About one million Nigerian farmers will benefit from a new initiative to provide higher quality seeds, cheaper fertilizer, and greater access to farm and small business credit and loans.  For VOA, Gilbert da Costa has more from Abuja.

Nigerian farmers face numerous constraints, including limited access to modern farm inputs like quality seeds and fertilizer.  Quality seeds are not available on time and input prices are getting too high for small farmers to afford them.

In response, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa and the International Centre for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development this week announced the launch of a $3.5 million Nigeria agro-dealer support project to strengthen the private sector in providing farmers with access to higher quality seeds.

Scott Wallace, of the International Centre for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development, told VOA high quality seeds could be the key to Nigeria's green revolution.

"There are many components in agriculture.  However, it all starts with the input.  If the farmer does not have seed, he cannot grow a thing.  If he does not have high quality seeds, he cannot improve his profitability," said Wallace.  "So it is extremely central in the first step in the value chain of agriculture."

The agro-dealer program will help to improve the volume, range and timeliness of supply of agricultural inputs into rural areas.

The Nigerian government says it will leave the fertilizer and seed supply chain within five years, leaving the agricultural input market in the hands of private agro-dealers and farmers.

An agro-dealer from Kano, Seidu Zakari, says this could unlock the potential of the private sector in rapidly expanding food production in Nigeria.

"If government pulls out and the private sector is able to step in, the private sector can be able to create a lot of opportunities," said Zakari.  "Very many opportunities will be created for people who might be unemployed to get themselves employed in distribution as well as procurement.  Those who are empowered, those who can be able to go and import, they will be able to import, and those at the lower level will be able to create more awareness to the farmers so that together we can produce more."

The recent food crisis has brought about a renewed interest in agriculture in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country of more than 140 million people.