World Bank pledges $1 billion to boost agriculture in Nigeria

……..As govt seeks close ties with Hungary

ABUJA: The World Bank has pledged to commit one billion dollars to support Nigeria’s agricultural sector in the next five years.

Its Country Director, Ms Marie-Francoise Marie- Nelly, said this Thursday at a workshop on Gender and Agriculture Technical Dialogue in Abuja.

“The World Bank is strongly engaged in agriculture, we are planning to commit almost one billion dollars in the next three to five years in agriculture.

“Not only on this aspect of strengthening the capacity of women but also in strengthening the tools of production; and one area that I want to strengthen is irrigation.

Ms Marie-Francoise Marie- Nelly“We intend to help rehabilitate a number of these irrigation schemes, to have large irrigation land for farmers and we hope that in doing so, we are not going to forget the women.”

She said that the gesture was part of the outcome of the bank’s household survey on the impact of agriculture in the country’s rural areas.

According to her, the gesture is also in line with the Federal Government Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), adding that bank would support the programme for its role in the economy

“We at the World Bank strongly support this programme (ATA) because it is widely recognized both in Africa and in the world; that improving agriculture translates to reduction of poverty.

“Agriculture plays a big role in Nigeria’s economy, it employs the 70 per cent of the labour force and 40 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product.’’

Marie-Nelly called for policies that would help to empower and support women farmers in the country.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, said that women accounted for 75 per cent of farming population in Nigeria, both as farm managers, primary owners and suppliers of labour.

He stressed the need to invest more on women farmers and ensure that efforts were geared towards removing all constraints that hindered production for women farmers.

“Without women, there will be no food; therefore, we must ensure we remove all constraints that limit ability to raise their farm productivity and incomes.

“If we invest in women farmers, we invest in the nation and we invest in our children, women will secure our food supply, they will secure our nation.’’

The minister, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mrs Ibukun Odusote, identified the critical areas that needed improvement in the sector to include women to access to finance; access to lands; insecurity of the tenure; and access to inputs.

Adesina said that the ministry in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria would soon roll out a new credit facility for agro-based businesses, adding that special preference would be given to women.

He said that government would recapitalise the Bank of Agriculture and create a special credit facility for women

He said efforts were also being made to improve access to land for women, reduce the cost of registering land and review the land inheritance law.

The minister said that his ministry had projected that about one million women would benefit from its various strategies to boost the agriculture sector.

Meanwhile, Adeesina, has called on investors in Hungary to take advantage of Nigeria’s vast arable land, large population and huge market to invest in the agricultural sector.

The Permanent Secretary, Odusote, while receiving a three-man delegation from Hungary led by the Foreign Secretary of State, on behalf of the Minister in Abuja, said that Nigeria is currently diversifying her economy through the Agricultural Transformation Agenda for food security and industrialization.

She called on the investors to tap into the favorable investment climate offered by the government to promote foreign investment and improve bilateral relations between the two countries.

Odusote further appealed to the Hungarian Government to extent her foreign scholarship scheme to developing nations like Nigeria and explore ways of stimulating expertise exchange programs for mutual benefits of both countries.

She disclosed that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture has instituted a special information technology programme to encourage and build capacities among young agricultural champions involved in the propagation of agricultural focal value chain.

Earlier, the leader of the team, Dr Becsey Slowt, expressed the readiness of Hungarian government to partner with Nigeria in the agricultural sector development and trade through the provision of hybrid variety seeds and other farm inputs, where the country has comparative advantage.

She sought for Nigeria cooperation in the areas of agricultural research, crop genetic engineering, livestock production, irrigation as well as the establishment of Joint Economic Committee for Africa and other related Technological Transfer Programmes.

He further appealed for tax holidays for its prospective investors to Nigeria, who he said, are very keen at investing in the nation’s agricultural sector.

Also, Hungary has invited Nigeria to participate in the African forum scheduled for June 6 2013 in Budapest, which according to him, would help showcase Nigeria’s Agricultural Research Institute.

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