Sen. Philip Gyunka, former senator representing Nasarawa North Senatorial District has called on Nigerians irrespective of discipline to embrace farming.
Gyunka, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Gyunka Integrated Farm, told the News Agency of Nigeria in an interview on Thursday in Abuja.
He said that if all Nigerians decided to own farms, there would be no fear around food security.
He said that everyone was permitted by the law of the land to combine farming with other forms of engagement, particularly in the civil service which was not being explored.
Gyunka said that farming would not only provide food security but extra stream of income for those interested in commercial farming.
The former lawmaker said while working in the financial institution and as a lawmaker both at state and federal levels, he was into farming.
“In my farm, we are into crops and livestock. For the livestock, we are into rearing of cattle, grass cutters, dogs, piggery and fish farming.
“For crops, we are into rice production, maize, sesames seeds as well as those that are perennial like oranges and palm.
“Agriculture is the way to go in this country and should be embraced by all no matter one’s discipline.
“Unfortunately, many people are no longer thinking of agriculture, a sector that sustained us as a country before the discovery of oil.
“My discipline is in finance and I have also held political positions in the country but that did not stop me from farming.
“Doing that will give us extra income and for those who only choose to farm for consumption, will be helping to avert the looming food security issues.
“If our agricultural sector was as vibrant as it ought to be, the dollar will not be oppressing the Naira.
“Agriculture provides us endless exportable products that can make the Naira strong against the dollar but because we import more than we export, there is deficit in the balance of trade, thereby making the naira weak,” he said.
Gyunka, however, called on state governments and the Federal Government to put workable policies in place to assist farmers.
He said for the sector to be properly repositioned, government interventions should go directly to farmers.
According to him, most farmers do not benefit from government efforts because of alleged sharp practices by those who serve as intermediaries between government and farmers.
“I have more than 200 hectares of land for instance and I need not less than four tractors but we do not have them and several efforts to access government facilities to boost production failed.
“What we have been able to achieve so far is only through personal effort. Most countries with robust agricultural sectors are largely assisted by the right policies of government.
“Farmers are not enjoying that in Nigeria because it is either the policies do not have direct impact on farmers or it is the issue of corruption.
“As I speak with you most farmers including me have not been able to access fertiliser, and now is the peak of the rainy season.
“In some cases, some farmers will get it but late, making the aim to be defeated. These are some of the things dragging us backward as a country.
“I hope government works in its policies to find ways of reaching directly to rural farmers.”
On government efforts to set up schemes like the Anchor Borrowers Scheme to meet farmers’ needs, Gyunka said while they were laudable, the criteria for accessing loans were stringent.
“As one who has worked in the financial sector, I know that collateral is not the only way to go about giving out loans. Integrity is critical and I did that when I worked in the financial institution.
“I know government’s fear is that some farmers may divert loans acquired for farming. For me, rather than request for collaterals that cannot be met, there should be punitive measures to check abuse.
“I feel the criteria should be relaxed while measures are put in place to closely monitor application of loans by farmers to ensure they are used judiciously.
“I feel government should also intensify effort in providing necessary infrastructure for commercial farming.
“Most farmers cannot produce much because they do not have the equipment for mechanised farming. They cannot afford seed planters, tillers, harvesters and all that.
“We should also ensure to add value to what we produce as a nation for improved revenue generation.”
He further urged the Federal Government to put in more effort in the fight against terrorism, banditry and other forms of vices preventing farmers from going to farm.
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