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FG launches soil fertility initiative

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The Vice President, Kashim Shettima, has reaffirmed the government’s commitment to agricultural reforms aimed at bolstering production and improving soil management practices.

Shettima spoke on Tuesday in Abuja during the launch of an agricultural initiative tagged ‘Soil Values’.

In 2023, the Food and Agriculture Organisation said  26.5 million Nigerians might face a food crisis between June and August 2024.

The international body said states, such as Borno, Sokoto, and Zamfara, including the Federal Capital Territory, were at a bigger risk.

Supported by the Dutch Directorate-General for International Cooperation and spearheaded by the International Fertiliser Development Centre, Soil Values aims to tackle soil fertility issues, foster sustainable agricultural development over the next decade, and uplift the livelihoods of 1.5 million small-scale food producers.

Shettima, who was represented by his Senior Special Assistant on Agribusiness and Productivity Enhancement, Kingsley Uzoma, underscored the pivotal role of agriculture in the nation’s economy, noting that it contributes 24 per cent to the GDP.

He stressed the urgent need to confront issues such as land degradation, erosion, and drought, particularly in the Sahel region.

The Vice President said, “Agriculture is a cornerstone of Nigeria’s economy, contributing significantly to our national GDP. However, it faces various constraints hindering its progress.

“Land degradation, erosion, and drought are exacerbating due to over-exploitation, deforestation, and overgrazing, particularly in the northern regions.

“Nigeria is proud to be part of this programme, which will truly benefit our farmers, as well as farmers in other countries involved, who have been facing this soil fertility problem for years.

“We are truly committed to supporting the effective and sustainable implementation of the programme in Nigeria. We also invite all the other countries included to put in place various mechanisms to facilitate the implementation of the Soil Values programme activities”.

The Chief Executive Officer of IFDC, Henk Duijn, emphasised the significance of long-term investments in soil health, urging governments and donors to prioritise funding for initiatives with sustainable outcomes.

“Given the current situation of soil degradation in the Sahel, investment in soil health will take a long time to produce visible and tangible results. Governments and donors must prioritize funding for soil health initiatives that offer long-term benefits.

Duijn said, “Soil Values have developed an approach not to operate in splendid isolation, nor to impose activities onto the Sahelian countries. Rather, it seeks cooperation with large institutional investors at the regional level, such as the World Bank and other development banks, and through national programmes with local institutions.

“This will create significant leverage to collectively strengthen the implementation capabilities of local and international institutions and to create the largest impact from the investments made”.

The Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Abubakar Kyari, urged stakeholders to embrace innovative interventions to combat declining soil fertility.

He emphasised Nigeria’s readiness to collaborate with international partners in implementing the Soil Values program.

Represented by Bello Mohammed, Director, Department of Agricultural Land & Climate Change Management Services, Kyari affirmed, “Nigeria extends its hand in collaboration with international partners. We are committed to implementing the Soil Values programme, and stakeholders should adopt these new interventions to address the challenges of poor soil fertility”.

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