President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday said his job as the leader of the country could only be complete when no Nigerian went to bed hungry.
Jonathan made the submission at the opening of a two-day summit by Rockefeller Foundation with the theme, ‘Realising the potential of African Agriculture.’
He said his administration’s successes in the agricultural sector were recognised on a global scale recently when the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations gave an award to Nigeria for achieving the Millennium Development Goal on hunger by reducing the number of hungry people in the country.
“This milestone was achieved three years ahead of the 2015 target date set for the Millennium Development Goals! While we are delighted at this recognition, we know our job is only done when not one Nigerian goes to bed hungry,” the President declared.
He added that to drive the nation’s agriculture, his administration had ended the approach of agriculture as a development programme, saying the government was now treating it as a business.
While saying that private sector investments were expanding rapidly from seeds and fertiliser companies and agro-processors, Jonathan said in the last one year, over $8bn of private investment commitments had been made to the sector.
He said unless agriculture was transformed in Africa, the continent’s economies would not grow as millions of Africans depended on the sector for their livelihoods.
Jonathan said, “The transformation of agriculture in Nigeria is a centrepiece of the economic transformation agenda of my government. Nigeria is known for oil. But today, many countries around the world have found oil.
“The recent discovery of shale oil and gas means that we can no longer depend solely on oil to drive the economy. With abundant land and water resources, and an abundant vibrant labour force, Nigeria has all it takes to use agriculture as its new frontier for growth.”
The President said to reduce the nation’s dependency on rice imports as the world’s largest importer of the commodity, his administration set out to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production by 2015.
Ambitious as this goal seems, he said his administration was on the way to achieving the target of rice-self-sufficiency.
“Dry season rice production in 2012/2013 unleashed a rice revolution across 10 states in the northern part of our country. Our farmers produced a record 1.1 million metric tonnes of paddy rice, which represents one third of the additional rice paddy we need to be self-sufficient in rice by 2015,” he said.
President, Rockefeller Foundation, Dr. Judith Rodin, commended the administration’s programmes aimed at transforming the agricultural sector.
She noted that the future of Africa depended on new innovation framework and financing strategy in transforming the agriculture sector.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, said the Federal Government would train 750,000 young graduates in commercial farming scheme known as ‘Nagroprenuers.’
Adesina said, “This initiative will change the labour composition of the agriculture sector. The Federal Government will provide access to land, technical skills, business management skills and the finance for this programme.
“The programme will turn the agriculture sector into a more competitive sector.”