The Federal Government has approved N3.6 billion to support the establishment of Agricultural Equipment Hiring Enterprise (AEHE) nationwide, Agric Minister Akinwunmi Adesina, said.
He said this on Thursday at an interactive session with mechanisation intervention partners in Abuja.
Adesina, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Ibukun Odusote, said mechanisation in an agrarian country like Nigeria must be taken very seriously.
The minister said that the initiative would enable the country to attain the desired height of putting agriculture at the fore front of the economy.
“To kick-start the implementation of this framework, I approved an intervention scheme to serve as a pilot with N3.6 billion released by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development towards financing the establishment of the Agricultural Equipment Hiring Enterprise (AEHE).
“The funds in the first phase will make available 400 units of tractors, 500 power tillers, and various harvest and post harvest equipment to set up 80 centres.’’
Adesina said government was aware of the challenges that had bedevilled the mechanisation sector in the past years, in spite of past efforts to subsidise the cost of tractors at 45 per cent.
He said that the small scale farmers that produced 80 per cent of the nation’s food had very little or no access to these subsidised machinery.
Adesina said the second phase would achieve similar results like the first but that the third phase would acquire 250 tractors through the partnership programme.
He predicted that at the end of the first, second and third phases, the intervention scheme would bring in 1050 units of tractors, 1500 power tillers and 2400 units of various harvest and post-equipment such as rice reapers, grain threshers and cassava peelers.
Adesina said also that about 210 units of the equipment would be located in demand driven locations nationwide.
He said that the intervention would also create 6,090 direct Jobs, mechanise a minimum of 488,250 hectares of land.
Adesina said that the AEHEs would be run by the private sector, adding that the Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) would cover the programme.
In her remarks, Odusote, who was represented by a Director in the minister’s office, Dr Damilola Eniaiyeju, said the success of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) depended on mechanisation.
She said in spite of government’s efforts to mechanise agriculture over the years, it was still at 0.027 horse power per hectare.
Odusote said the dismal state of mechanisation had led to the formation of advisory committee saddled with the responsibility of producing a workable mechanisation frame work to support the agricultural transformation agenda.
She said for a start, government was clearing 6,400 hectares of land nationwide for cassava production, adding that farmers through the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme would access effective tractor services and enable them own their tractors.
Thomas Atsu, who spoke on behalf of the Lead-accredited vendor/Manufacturers’ representatives, expressed satisfaction with government mechanisation programme.
He said tractor vendors were happy with the programme and urged the banking sector to help finance vendors and farmers to achieved mechanisation.
On his part, the Managing Director, Bank of Agriculture, Dr Mohammed Santuraki, said the bank was known for its positive investments.
He applauded the minister for the intervention, adding that the major challenge facing agriculture in Africa was mechanisation.
Santuraki expressed the determination of the bank to support for the programme, saying ”only through mechanisation will agriculture be transformed from a development programme to a business”.
Highlight of the event was the signing of performance agreement between the ministry and the accredited vendors, manufacturers and representatives.