Tomato production remains one of the less stressful and most lucrative agribusiness for young people to invest in because of its high nutritional values which increases demand among household across the country.2015 experienced a rise in the demand of tomatoes against the supply across all the notable markets in Nigeria, especially Mile12 and Idi-Oro market in Lagos State.
The Tomatoes and Orchard Producers Association of Nigeria (TOPAN) in an attempt to solve the problem of food security and get youth and women involved in agriculture has highlighted some of its activities with success accomplished, ranging from land acquisition, increase in tomatoes production through the introduction and adoption of new tomato varieties, capacity building and youth involvement in agriculture.
There are various associations across the agricultural value chains aimed at bridging gaps through various programmes and interventions. Among them is TOPAN whose thematic activities and achievement can be summed up in the following areas;
Land acquisition - Land is arguably the foundation of any agricultural activities. This is no exception for TOPAN as during the year 2014/2015 it acquired 12 hectares farm land in Kuje for tomato and orchards farming purposes. This intensified the quest for food security hence reducing excess demand.
Technical support - The evidence of any agricultural development as in the case of TOPAN lies in its ability to bring about a win-win technical support approach such as training farmer on how to plant tomatoes, fertilizer application as well as crop protection to reduce early drops of crops. This further enlarged to partnering with Wadata farm to give free seed to farmers, Salad Green House Nigerian to aid supply of tomatoes in Nigeria and outside. A partnership with Biko agro-allied company aid the provision of subsidized tomatoes seeds to farmers to boost production and increases demand.
Youth in agriculture - Youth remains a strong backbone for successful agricultural development of any country. The association attached a great importance to youth in agriculture, thereby, through its initiative employed, mentor and trained 10 youth in farming with partnership with GIS-SUREP. One powerful tool used by this association to stir youth interest in agriculture is capacity building through training of youth in Ondo state on how to plant tomatoes and process for local market, training of youth in local tomato processing and farming, training of corps member through NYSC partnership to be self-employ in tomatoes processing, training and consultation for youth at TOPAN online Facebook page as well as capacity building for women through its training programme in korudu/ Utako in tomatoes farming, processing and marketing.
Food security through research- Trending in the agricultural sector is the attainment of food security in all nations through various research initiatives. In supporting this progress, TOPAN currently experiments new seeds of tomatoes from Bicco Agro-Allied that can grow both on open field and green house. These new hybrids include: Barnu, Baltyra, Barreiro from Netherlands and F1 Tomatoes.
The success has encouraged TOPAN to outline and diversify its plans for 2016, which is specifically targeted towards some key players in revitalization of agriculture. These include farmers, youth and women in agriculture. The outlined plans has its root in getting more youth and women involved in agricultural development and practices, followed by enlargement of the scope of operation to other zones to include the West, South and the Niger Delta region.
This enlargement will critically strengthen the tomatoes production to the industry acceptable standards and address the problem of processing, transportation issues, inefficient storage facility and capacity as well as the irrigation system which is suitable for farmers in the zones. The solidity of the outlined plans is embedded in its capacity building programmes to include:
Training of youth as key agents (broker/aggregator) in getting the produce from the farmers and getting it across to the markets.
Practical training and exposure of farmers, youth and women on how to establish and practice greenhouse farming.
Continuous provision of technical support to farmers to boost their production and income levels.
Strengthen its community service to all local governments across the state of the federation.
Agriculture in Nigeria faces similar challenges and this is no exception for TOPAN thematic areas as it has its root from lack of funds to aid research, training and for trainee, the problem of land acquisition, insufficient seeds/seedlings and fertilizer to boost production, low penetration of training programmes due to insufficient capacity to employ more people and ultimately lack of storage capacity to reduce loses.
To ensure youths explore the potential of agriculture in order to attain the sustainable development goals, specifically for tomatoes and orchid production, the following needs to be critically examine through TOPAN initiates:
Provision of land by federal government to aid youth and women in farming.
Provision of grant, soft loan to youth and woman in agriculture.
Government assistant and support to aid youth and women in agriculture.
Provision of subsidized seedlings, fertilizer, tractor and other farm needs to farmers.
Ending on a good note, TOPAN was birthed as a result of the training organized by Federal Ministry of Agriculture for youth with a passion for Agriculture and has developed a network of farmers within states in Nigeria.
It aims to reduce hunger and malnutrition, contribute to abatement efforts to reduce greenhouse gases contributing to global warming, promote sustainable livelihood, and enhance Tomatoes and Orchard farming (food security/ food production) through advocacy, research, training and capacity development, and partnership with farmers and stakeholders in Nigeria.