Virtually, in all Agricultural Engineering Departments of polytechnics and universities across the country, there are several prototype agricultural machines designed and fabricated by students and their supervisors as part of their degrees or diplomas programs.
The local fabricators and local companies are not left behind. Why are these efforts not paying? Nigeria continues to import agricultural machines into the country. Small-scale farmers continue to use hoe and cutlass to perform their farm operations. What the missing links?
This was the question posed last week on the issue of mechanizing Nigerian agriculture. What are the success stories of the private sector on the issue?
There are several privately-owned companies involved in fabrication and sales of agricultural machinery such as Niji-Lukas Nigeria Limited, Maglands Creations Ltd, Techo-Quip Nigeria Limited, Chinige Technology Services Ltd among others.
READ ALSO: Mechanizing Nigerian Agriculture: Efforts and challenges II, by Professor MK Othman
In addition to these companies, there are thousands of local fabricators across all states of the federation. Detailed profiles of the top ten agricultural equipment manufacturers are provided by the online newspaper; https://infoguidenigeria.com/agricultural-equipment-manufacturers-nigeria/
Generally, these individual agricultural machines fabricators and private companies are involved in fabrications of farm machinery, farm tools and equipment at all levels of on-farm and off-farm operations along the value-chain of the different agricultural commodities.
Some of the products of this private sector include tillage equipment, planters, Stick Planter for seeds, Serrated Weeding Hoe, Wheel Hoe, Seed Cum Fertilizer Broadcaster, Single Row Seed Planter, Multipurpose Seed drill.
Some commodities attracted more efforts in machines and equipment fabrications than others. There was a concerted effort of promoting cassava in the last decades by the Federal Government that attracted a lot of attention.
Thus, several machines were fabricated, which include Cassava Stainless Grater, Cassava Lifter/Harvester Automated Garri Fryer, Stainless Steel Hammer Mill, Vibrating Sifter, Fufu Processing Plant and Pneumatic Press.
Another commodity enjoying government promotional effort is rice and thus, many rice production machinery and processing equipment are being fabricated with some being imported.
These include rice transplanter, rice harvesters, rice Paddy Parboiler, de-husker, polisher, de-stoner, and force-convention dryer. Other locally fabricated machines are groundnut extractor, groundnut stripper, multi-crops threshers, Flash Dryer, Smoking Kiln, Beans Separator, Multipurpose Deep Fryer, Cabinet Dryer, Pastry Oven, Bone Crusher, Stainless Steel Wet Miller M150 and Stainless Steel Wet Miller M80.
Others are Poundo Flour Processing Plant, Yam Flour Processing Plants, Plantain Flour Processing Plant and Plantain Chips Processing Plants among others.
On horticultural crops, machines being fabricated are juice extractor, food processing and packaging. Fruit juice powder production machines/plant, Tomato Paste Production Machine/Plant and Soya Milk Plant.
Instant Pounded Yam Plant, Malting Plant, Palm Oil Plant and Palm Kennel Processing Plant. These efforts are really commendable to both private and public sectors on trying to mechanize Nigerian agriculture.
Yet, the efforts are not making the desired impacts of productivity enhancement. Why is it so?
Catalogue of challenges is the major reason why the efforts of mechanizing Nigeria are not impactful. Access and affordability of agricultural machinery and equipment to farmers is a major challenge to the improvement of agricultural mechanization.
More than 80% of the farmers are small-scale and engage in subsistence farming and thus, lack capital to acquire machinery. Inadequate support and poor patronage of locally fabricated agricultural equipment is another challenge to mechanizing Nigerian agriculture.
A national newspaper ‘The Guardian’ of August 18th 2018, reported: “Nigeria is said to spend about $3 billion annually on importation of foreign goods, including agricultural tools”.
The quoted Dr Franks Jacob of Manufacture Association of Nigeria who asserted, “Government prefers foreign goods and Nigerian manufacturers lose an average of $3bn annually as a result. It is an established fact that when we buy foreign goods, we pay the returns to factors used in producing them in the originating countries.
That is to say that we pay wages, rent, interest, and profit to foreign countries with our local resources.”
He said: “Undoubtedly, the government remains the largest single spender in the economy and could drive industrial development and economic growth by increasing its patronage of locally made products”.
Inadequate infrastructure is another challenge to mechanizing agriculture. Lack of steady supply of electricity, water and deplorable road network across the nation are part of the infrastructural challenges to the machines manufacturers and food processors. This makes the cost of production and services high and difficult to break-even.
Poor quality and low standard of the locally produced machines contribute immensely to the slow pace of mechanizing agriculture in Nigeria. Another devastating challenge is poor agricultural extension service delivery.
To increase productivity, farmers’ capacity needs to be enhanced through regular training and the provision of useful information that will add value to their farm enterprise.
The next challenge is inadequate funding for research and development, research funds in the annual Federal government budgets are placed under capital projects, yet, the capital projects are hardly released as at when needed.
In agricultural research work, “time” is an important variable under investigation and when untimely fund release makes a researcher slow down, the research result will certainly be affected.
In conclusion, mechanizing Nigerian agriculture is not an impossible task but requires targeted effort focusing towards an increasing level of mechanization.
Government at all levels; Federal, State and Local Government need to increase their investment to support agricultural development in this country. This is a clarion call to action.
Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.