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The Nigerian agricultural sector is being revolutionised. Ruth Tene Natsa writes on the new Agricultural Equipment Hiring Enterprise (AEHE) under the private sector programme of the federal ministry of agriculture and rural development.
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines revolution as any change or reversal of conditions. It is also defined as transformation, conversion, development and change among others. This definition is what best suits the recent changes currently ongoing in the nations agricultural sector.
The Agricultural Equipment Hiring Enterprises(AEHE), a private sector driven programme by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, is a strategy by the ministry to provide farm mechanisation services to Nigerian farmers. Such services include leasing/hiring out of various kinds of agricultural equipment for land preparation, harvesting and post harvesting, repair and maintenance of equipment, among others.
The Ministry disclosed that the AEHE model is aimed at providing agricultural services and serving small-holder farmers with poor resource base to own tractors, eliminate poor maintenance culture of farm equipment, and inability of real farmers to access government subsidized tractors. The scheme is available to individual farmers, farmers cooperatives, commercial farmers and corporate organizations among others.
The refinancing of the AEHE is broken into four parts, which include federal government 35%, financial institutions 35%, vendors/manufacturers 10% and SPOs equity at 20%.
At the commissioning of the 100,000-metric tonne silos and flag-off of the AEHE in Abuja recently, farmers were optimistic Nigeria was set to be, not just a major provider of agricultural services in todays world, but is set to sufficiently provide the agricultural needs of the Nigerian nation while becoming a major world contributor to food supply and contributing highly to the world food needs.
Representing Nigerian farmers at the event, Sarkin Noma Zamfara state, Hassan Mohammed Kwazo, recalled that the Nigerian agricultural sector is going through a change that had never been witnessed before. He said, Twenty nine years ago, farmers had no knowledge of their rights and worked using manual tools until the recent implementation of the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) by President Jonathans government, which allowed them access to farm inputs and better profits yields
The Sarkin Noma (farmers king) said if local production and patronage is encouraged, there will not be any need for any form of food importation, but rather Nigeria will begin exporting.
He said, In Zamfara state alone farmers can fill up the 1.3 million capacity silo launched.
Also the president, Tractor Owners and Operators Association of Nigeria (TOOAN), Engineer Bitrus Elesa, said that the AEHE is key to the development of agriculture.
He said The success of the project will be determined by the readiness of government to give the needed support of 20% of 45.5 billion naira annually to the project, producing indigenous modern farm equipment for better and easier maintenance while ensuring that financial institutions come to the support of farmers towards ensuring better funding among others.
The minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adeshina in his welcome remarks said small-holder farmers in the country are witnessing a refreshing new dawn. Our food import bill has declined from N1.1 trillion ($ 6.9 billion) in 2009 to N 684.7 billion ($4.35 billion) by December 2013 and continues to decline in 2014.
However, he pointed out that despite the gains, there is a low level mechanisation which AEHE will address. He argued that if our farmers could produce an additional 21 million metric tonnes of food between 2012 and 2014, without tractors or mechanised equipment, they will definitely feed the world if they have a fully mechanised agricultural system.