Nigeria: Template for Robust Food Production

Mohammed Kandi writes that the Songhai farm in Minna is doing exceptionally well

Successive governments in Nigeria have come up with a number of strategies and approaches to address food scarcity. As ambitious as those approaches were, they failed to achieve much, owing to policy inconsistency and complete neglect by succeeding governments. The President Muhammadu Buhari-led government has indeed shown some flashes of seriousness and determination in its resolve to make Nigeria a major food hub in the continent and globally.

To achieve this very important feat, the President Buhari administration is reforming and repositioning the agricultural sector to meet the food needs of Nigeria and serve as net exporter of agricultural commodities. The Nigerian government is anchoring its food security drive and initiative which is aimed at tackling food insecurity, hunger and acute poverty on existing and reliable bodies like the River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs).

In a concerted effort made by the federal government to enhance the operations of all the River Basin Development Authorities through its supervisory agency, a recent pronouncement by the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu indicated that a lot was being done through the RBDA’s to address issues of food security in Nigeria. The minister was particularly assertive on the volume of work currently being carried out at various RBDAs, sighting possible commercialisation of their activities for increased revenue generation.

There are several initiatives aimed at seamless implementation of RBDA’s mandates, one of which is the domestication of Songhai Farm, as a model that would facilitate Nigeria’s expedition to self-sufficiency in food production.

The Upper Niger River Basin Development Authority (UNRBDA) under the leadership of Prof. Mohammed Abdulkarim Ali, was rated the best amongst others for its commitment to the implementation of the Songhai farm prototype. As the Managing Director, Prof. Ali’s tenacious drive to proactively change public perception about the authority, especially from his provision of firm leadership to timely execution of multi-billion naira projects within the franchise of the UNRBDA including Niger, Kaduna and the FCT cannot be contested. He has shown leadership, competence and capacity in the discharge of his responsibilities as well as other adhoc assignments given to him.

Already, Nigerians are beginning to reap from the Songhai farm in Minna, the Niger State capital. Whilst the Ouando Centre, the main experimental site of the Songhai Farm in Porto-Novo in Benin Republic currently sits on over 22 hectares of land, the Model Farm Minna, which is one of its prototypes resides on approximately 7.51 hectares (75068 m2) and lies at altitude 310 m above the mean sea level, with a cultivated area of about three hectares within the premises of the UNRBDA headquarters.

An integrated system of farming that combines different agricultural activities to increase food production and maximize returns per hectare was enabled in the Minna Farm Model, with the support of some expatriates from Songhai Farm in Benin Republic. Residents from communities around the Model Farm in Minna have continued to throng the sales unit to procure various products of their choice, ever since commercial activities commenced in the farm. They’ve developed an affinity for the model farm for a single reason- all products from farm are organically produced.

As products disappeared from the shelves, sooner were products replaced in their troops to meet the daily needs of customers. The constant demand for smoked fish, eggs and processed Gari- mixed with coconut or with pineapple have kept staff at sales point busy all day. Already, the farm management is planning to deploy some state-of-the-art storage facilities for preservation of other perishable crops like pawpaw, cucumber and okro that are often scarce, no thanks to their shorter life span.