BRITISH American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation (BATNF) has reaffirmed its commitment to continuously support the agricultural sector in the country as a vital solution to poverty, dwindling economy and unemployment.
He spoke at a recent agricbusiness summit held in Lagos.
The Executive Director, British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation (BATNF), Mr. Gbenga Ibikunle, said "It is imperative to note that agriculture is undoubtedly instrumental to national development for economic sustainability. It is in this vein that the nation needs to engage in national re-orientation, new thinking and new partnerships aimed at projecting and promoting agnculture".
Ibikunle, said this year's agribusiness summit is a transformative initiative focusing largely on growing food security concerns and more importantly about how to unleash the largely untapped potential of the Nigerian agribusiness sector in the area of value chain processes. He added that "the agricultural support fund will spur investment into the agribusiness sector with the ultimate goal of inclusive job creation and promotion of innovative, environmentally sustainable approaches to agriculture value chain.
BATNF belief that employment generation and poverty reduction are directly related informed the decision to collaborate with National Directorate of Employment (NDE) in creating employment opportunities by training indigenes on poultry enterprise management in Ondo State. A three year fish enterprise development project was also implemented in Araga farm settlement at Epe with collaboration from the Department of Fisheries, Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture"
Explaining further, Ibikunle sited that social investment of the BATN Foundation is focused on four main pillars namely-Sustainable Agricultural Development, Sustainable Poverty Reduction, Sustainable Provision of Potable Water and Sustainable Environmental Protection, "Agriculture is a major focal area of intervention for our Social Investment Initiatives in Nigeria. It is our belief that the underdevelopment of this sector endangers the ability of the nation to feed itself with the projection for Nigerian population expected to reach the 200 million mark in the next 25 years".
"In the last nine years the BATN Foundation has established 14 cassava and five palm oil processing cottage industries in 13 States m Nigeria. This approach has had a trickle down effect on the beneficiary areas, promoting indigenous agricultural equipment fabrication and seedlings production enterprise.
The mclusion of water component in the processing facilities has had positive health and economic implications. The rural communities now have access to clean water and opportunities to establish businesses that are highly water dependent such as the commercial food micro-industry"
He stated that agricultural technology transfer and capacity building is another transformation strategy. "This involves the introduction of new and improved agricultural technologies which are locally adaptable. It involves the provision of improved agro-inputs, technical trainings, storage and market intelligence.
Farmers are usually selected and formed into dynamic groups and on-farm trainings are conducted. Inputs are distributed at the beginning of the farming season with each farmer aware of the cost implication for the farm enterprise per hectare. Upon harvesting and marketing, the benefiting farmers pool their retained profits in a group bank account in preparation for the following season. This is repeated over a period of 3 farming seasons building technical and financial independence to ensure sustainability even after program conclusion,' he said
He added that it was very appropriate that concerted effort is being made to develop the sector and use it as a platform for attaining economic prosperity particularly the identification of specific value chain opportunities and strategies to optimise economic advantages necessary for growth and prosperity.
He suggested that these positive results and achievements can be replicated by governments, development organizations and the organized private sector operators to achieve broader and wider results.