Nigeria Agriculture and national food shortage, the mirage of our present reality.

Filed under: Agriculture |

Agriculture in Nigeria was once the bane of her prosperity. As far back as the 1950’s many Nigerians who were settlers in what we now refer to as ‘rural areas’ were predominantly farmers. Subsistence agriculture gave way to commercial agriculture when the foreigners who permeate the South and North began to engage in export business. Pyramids of grains began to grow northwards as commercial palms, cocoa and rubber was propagated in southern Nigeria. Our export commodity market began to grow on the scale as our produce was well accepted by many nations of the world.

The agricultural based economy provided the revenue from which capital projects where executed and amenities provided. As Literacy level across the length and breadth of Nigeria heightened, funds from this sector where apportioned to fund education scholarships for students both within and across its bothers. The economic and business environment began to aggregate to provide services for the new civilization that was sprouting. Even the military formation and training was financed by agriculture.

As at 1960 October 1st, the Nigerian State was officially declared an independent state. This further created a room for structural adjustment of the political structure of the country. Obviously government needed to ease its operation and facilitate its objectives. Places like lagos, Rivers and lokoja began to wear urban outlook and some places had fast stream allocation of funds to meet up the necessity of aiding governance. As institutions arose and facilities were developed, the need for specialized services led to drift in population. Persons left these agri-based locations to urban centers to secure opportunities as clerk, mangers and personnel for firms, industries and public institutions.

This exodus of Nigerians did not have a vicious impact on the strength of our agricultural capacity. Most of the persons that drifted to the urban centres went on a temporary base facilitated by seasonal variation in cultivation and farming. So Nigerians were still grossly farmers in season and workers during off period. The only effect agriculture had as at this period was the decline in irrigation farming in the North. As the urbanization needs and the advances of modernity was tempting enough to leave farming for a while in a year.

The discovery of oil in 1956 was much relief to the government of Nigeria. Concerted effort had been made to diversify the economy since independence. With exploration and more discovery, export of crude oil brought a boom that was to awesome to curtail a shift of attention. With ease, money came into the coffers of government and national income was no longer anchored to seasonality of agricultural produce hence, a gravitational shift to oil as the major income earner was facilitated.

Construction of refineries began to spring up and associated services were highly required. To spin the minds of people towards this new course of action, Jobs in the oil sector was given so much incentives, remuneration and facilitation. Hence, Nigerians began to crave for this sector. Education attracted a boost this period as many other so called ‘formal sector’ began to surface. Parents even sold their farm lands and invested their whole lots on sponsoring education knowing fully-well that this will pay off at the end.

Educated families secured ‘lucrative jobs’ in the cities, settled down and had to pay for his success. Many went to their distant villages located in remote rural areas and adopted the number of relatives he/she could fend for and proceed to the urban centres for similar quest for education. This was the origin of rural urban migration in the country. The rural environment, year in and out migrated for the urban towns. This affected agricultural practices in the rural areas as work force was reducing gravely in a time when the agricultural system was labour intensive, the use of machines was at microscopic level.

As urban settlers began to grow while urban amenities grew at a slower pace to gross migration, there were issues to contend with. The urban settlers outnumbered vacancies for jobs available and had to improvise in other to still remain in the cities. The new found life in the city coupled with managerial livelihood was preferred to going to pick up farming in the village without these amenities. Farming was metaphorically seen as ‘poverty’. The few persons who thought of farming as an option even in the urban centers were seen as having no pride and not ambitious.

The genesis of what will be our ‘extinction’ if not taken seriously started from this humble beginning. The hand that once feed the nation ‘agriculture’ was neglected by both government and citizens partly because, we felt the oil regime gave us wealth with ease. Having suffered many years of neglect, the country soon got to the stage where importation of food produce was inevitable, if we must meet up the need of a the ever increasing population. The influx of goods from the countries we once fed with produce further killed the market for local farmers.

The proportion of youths who engaged in farming is weakened by poor pricing for their produce. The seemingly long period of toil during cultivation earned them peanuts as the well packaged food products from Europe and Asia belittled the locally packed goods as they await buyers in odd market sites. The farming environment was no longer conducive for young aspiring Nigerians who strive to meet up with their urban counterpart in terms of social demands. With time, these rural communities became largely populated by the aged and they could only farm little for their nuclear family needs. Thus, dependency for food even shifted to relatives in urban centers for some families who had no more land to farm.

Markets for crops and produce became a popular site in remote villages. Families without farms would have to go to the village markets to purchase their needs. This was against the earlier practice of going to the farm to harvest what the family consumes. Today many Nigerians are so far off their source of survival food or better put Agriculture. It is practically evident that many children even up to senior secondary cannot tell how some popular crops as rice, beans, groundnut look like in the field. This scenario is a pathetic nonsense that is not seen as a problem in our contemporary Nigeria.

The worst of this degeneration in our agric mentality is the fact that nobody pride in agricultural business like being a doctor, an engineer, a banker etc. no Nigerian will like to come to a public occasion and be addressed as a farmer  or engaged in agricultural business it is always generating the feeling like ‘Am a low life’. Government will even prefer giving a land to a bank than having same go for farming. Priority rating in Nigeria might place agriculture in the twentieth most valued sector; I am talking in real terms. We are popular with talking about agriculture with not much actions attached to the words.

If Agriculture must be awakened from its present status to replace the oil wealth then we must be set to do the odds. The odds being, plying the same or more investment we have plunged into the petroleum industry into agriculture. Once that is done with, the other itinerary necessary for sustenance will take its natural precedence. As Nigerians as at present, respond to the sector that has huge financial involvement. Once interest from inception is on the basis of high financial expectation, then the same dividend opened by the oil period will be tripled with the agri-diversity. This is not to forget that the future of energy in the world is dependent on renewable energy system, which are all agri-based; bio fuel, bio diesel, bio gas etc.

We have lived under the shadow of agricultural benevolence for so long with much unmerited appreciations going to the petroleum industry. It is high time we focus the real sector least we shutdown our economy to loan propelled budgets in the near future. Let’s not be too confident with the virtual wealth of the oil wells because the real wealth is focused on the mirror of agriculture. Hence, we need to start thinking of agriculture as the first sector of prestige, so much for agriculture other sectors will be a mirage.

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