they receive are of high quality.
“We all know that the oil industry has to be diversified and agriculture has been identified very wisely as one of the potential drivers for this diversification.
“If you do agriculture well, you ensure food security and nutritional self-sufficiency. Nigerians must eat adequately and should not rely on imports to eat,’’ the resident representative said.
On herdsmen-farmers clashes in various states of the country, Opia suggested the setting up of ranches in various areas to enable animals sojourn in particular places.
This according to him will create businesses, encourage people to plant and sell fodders to be sent to the animals as well as keep the animals healthy.
Opia expressed optimism that the current plans by the Federal Government to stop the clashes would yield favourable results.
“Animal husbandry is a form of agriculture and those two should not antagonise each other. The question now is how this could be turned to a win-win situation.
“In South America where you have large herds of animals, they do ranching and the animals are heralded in one place, where you send fodders to them.
“They do not just go grazing anywhere. People make money planting fodder which becomes a business.
“The animals are enclosed in one place, they are healthier because it is easier for veterinary officers to reach them and take care of them and when they are geographically circumscribed, you can exploit it more,’’ he said.