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Agriculture and Nigeria’s economy

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Agriculture and Nigeria's economy

The figures recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) have finally confirmed the speculations that Nigeria is in full economic recession. According to the NBS, about 26.06 million able bodied Nigerians are either unemployed or under-employed. The rate of inflation now stands at over 17% while the Gross Domestic Product has dropped by 50% from 578 million US Dollars to 290 million Dollars.

Indeed, there have been clear indications that Nigeria’s economy is under severe stress. Within the past one year, many of the states of the Federation have been at different levels of insolvency, appealing for bail-out funds from the Federal Government to pay staff salaries. It is also becoming increasingly difficult for even the Federal Government to meet some of its statutory obligations. This is largely as result of the outrageous fall in the revenue from oil, the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy.

As a fall-out from the global crunch in the oil market, one United States Dollar now sells for between N450.00 and N500.00 in the parallel market. Unable to source the foreign exchange to continue in business, many companies have closed shops, further fuelling the already soaring level of unemployment. The cumulative effect of this is pervasive poverty, hunger, anger and desperation. The hard times are fully here. We can no longer pretend about the fact that we need to urgently take our destiny in our own hands, if we must get out of this precarious situation the nation now finds itself.

The Nigerian socio-economic space is currently inundated with riveting analyses by economic pundits, financial experts, public policy commentators and laymen alike, on the state of the economy and how to weather the current ferocious storm. While there have been diverse opinions about the short and long term solutions to our economic crisis, the general consensus is that the over reliance on oil money and the failure to diversify our economy are the main causes of current economic woes.

Faced with the fierce reality of the moment, it has become compelling for Nigeria to return to the trenches, retrace its steps and evolve a viable road-map for a sustainable economic development. It is for this reason that the on-going effort by the Federal Government to diversify the economy, with particular emphasis on Agriculture is a commendable development. Researches indicate that Agriculture accounts for about one-third of the world’s workforce, coming second to the service sector. This makes the sector very critical in the ongoing efforts to reinvent our economy.

With a vast, verdant and arable landmass of about 923,768 km2, cutting across the rain forest, the Savannah and the Sahara, Nigeria has a comparative advantage over most countries of the world in the area of Agriculture. On August 15, 2016, the Federal Government launched the National Agricultural Road-map, The Green Initiative 2016 to 2020. This initiative is expected to drive a rapid development inAgriculture in the next four years by harnessing the efforts of both the State andnon-state actors in the sector towards the achievement of national food sufficiency,the development of agro-allied industries and a robust base for agricultural exports.

Indeed, Agriculture holds a great prospect for the diversification of our economy, creation of wealth and employment and the stimulation of rapid socio-economic growth. Before the discovery of oil in commercial quantity in the late 1950s, agriculture was the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy. The nation was not only self-sufficient in food production, it was also a major exporter of such crops like groundnut, cocoa, palm-oil, rubber, cashew nuts cotton, among others.

Nigeria accounted for over 60% of the global supply of palm oil, 35% of groundnut, 23% of groundnut oil and 25% of cocoa. As a major driver of the economy in the pre-oil era, agriculture contributed over 60% of the Gross Domestic Product and accounted for about 75% of the foreign exchange earnings. Nigeria’s economy was relatively stable and the level of poverty and unemployment was relatively low.

The foregoing does not only show the potential in Agriculture and the proven capacity of the sector in sustaining a stable and prosperous economy, it also goes to justify the current emphasis of the Federal Government on Agriculture and the need for us to give it a deserved priority in our policy on diversification.

For the current agricultural revolution to bear the desired fruits, it must go beyond mere sloganeering to evolve definite and deliberate strategies towards getting the populace practically involved in agriculture, not just for self-sustenance but as a profitable economic venture. It is therefore imperative to re-appraise previous agricultural programmes like the Operation Feed the Nation and the Green Revolution, with a view to using the successes and failures of these programmes for charting a viable road-map for the current initiative.

An elaborate programme of Mass Mobilization towards Agriculture is critical in galvanizing Nigerians towards taking advantage of the potentials in the sector. Nigerians, especially the youths, need to know that Agriculture is more than taking the hoe and the cutlass to the forest to clear and till.

All critical sub-sectors in Agriculture must be popularized and the techniques of modern or mechanizedAgriculture massively promoted. The various schools of Agriculture should be revamped and strengthened while a unified and all-inclusive agricultural extension delivery system be vigorously pursued.

In addition to the foregoing, government should provide the necessary incentives like agricultural grants, free or concessionary farm lands, soft loans and insurance for Nigerians with interest in Agriculture to encourage the development of the sector. Rural infrastructure like roads, electricity, primary health care, portable drinking water, access to recreational services would go a long way in attracting the youths to go back to the land. Some of the greatest challenges facing local Agriculture are price instability and lack of storage facilities for perishable goods like fruits and vegetables.

Accordingly, public storage facilities should be established while marketing boards should be set up to regulate and ensure the stability of agricultural productsat all seasons. Deliberate efforts should be made by government to encourage the growth of cottage and agro-allied industries like fruit processing and packaging factories, textile industries, leather works and so on.

This will not only provide ready markets for agricultural goods, it will also enhance economic activities,create jobs and enhance the growth of our economy. It is when these measure and more are in place that Nigeria would truly be on its way to boosting its economy through agriculture.

Dr. Adewole, Director in NCAC, is an expert in public policy and communication

QUOTE
For the current agricultural revolution to bear the desired fruits, it must go beyond mere sloganeering to evolve definite and deliberate strategies towards getting the populace practically involved in agriculture

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