Agriculture was a major part of our lives; we were passionate and active about farming. We were once a major exporter of cash crops; in fact we were number one globally in palm oil exports, and exported 47% of all groundnuts. In the 1960s, we produced 18% of cocoa global production which was second in the world. But since the advent of oil glut in the 1980s, a supposed blessing has turned out to be a pain in the neck. The great nation that produces 65% of tomatoes in West Africa is now the largest importer of tomato paste. Shamefully, we are now a ”major importer”, importing not only rice, sugar, fish, raw cane sugar, durum wheat, frozen foods, crude palm oil, tooth pick etc. but also other household items which include; furniture, children’s toys, wrist watches, artificial hairs, kerosene stoves, cutleries, phones and many other things.
The Nigerian government over the years have failed to properly manage the revenue generated from the export of crude oil, due to corruption and various cases of financial misappropriation that has eaten deep into the system of governance. Channelling of oil revenue into productive sectors such as the agricultural sector was anticipated but didn’t manifest. As a matter of fact, the neglect of agricultural sector cannot be overemphasized; from time to time, different leaders have come up with various assumed revival agricultural programmes, but the level of achievements recorded has been minimal and the country is yet to take her place in the international market a major exporter of agricultural produce.
During the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan; transformation was witnessed in the agricultural sector, when Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, a renowned agricultural economist was appointed Federal Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. The minister’s agenda successfully encouraged the participation of foreign investors, and boosted increased rice, cassava and yam production. Also, farm inputs such as fertilizers got to farmers directly and reduced the presence of middlemen significantly. More so, there was a significant reduction in food importation bill. The tremendous success recorded during Dr. Adesina’s tenure as Minister of Agriculture is attributed to the fact that an agricultural expert steered the wheels of the sector. One of the reasons why the agricultural sector has been less-productive is because those that held crucial positions in the sector in the past were in no way inclined with agriculture. There is a need to shun political favouritism and put the right people at the right place of governance in Nigeria. Ministries, agencies and other governing bodies should be directed by people that have the required knowledge and ability to turn things around for good. It should be known that a redirected focus on agricultural production and processing by inclined expertise and diligent management is a great platform for wealth creation and poverty eradication in the country.
Even though the resource of Nigeria is undeniable, proactive decisions have to be taken for the country to take her rightful place in Africa; and the world. The country has to DIVERSIFY. Recently, Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State said that his administration will focus on agriculture because of ”its multiplier effects”. He also said emphatically that agriculture will create employment and provide food security for the state. He stated that, agriculture will allow a safe society; because if the people are busy and well fed they will not involve themselves in violence.
Revivifying the agricultural sector goes beyond setting up various committees to look into issues, it goes beyond organising seminars and conferences where analysis of problems are done. The truth is we already know our problems, what we need is the idea that will bring solutions, practical solutions, and the passion to tackle these problems and initiate the positive solutions. It’s a tough job, but it is not impossible.
Here are few tips I believe will greatly revolutionize the agricultural sector. I strongly believe a revival in the agricultural sector will make Nigeria a force to reckon with.
- RE-BRANDING AGRICULTURE: The first beautiful step that must be taken is to ”rebrand” agriculture entirely. When we talk about rebranding, it’s all about changing the whole picture, changing how it is being portrayed. This will help to attract everybody in the country, especially youths. Agriculture should no longer be viewed as a ”dirty job”. Until we rebrand agriculture, the teeming youths may never embrace it, until our government show signs of seriousness to rebrand the sector, the populace may not take agriculture with great importance.
This is a call to the government, major stakeholders as well as private investors to rebrand this major sector of the economy and make it attractive and lucrative. Agriculture is green and beautiful.
Social media platforms are great tools that should be used for extensive campaigns to capture the hearts of the populace. Once agriculture is well portrayed, it will get the necessary attention.
- ENCOURAGING CAREERS IN AGRICULTURE: A special call should be made to parents and guardians to stop discouraging young ones that earnestly want to pursue various careers in agriculture. It’s discouraging telling people you are studying agriculture and they reply with, ”its pure waste of time and energy”. The best brains are needed to revive this sector; there are various agricultural courses that young ones should be encouraged to study.
If agricultural students no longer have difficulty in obtaining scholarships just like their colleagues in the medical and engineering field there will be increased relevance of agriculture. One of the strategic ways of encouraging careers in agriculture is to award scholarships to agricultural students. This is a wakeup call for the government and several agro-based companies to give out scholarships and academic research grants to scholars in the agricultural field, it will be a morale booster.
- WELL-MANAGED FUNDING AND EASY ACCESS TO FARM INPUTS: The agricultural sector lacks proper funding and an effective management system. The government and private investors should join forces to finance agricultural activities, so as to create wealth and alleviate poverty through public-private partnership. Access to mechanised farm tools and farm inputs should be made easy. The administration of Dr. Adesina saw to the elimination of middlemen in the distribution of fertilizers to farmers. It goes beyond allocating big chunks of money to the sector. Allocated funds should be well accounted for and used for intended purposes. Farmers should have access to incentives and loans with ease.
Corruption and wasteful spending should be eliminated.
- EXTENSION SERVICES: Maximizing profit in agriculture requires having the right information and having it at the right time.
This is where agricultural extension and communication experts are needed, new innovations that will increase the knowledge of farmers should be adopted because agriculture is a big picture, and it requires everybody playing a significant role.
The next big step that should be taken in the agricultural sector of this great nation should focus on three core objectives:
- Food and Nutrition Security
- Employment Generation
- Wealth Creation
According to an agricultural expert, Folu Mogaji, ”the next biggest goldmine in Nigeria is Agribusiness”, but is Nigeria well positioned to be currently taken advantage of? Whether at production stage, processing or at the marketing stage, the government and citizens must channel positive energies into agriculture. In revivifying this sector totally, the government should ensure economic co-operation among states, create readily available markets for exportation of agricultural products, provide basic amenities, and also provide good storage facilities.
The Nigerian flag looks so beautiful and significant. The green depicts agriculture and the white depicts peace. I believe there is a great connection between agriculture and the peace of our beloved country.
Revivifying the Nigerian Agricultural Sector Will Unite Nigerians And Bring Peace To Our Nation.
Fatokun Olukayode Adewale, is a 300level Student Of The Federal University Of Technology, Akure.