AGRICULTURE AS A MEANS OF SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIC GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT.

Filed under: National Issues |
Rice cultivation in Indonesia

Rice cultivation in Indonesia

It is most certainly going to be an old story to remind Nigerians and the society at large, how Malaysian government came to Nigeria, took a seed of palm kernel back home and the exceeding economic beauty it has brought them. Before the oil boom in 1970s, agriculture was the main stay of Nigeria’s economy. Each region was known for a particular agricultural produce, the Northern region was known with groundnut pyramid; Western region for cocoa, one of the world best commercial viable seed; the Eastern region was the home of palm nut and cassava, and collectively, the proceeds from this agricultural products made Nigeria the beauty of Africa. Once upon a time, agriculture contributed to over 90% of the country’s GDP, that was once upon a time.

The period of the colonial administration in Nigeria, 1861-1960, was punctuated by rather adhoc attention to agricultural development. During the said era, considerable emphasis was placed on research and extension services. The first notable era was the establishment of a Botanical Research Station in Lagos by Sir Claude McDonald in 1893. In 1912, a Department of Agriculture was established in each of the then Southern and Northern Nigeria, though the activities of the department were virtually suspended between 1913 & 1921 as a result of the first world war and its aftermath. It was during this period that WAIFOR (West African Institute for Oil Palm Research) in Benin was started  and the research on cocoa was intensified at Moor Plantation, Owena near Ondo and at Onigambari near Ibadan. Achievement of the period include the development of ‘Alien Cotton’ in the South; rice cultivation in Sokoto, Niger, Ilorin, Aabeokuta Colony and Ondo province; and so on.

The problem:

Call the attention of any secondary school child today, even while asleep, he will enumerate more than a dozen of problems facing agriculture in Nigeria. What truly is the conundrum with Nigeria’s agricultural sector? Or is it a conspiracy to tie down the progress of this vital sector, if it is, how deep has it eaten into the marrows of the sector? Is this a case of extended group of cabal in our agricultural sector? Because, we cannot incriminate workable policies as the albatross of these one time pride of the nation. Over the years Nigeria has come up with fascinating policies and programs aimed at ameliorating these green sector, from the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP), to Agricultural Development Program (ADP), et el.

It has now come to the extent that Agricultural sector is been treated shabbily like the sports sector in Nigeria, where a complete abecedarian is made the Minister of the said sector and year-after-year no significant improvement is recorded. Agriculture is synonymous to food and no human performs efficiently under the threat of hunger, it was evident during the flooding period which occurred in 2012, this is a limited argument on the importance of a viable food sector in any country. Gone are the days when subsistence farming could provide for everyone in the country, a situation where every member of a family go on farming-spree and after harvest, the family  sells the remnants of their produce and consume the larger chunk.

The desire for farming is no doubt highly prevalent in the rural areas and to get to them, they need people that understand them, understand their environment, the problem they face and possibly speak their language. For example, asymmetrical ‘A’ typical rural farmer will never want to attend meetings where the man who is in charge is completely dressed in a well tailored suit, the feeling will be, what does this fancy man possibly know that he will teach us. The fault in our policy making is very alarming. Agricultural policy makers in Nigeria always take the easy way out, hence, adopting the top-bottom approach, which is why every policy made with good intensions will still fail to penetrate the people who truly need this innovations to increase their productions. Misplacement of priorities is one ugly problem staring Nigerian leaders in the face, from appointment of Ministers, subordinates, making of policies, the copy and paste attitude to decision making. From time immemorial, appointment of ministers as well as commissioners and other nominal positions are strong cases of favoritism and not based on experience, qualification and merit.

Analysis:

Nigeria should be looking at agriculture as a big viable business and no longer a passive thing. Agriculture in Nigeria, despite its importance in human life is treated as ‘filling the gap’ for other less significant sectors. Subsistence farming is no longer a solution, Nigeria have to commercialize agricultural production and fully adopt mechanize farming. Young men and women are running away from farming. Ask any student if they will be interested in farming in the future as a profession, I am dead sure without a doubt, that not even a single person will want to subscribe to that line of thought. Some might go as far as swearing with the gods of their village.

Before now, Niger State, Benue State and Taraba State were popular for yam cultivation, but presently a Benue man stops at Nasarawa to buy yam tubers, because young men find it easier to go and dig telephone line trenches than cultivate yam. A young man of 30-35 years old cultivates yam for just 2 years, and the next time you see him you think he is up to 75 years old. Presently, there is 17% reduction in yam farmers every year in Nigeria. Farming is made less attractive, a good explanation for rural-urban migration and why cities are over populated. If in these 21st century Nigerians can still farm with hoes and cutlass, then there is something wrong with the system.

