For any other thing to be considered, food must come first. It is a saviour from the hand of the number one enemy – hunger and malnutrition. And this food in question is a product of agriculture.
However, the state of agriculture in Nigeria that is believed to be a live wire is not appealing. And its problem descends from the top.
It all started in the 1970s during the foray into Nigeria’s oil exploration business when Nigeria detoured from agriculture.
The agricultural economy accounted for 85% of Nigeria foreign exchange earnings, 90% of employment generation and 80% of the nation’s gross domestic product in the 1960s. According to the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2016, Nigeria was one of the world’s largest producer and exporter of palm oil, cocoa, groundnut, cotton, coffee, rubber, hides and skin and so on.
It is no longer news that Nigeria is endowed with 79 million hectares of vast arable land, 267.7 billion metric cubes of water for irrigation and 57.9 billion metric cubes of underground water etc.
With all these useful resources, the posture of the government towards agriculture is frustrating. Take the 2022 budget: 1.8 per cent allocated for the agricultural sector is the highest in four years. In 2017 it was 1.70 per cent in 2018, 2 per cent 2019; 1.56 per cent; 2020; 1.34 per cent; 2021; 1. 37 per cent.
And all these allocations still fall to 1 per cent, far short of the 10% declared at the Maputo Declaration in July 2003 in Mozambique under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), 18 years back to this time. A reasonable ratio for agriculture since the advent of democracy in 1999 can be traced back to the tenure of President Umar Musa Yar’adua, which was 5.41 per cent in 2008 and 5.38 per cent in 2009.
Some 60-70 per cent of the Nigerian population is engaged in agriculture, the figures of people practising farming recently have reduced drastically due to many factors, ranging from the incessant farmer-herder clashes, and insecurity to the ugly incident of November 28, 2020, in, Zabarmari, Maiduguri where about 78 rice farmers were killed by Boko-Haram terrorists.
With low profit and shortage, many small-scale farmers that manage to opt for farming do not get necessary aid from the government in terms of subsidized fertilizers, seeds, herbicides and inputs they buy as crop farmers.
Conspicuously outdated tools are still in use to carry out the toiling task of agriculture in Nigeria in this 21st century and that particularly scares people, especially the youthful graduates, from going into the agricultural business where success resides.
The majority of them see agriculture as a task of uncultured people, thus, they are finding what is not lost in cybercrimes, kidnapping, robbery and all other filthy jobs as a result of unemployment.
Norway uses high-tech food production systems with widespread fast-paced digitalisation. The country has developed different autonomous robots that can carry out varieties of tasks on a farm field. For instance, the country has autonomous weeding robots that can reduce the use of herbicides by 95 per cent. It is the first country in the world that have ever produced a virtual fencing system for grazing animals. It in turn offers a tracking collar that uses Global Positioning System (GPS) so farmers can monitor livestock on their smartphones.
All those attract young people to agricultural business. Nigeria has the largest population in Africa and is projected to reach 379.25 million by 2047, surpassing that of the United States.
The United Nations also forecasts that the overall population of Nigeria would reach about 401.31 million by the end of 2050, and if the current population growth rate continues, it would go up to over 790.7 million by 2100. That means there is fire on the mountain for Nigeria due to the rapidly growing population. If Nigeria does not want the current food insecurity to exacerbate, there is a need for more people to participate in agriculture.
Recently, Nigeria’s unemployment rate was pegged at 33.3 per cent as against the previous 27.1 per cent. That shows that youths, who make up almost half of the country’s population, are yet to know several benefits in agriculture; many students who were offered it as a course of the study feel apathetic. Agriculture as a course gets the least candidates in JAMB and this unveils the attitude of the young people towards it. Agricultural science has a diverse field, unlike other professions. It has sub-fields like crops farming, fish farming (aquaculture), poultry farming and so on. Any area can be chosen depending on someone’s area of interest, apart from the food benefit that is derived from it. It also maximises profits and serves as self-employment.
In the ’60s, Agriculture covered 95 per cent of the country’s food needs. The only way to make it interesting for young people is through modernisation where technological appliances will be used to carry out the toilsome aspect of it as practised in Norway.
And private individuals and non-government organisations have a role to play, via organising seminars on agriculture to orientate the young people and other practising farmers.
What makes Nigerian on the run and yet to move contains a lot of factors. And these factors are a result of the government’s appalling posture. This is actually what makes it seem that all the government’s initiatives and policies are not working.
In August 2019 President Muhammad Buhari ordered the closure of Nigeria’s border with the Benin Republic to encourage domestic production of rice and to curtail smuggling, yet the attempt was dismal as people did not buy their local rice that is full of chaff as a result of the unavailability of technological machines to perfect it.
Meanwhile, the government needs to increase budget allocation to the sector for prosperity. The challenges of lack of advanced technological instruments are what various technological universities with the support of the government should take the responsibility to deliver.
Abdullahi writes via firstname.lastname@example.org