Agricultural sector remains the bedrock of economic development of Nigeria. In other words, inspite of the superiority of the oil sector, the roles of agriculture in economic rejuvenation cannot be neglected. Agricultural production which refers to the process of producing crops and/or rearing of animals has been playing a tremendous role in socio – economic development of the nation.
The various ways of it contributes to the economy include provision of food for ever growing population, it provides the greatest avenue for employment, it provides foreign earning from plantation crops such as cocoa, coffee, rubber, cashew, etc; it provides raw materials for domestic industries and generates income to those that are involved in the profession and provision of market for industrial goods.
The process of these contributions can be through crop/or livestock production; however, in any case or form it takes, these noble goals of economic development are not easily achieved due to numerous factors. Nigeria, though blessed with abundant arable land and a population which is primarily agrarian still lags behind in its ability to grow enough food to meet the needs of its expanding population. Nigeria, the largest country in Africa is being threatened with serious food crisis as the populace can not afford basic staple food on their dining table. These has resulted in widespread criminal activities by unemployed youths.
You would agree with me that most of the social crimes perpetuated in our society nowadays are induced by hunger, starvation and penury. Many cutizens nie engage in different vices just to enable them put food on the table. Food crisis, poverty, corruption and other unscrupulous activities co-exist in the same tent. Food crisis also has effects on health challenges with its concomitant problems.
That is why most drugs prescribed to patients also go with instructions or advice to be taken after food intake. As a result of food shortage, infant mortality rate arising from anemia and malnutrition is on the increase. Anemia has become an endemic disease in Nigeria, especially in the North eastern part of the country. Food and nutrition is a critical capstone for the proper growth and development of infants. Some ailments like ulcerative colitis abdominal pains become excruciating due to low feeding. Every creation needs food for sustenance. The basic physiological needs of human are food, clothing and shelter according to Abraham Maslow theory of needs. Subsequently, food production should not be kept in a vehicle that moves on a slow lane.
The passive state of agriculture today or the inability of the country to feed its population is mostly due to lack of substantial capital (human and material) to boost the development of the sector. It could also be as a result of basic training, skills and knowledge of improved production on the parts of peasants which constitute 80% of agricultural production. The deplorable state of rural areas which lack basic amenities such as potable water, comprehensive primary healthcare system and inaccessible roads also makes crop production in the rural area highly unattractive. Poor storage facilities, inefficient post-harvest management, crude implements used for tillage, ineffective extension services, professional stigmatisation, unpertub attitude of political leaders and untimely implementation of agricultural policies has all compounded the tragic news in agricultural sector. Nigeria agricultural sector is now in comatose being managed in an intensive care unit (ICU).
Over the years, several juicy and laudable policies such as Operation Feed the Nation (OFN), Green Resolution was formulated, but in spite of all efforts geared towards the effectiveness and sustainability of these policies, the programmes still went down the drain. My position is anchored on the fact that oil sector was the ladder on which the government used to climb up her economic goals. Then it was really the great-days of oil boom. Now it’s the dawn of the new era, oil boom is now oil doom and the country is facing economic recession with famine and hardship as lifejacket. It’s no longer debatable that Nigeria needs other sources of revenue to cushion the effect of oil deficit; the rejected stone (agriculture) by the builders has to be on the corner stone. Nigeria has decided to refocus, re-strategise and take a giant stride towards diversification of sources of revenue and their search light is beaming on agriculture and solid minerals.
The patriot saddle with the responsibility of spinning agricultural sector to greater height is a dynamic leader, Chief Innocent Audu Ogbeh, the Hon. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. He is a fearless tactician, steadfast in policy making and determined to achieve good results at all times. Most Nigerians, unarguably, see him as a doyen administrator, an incorruptible leader with good conscience that the country can look unto when it matters to us as individuals and the nation. That is why he is being given this herculean task at this critical time to harness the untapped resources in agriculture to the peak that will cushion the effects of failing oil sector.
I read with keen interest on the pages of newspaper and watched my television with gusto the new roadmap of the federal government on agriculture tagged “Green Alternative” and I said, here they go again. Unequivocally, the roadmap seems promising, unblemished and impeccably formulated but how feasible is the implementation? Rhetorically, with this policy, can Nigeria economy downturn be efficiently revamp? Can unemployment, poverty, hunger, food crisis and squalor experienced now be addressed? Can the country boast of revenue from agriculture which can significantly cushion the effects of oil falls? These are challenges and questions in the womb of time.
My solemn take home on this policy is this: for effective attainment of “The Green Alternative”, the 774 local governments in the country have to be involved and fully committed. Every local government in the country must be tasked to produce something. The department of Agriculture in the local government council must have a farm. The Head of Department (HOD) of Agriculture, the agric staff in the local government and the local government caretaker or chairman must be a stakeholder to the farm. Department of Agriculture in every state should also coordinate the sector and make sure every state must have a farm.
There should be agriculture show to showcase production and stir competition from wards, local government and state. The six geo-political zones must have a food processing industry which is strictly owned and managed by government just like we have NNPC. There must be a comprehensive rural transformation which is the engine room or hub in food production process and clashes between Fulani herdsmen and crop production farmers must be addressed. Every local government must have good access roads to the state capital to ease food transportations. Crops shouldn’t be produce and heaped in the farm due to in accessibility. Agriculture should no longer be left in the hands of peasants individual or private sectors.
Let government has mechanised farms that can employ youths. Agriculture production is a practical course, therefore, there should be no more rooms for moribund resources. Every sector must be tasked to produce something and it must be a holistic collaboration among all and sundry to revamp our nation out of starvation and economic doldrums. With these in place, all hands on deck with sense of commitment and dedication, “The Green Alternative” can make meaningful impact.
Adikwu writes from Abuja