By Mojola Peters

A one-year agriculture-focused intervention scheme aimed at increasing food production and creating jobs have been launched by the Federal Government.

The scheme which will be operated through the Agric for Food and Job Plan (AFJP) is part of the efforts to cushion the impact of covid-19 on Nigerian farmers and aimed and increasing food production and creating jobs.

The intervention scheme is a joint venture between the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, state governments, as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and private sector via out-grower schemes, and farmers across the country.

It is aimed at boosting locally-grown food supply, while simultaneously creating employment opportunities in the agricultural sector.

This will be achieved via investment in the sector through the provision of zero-interest input financing options such as fertilizers and seeds to farmers across the 36 states in Nigeria and the F.C.T., to produce a harvest that can sell domestically and internationally.

The priority crops and livestock targeted for the local market include; rice, Maize, Sorghum, soybeans, Groundnuts, Cowpea, Cassava, millet, livestock, horticulture, palm kernel, and cotton, while white sesame seeds, hibiscus, cocoa, hides and skin, horns and hoofs are targeted for the export market.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Agriculture, Andrew Kwasari, during the launch of AFJP programme, recently in Abuja, said the project would, among others, increase agricultural productivity, create job opportunities in the sector, strengthen Nigeria’s food supply chain, and help the economy recover speedily.

Kwasari said that the programme would be run for a duration of 12 months with an aggregate of two million hectares of land to produce 10 million metric tonnes of food including; carbohydrate, animal protein, and edible oil, saying this would be implemented In collaboration with the N-Power Scheme – a part of the Federal Government’s Social Intervention Programme.

He added that trained enumerators have been sent out to identify farmers and their farms to ensure proper targeting of beneficiaries and after completion of the identification and registration phase, farmers under the evidence-based database would be able to access input financing facilities to carry on their 2020 wet season farming. They will also have a guaranteed market in the form of assigned off-takers.

The programme also aims to improve yield per hectare and to enhance land productivity through good agronomic practices, extension and quality inputs.

Kwasari further added that the project plans to eliminate post-harvest losses by collaborating with existing channels for off-take and storage such as existing commercial processors, aggregators, commodity exchanges, warehousing and strategic grain reserves. This, would, in turn, ensure food security in the post-COVID era, and position smallholder farmers as drivers of economic growth by evolving from subsistence to commercial levels.

The project would be implemented under the purview of the Departments of Extension Services Farm Input Supply Services.