The significance of agriculture resource in bringing about economic growth and sustainable development of a nation cannot be underestimated. Hence the amount of the economic growth largely depends on importance the government attached to it in funding, formulation and holistically implementing of the policy.
About 55.9 million representing 33.1% of Nigeria population are living below acceptable poverty line and about 23.9% unemployment rate (NBS 2014). And the good news is that it has been estimated a 1% increase in crop yields results in a 0.5-0.8% reduction in poverty. (KPMG 2013). It has also been established that agric contribute 30% to Nigeria’s GDP and it’s the largest employer of labour in the country 65% (CBN). With the current drop in general price of oil in international market and massive unemployment in Nigeria, agriculture is the big deal and it’s the solution to our poverty reduction and unemployment problem. Opportunities to take advantage of rapidly growing agribusiness landscape abound and there is need for the new government to diversify and maximize the opportunity.
A strong and efficient agricultural sector would enable a country to feed its growing population, generate employment, earn foreign exchange and provide raw materials for industries. The agricultural sector has a multiplier effect on any nation’s socio-economic and industrial fabric because of the multifunctional nature of agriculture (Ogen 2007). Agriculture’s contribution to the Gross Domestic product (GDP) has remained stable at between 30 and 42 percent, and employs 65 per cent, of the labour force in Nigeria (Emeka 2007).
The challenges and obstacles which have held Nigerian agriculture sector back are considerable: yields are one of the lowest in the world and have been growing relatively slowly. As a result, imports for staples such as wheat, and rice have been rising steadily. The reasons are many and complex: lack of land rights, limited credit availability, low levels of investment and input usage, whether in quality seed, fertilizers, crop protection products, irrigation or machinery; poorly developed infrastructure and supply chains; and low levels of inter-regional trade, hampered by Government policy and monopolistic barriers. Judiciously implementing the reviewed President Umaru Musa Yaradua’s agricultural policy curled from Segun Adeniyi’s ‘Power, Politics and Death’ outlined below will do the country lots of good in reducing poverty, sustain food security and generate massive employment.
1. N500bn commercial agriculture credit scheme with single digit interest rate should be designed to solve one of the major problems of commercial farming in Nigeria which is lack of credit facilities. CBN should be allowed to disburse this fund with the help of bank of agriculture to disburse to large scale and small scale farmers and remove the bottleneck that can deny the smallholder farmers access to the fund and introduction of CCT conditional cash transfer.
2. Construction of silos and ware house complexes which is designed to serve multiple purposes including storage, cleaning and washing sorting packaging standardization and market outlet and transport corridor to the market should be constructed in grain centres in the country combined with one on ground and increase the storage capacity of the present one.
3. One stop agro-input centres should be designed to serve as one stop for shop where farmers could purchase high grade agricultural inputs such as seedlings, fertilizers, animal feeds, agro chemical and tractors each centres was to have the capacity to store up to 2000 metric tonnes of inputs and should be collaborating with research institute like IITA, ILRI, CRIN, NIHORT etc for smooth operation and sharing of resources.
4. Integrated livestock centers – this estate is to provide integrated infrastructure for the development of livestock industry and its sub sector with its relevant value chain. The livestock estate will include grazing areas, breeding centre, covered and opened pen for large and small ruminant with micro-livestock, dairy processing of cow and goat milk, modern abattoirs, leather treatment centres, meat processing plant, cold store with blast freezer, modern meat supermarket. This should be connected with livestock research institute for sharing of resources and smooth running.
5. Integrated fish estate – these fish estates are designed to provide integrated infrastructure for the development of the fishery sub-sector and its relevant value chain. The fishery estates will includes ponds, hatcheries, processing plants for smoking and preservation, training centres, feed mills, laboratories for research, cold stores and marketing centres, this estates will be built across the state selected and known for fish farming.
6. Outgrowers development and extension service; these centres were to intensify the growth of large scale agric business as well as create a new generation of farmers in Nigeria they were to be built along the agro input centres which will include farmers market, processing and storage facilities water for irrigation housing with training up to 2000 extension workers.
7. Export handling, preservation and conditioning centers – These centres will be designed to reduce post harvest losses and ensure the agricultural products from Nigeria can compete well in the international market. Facilities in these centres will include washing, drying and storage chambers, sorting, grading and packaging facilities and temperature and cold store and blast freezing humidity control facilities.
The agribusiness sector’s value chain spans input companies, farmers, traders, food companies and retailers, all of whom must ultimately satisfy the varying demands of the consumer in a sustainable manner. The sector encompasses huge diversity and variety at each stage, from input companies to generic manufacturers, subsistence farmers to high tech agro holdings, biotech, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to multinational corporations. Millions of direct and indirect job guaranteed and Opportunities to take advantage of this rapidly growing agribusiness landscape abound.
The Agricultural sector contributes significantly to Nigeria’s GDP. The employment base of the Nigeria economy ought to be dependent on this sector. It is well over due for the Nigerian economy to diversify. The negative perception and orientation of the average Nigerian about the agriculture sector should be disabused so that these sectors can contribute optimally to GDP and solve the unemployment problem in the country.
The new Government should increase her budgetary allocation to this sector in a consistent manner because of its importance to the national economy, hoping that with proper monitoring of fund, it would contribute more significantly to the economy of the country. An effective utilization of such funds is also advocated and all areas of wastage blocked. The smallholder farmers who live in the rural areas and who are the major providers of food for the nation should be adequately catered for by making the rural areas more conducive and habitable, the provision of adequate infrastructural facilities such as good roads, pipe borne water and electricity. The provision of these facilities will no doubt impact positively on the small holder farmers’ productivity.
Adesola Femi a trained Animal scientist from Federal University of Technology Akure
First published here