In as much as we are talking about a certain age, called the computer age, there are so many things that have to be in place for a new innovations to work effectively, the Minister of agriculture, Mr. Akinwumi Adeshina, cannot just wake up and spend over N26 billion to purchase mobile phones in a country where major cities are without electricity not to mention the rural areas where the farmers reside. The question for the Minister is, will the mobile phone substitute the work of extension agents?

Even the developed countries which Nigeria is always quick to copy and use as reference, till date make use of extension workers to disseminate new innovations and information to farmers. If the mobile phones via the GPRS is used for tracking fertilizers and seedlings that will be sent to farmers in rural areas, as claimed by the Minister, will the same phone teach the farmers how to apply the fertilizers? Will it be able to teach farmers things like seed spacing, approved fertilizer application rate/spacing, seed rate, combination ratio and other international best practices used in maximizing cultivation?

Whether taught or not, not every educated person living in the city that owns a sophisticated phone or even a less sophisticated phones utilizes up to 10% of the features. So, how is Mr. Akinwumi Adeshina going to ensure that all the rural dwellers will operate the technical features in the phone? It will be proper if that money is invested in building storage facilities, creating a one stop agricultural center, to boost the confidence of farmers, a place where they can buy seedlings and sell their farm products. Build and equip agricultural research centers, where improved varieties of seedlings can be developed.  Re-engage our extension workers and also revive the monitoring and evaluation teams with a good operational template, so together with the extension workers, they will comb the nooks and crannies of the country to visit the farmers and provide solutions to their immediate problems. That is bottom-top approach working.

Lets not be deceived that farming with hoes and cutlass cut it in this contemporary age. If we are copying and pasting at least we should do it right. The king of Thailand is a rice farmer, other country’s that are doing great in rice farming are not using hoes and cutlass to farm. Rice is the most consumed food in this part of the country, for every 6 hours, NGN1 billion worth of rice is consumed in Nigeria, meaning for a whole day, N4 billion worth of rice is consumed in Nigeria and 99% of this rice are imported from outside the shores of this country, even from those living at our backyard. If we keep farming with hoes and cutlass, how do we compete with the man in Thailand, Kampuchea, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and other countries?

We must get our priorities right, the time is gone when we use ‘going back to the drawing board’ to impede development in this country. We have to look towards the direction of mechanize farming, that is the only way we will provide food sufficient enough to feed us and export to other countries. It is on heard of, that a man start a building by putting the roof first before the foundation, Hon. Minister, Akinwumi Adeshina, has to abandon these deceptive thought of mobile phones and put measures in place to check and maintain the complete agriculture value chain. I can say with all sense of certainty that agriculture can single handedly solve Nigeria’s unemployment problem, because, from these value chains of; cultivation, transportation, processing, packaging, distribution and marketing stage are all large enough to take millions of youth out of the street and keep them engaged.

It is time our agrarian leaders must start putting square peg in square holes. Misplacement of priorities was eminent in this 2013 budget. if you want to know where the priority of Federal Government lies, simply look at the annual budget. In the 2013 budget, Agriculture got about N81.3 billion, while sectors like education, and security got huge allocations, which simply implies that Agriculture is under valued in Nigeria. If we strengthen education and security in Nigeria, without sufficient food and provision of good jobs, the security will fail because a hungry man is an angry man, and every child at the age of 5, requires good food for the nourishment of the brain otherwise he/she will lose 10% of his IQ before growing up. At the end, standard of education falls and security fails, the entire exercise becomes effort in futility.

Nigeria must fashion out ways of getting our agriculture to compete with global standard. The federal government together with the Minister of Agriculture and all other agencies included in the revamping process must think of implementing already existing policies and not proposing new ones. Policies are not our major problem as stated earlier, implementation is. Instead of investing huge sum of money on mobile phones, which are actions of a man who has been away from the country for so long, that he hardly knows the terrain and the thinking mentality of the people, appointed in the name of ‘foreign expatriate’. It will be beneficiary to all concern if that decision is receded.

Comments

comments

  • Well said

  • I belive agriculture can help and also improve the Nigerian Economy.I aspire to be a profound agriculturist n economist to help secure and inspire youths to see the power agriculture can generate.well said…