The Federal Government has taken steps towards building a more sustainable agriculture industry.
These include ensuring food security, establishing high-quality products, improving post-harvest techniques, investing in advanced processing facilities, enhancing marketing and information systems, protecting natural resources, and continuing to reform institutions and policies as necessary.
The government believes fostering agricultural growth will lead to poverty reduction.
However, experts say tourism and agriculture should be top most priorities of the government‘s development plan.
One of them, a consultant to the British Department For International Development (DFID), Richard Ogundele, said Nigeria can create new jobs by improving the agric and tourism sectors.
Ogundele said agriculture should be at the forefront of generating foreign exchange, if the government is ready to be committed to maximising the monumental opportunities in the industry through agro-tourism.
He cited the Songhaï Centre in Porto-Novo, Benin Republic, used as an experimental farm, research centre and for training in sustainable agriculture.
The centre has significant water resources, favourable for crop and fish production on a large scale. The operation of the centre enables people to stay in touch with the realities of profitable agriculture and environment.
With an abundance of natural resources, biological diversity and a strong cultural heritage, Ogundele, who is the Managing Director, JMSF Agribusiness, said the Nigeria is well-positioned for agri-tourism, saying using the land for agri-tourism would help the government to achieve a balance in tourism and agricultural development between urban and rural areas; in contributing to poverty alleviation.
Ogundele noted that agri-tourism involves an agriculturally-based activity that draws visitors to a farm, ranch or any natural site.
He said agro-tourism would present visitors a chance to enjoy native food and purchase fabrics as well as other artefacts. The experience garnered during such expeditions, he emphasised, would be a great avenue for encouraging cultural exchange and transmission between visiting local tourists and the indigenes of host communities.
To provide a model for Nigerians to emulate, Ogundele said his organisation is establishing a 50- acre farm resort within the Federal Capital Territory(FCT),which would provide an opportunity for both Nigerians and foreigners looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life to get back to nature.
The resort, according to him, wouldhost various events, including farmers’field days and agricultural fairs.
The itinerary for visitors will include a tour of the farms where they would sit down to a meal of food contributed by various local farmers. He said emphasis would be on renewable energy.
He said his organisation is ready to work with farmers to create farm businesses that can attract Eco tourists, particularly those seeking life-enriching vacations that involve culture, nature, the outdoors and learning.
He wants the agricultural and tourism sectors to come together to talk about the opportunities and for the government to support the discussion.
For Niji Group Managing Director, Kolawole Adeniji, a successful agricultural-tourism sector will be a great benefit for the economy, with potential for farmers.
Through agro tourism, tourists will have the opportunity to visit local farms and to taste traditional recipes.
Niji Farms reputed to be the largest cassava farm in Nigeria, covering over 4000 hectares of land in Ilero, Oyo State.
He has maize, plantain and yam farm covering several acres of land with huge potential for expansion.
For him, there is a great demand for agricultural-tourism and it would be a missed opportunity if Nigerians don’t work together to build the industry.
Adeniji is building an agro tourism resort in Oyo State. The project is an ecotourism site, integrated with farm sites to lure more tourists and help boost farm income. The dream is to provide Nigerians peaceful and happy living among the farm full of trees, select seasonal crops and vegetables and a lot of wild tree varieties.
The resort has processing units across the farm estate. He has provided storage facilities, infrastructure and services.
The resort will be open to students to explore and interact with nature and crops.
Source: The Nation