President Goodluck Jonathan disclosed this at the opening of a two-day summit by Rockefeller Foundation in Abuja. The theme of the summit is: “Realizing the Potential of African Agriculture”.
The summit, which is part of the centennial (100 years) celebration of the Foundation, is being attended by the Prime Minister of Togo, Kwesi Ahoomey-Zunu and Ministers of Finance and Agriculture from 21 African countries, including Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Akinwumi Adesina, Ministers of Finance and agriculture respectively.
President Jonathan shared Nigeria’s experience with the audience, saying his administration has been able to transform the agriculture sector from being a development programme to a profitable business.
“To drive our agriculture, we have ended the approach of agriculture as a development programme, we now take agriculture as a business.
`”Private sector investments are expanding rapidly from sales by fertilizer companies, agriculture processors. In the last one year alone over N80 billion of private sector commitments have been made to the agricultural sector.
“We developed staple crops processing zones to attract the private sector to invest in rural areas to process and add value to all of our crops. This will reduce post-harvest losses and create jobs for our people.
“Farmers now receive their seeds and fertilizer via mobile phones in the first one year of this experiment and we ended four decades of corruption in our fertilizer sector,’’ he said.
“Today, cassava bread made out of composite flower from 20 per cent cassava and wheat flour had hit our markets. This alone has saved Nigeria, N254 billion (about 1.5 billion dollars) in import bills on wheat.
“Nigeria is known for oil, but today, many countries around the world have found oil. The recent discovery of crude oil and gas in the US and other parts of the world means that we must look elsewhere if we must continue to feed our people.
“With abundant land and water resources and abundant labour force, Nigeria has all it takes to use agriculture as its new frontier for growth. There is no reason why Nigeria should be a net food importing country it should be a net food exporting country. This is true because the size of the country is big and the ecological zones are diverse,’’ the President told the gathering.
The President of Rockefeller Foundation, Dr Judith Robin, commended the the Jonathan’s administration for transforming the agricultural sector. She however, said canvass a deliberate innovation framework and strategic financing if African countries must achieve total transformation of the sector.
On the effort of the Foundation to assist Africa, she recalled that one million dollars (about N160 million) was provided in funding the Africa Fertilizer Summit which led to the historic Abuja Declaration also in 2006.