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As the World marks the 2017 World Food Day, experts have proposed the urgent reform of Nigeria’s agricultural sector to boost food production and rural development.

They made the suggestion in separate interviews in Ibadan on Monday.

Prof. James Adediran, the Executive Director, Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T), Ibadan, said that farmers, women and youths in agriculture should be given the needed support via capacity building.

He said that they should also be assisted through the provision of farm machinery to enable them to produce large quantities of agricultural produce, while empowering all the participants in the agricultural value chain.

Adediran stressed the need for the rehabilitation of moribund farm settlements in some states, adding that government should invest in food security and rural development schemes.

The executive director said that rehabilitating existing farm settlements and creating more centres of agricultural production would go a long way in addressing the problems facing smallholder farmers.

“This will also support government’s strategy that targets the creation of incentives for young commercial farmers through the development of entrepreneurial skills.

“There is need to create incentives in the development of agribusiness entrepreneurship, farm skills acquisition as well as improved access to land and finance among willing farmers and youths,” he said.

Dr Idris Badiru, a Senior Lecturer in the Agricultural Extension and Rural Development Department, University of Ibadan, said that a positive change in the future was possible through increased investment in food security and rural development.

Badiru said that the government’s plans to diversify the economy through agriculture should be sustained, adding that pragmatic efforts should, however, be made to retain the old and new entrants in the field.

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He, however, said that the agricultural sector could not develop in isolation of the other sectors, adding that the coming budget of the government should have agriculture and rural development as one of its focal points.

Badiru, who is also a Guest Researcher at Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala, Sweden, underscored the need to fund universities and research institutes properly so as to enable them to develop innovations, particularly those relating to improved inputs.

He said that the funding would also enhance the capacity of the extension services to get improved inputs to the farmers on time.

“Doing this requires basic infrastructure such as communication facilities powered by affordable electricity, as inconsistent electricity hampers the work of researchers, farmers and extension officers,’’ he said.

Besides, Dr Babajide Adelekan, the Provost, Federal College of Agriculture (FCA), Ibadan, said that farmers should be provided with fertilisers, improved seeds, land and other inputs to facilitate the country’s efforts to achieve food security.

He said that the need to improve food production and the people’s standard of living in the rural areas was very crucial in efforts to enhance rural development.

The provost noted that the majority of the country’s farmers lived in rural areas, adding that this underscored the need to develop the rural areas through the enhancement of agriculture, which would consequently stimulate the development of the economy.

“Also, the production of traditional foods and cash crops such as cocoa, cotton, palm oil and yam should be encouraged,’’ Adelekan said.

The theme of the 2017 World Food Day is “Change the Future of Migration: Invest in Food Security and Rural Development’’.

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