The rainy season is here again. With it comes the period of farming. A busy period when farmers clear the land, procure the seedlings, plant, weed and hopefully expect a bumper harvest. This is the expectation of all farmers and the country as a whole. A good harvest will guarantee enough food for everyone and hunger will be kept at bay. However, the Nigeria Meteorological Agency, NIMET, has advised farmers to adjust their activities in view of the current climatic reality.
According to NIMET’s seasonal rainfall prediction for 2015, rain would commence late and cease early in the year. This means that farmers must be properly informed of this climatic reality so that they would not plant crops that are supposed to stay for too long before maturing for harvest.
The climatic reality notwithstanding, Nigeria, without a doubt, is a country rich in agriculture and to achieve sustained progress in this sector, farm inputs and machinery are needed. The soil texture is such that makes cash crops and commercial farming possible. Yet, this sector is not receiving adequate attention it deserves. This is a costly neglect for a sector that not only provides the food we all consume, but employs the largest segment of the country’s population.
Truly, agriculture is central to our development and if the country can devote more attention to this sector, we would not only be producing more foodstuffs, Nigeria would have enough to export and earn foreign exchange. And when this happens, the huge amount of foreign exchange spent yearly on food imports, which is estimated at over $3billion would be saved. Secondly, the agro-allied industries would provide additional employment opportunities for millions of job seekers. In other words, more people would be put to work, thus giving them disposable income and uplifting the national economy in the long run. For example, the emerging economic giants of Brazil, China, Malaysia and India, owe much of their developmental successes to carefully calibrated policies that are very friendly and attractive to the private sector.
Happily, the present administration has greatly transformed agriculture into a vibrant and prosperous industry that is contributing to economic growth. Under President Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Programme implemented by the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina and his officials, the perception of agriculture in Nigeria has been changed from subsistence to wealth creation -an approach that successfully attracted about $5.6billion in private sector investments in the last four years.
Part of the agenda is to reposition the economy, reduce dependency on food imports, boost domestic food production, and revive rural economy and increase export earnings. And with a vision based on the realization that Nigeria has huge agricultural potential with over 84 million hectares of land, rivers criss-crossing the country, cheaper labour and a population of over 167 million people, making the country Africa’s largest market can be made possible.
And to achieve this goal, government changed its approach of viewing the sector as a development programme to that of treating the sector as business. There was shift of focus to the development of Agricultural Value Chains, AVC, to connect farmers to strong growth markets through agro processing and in the last couple of years, through the value chain approach and in line with the concept of clustering, agriculture has met local market demands as well as increased volume of exports.
It is against this backdrop that Nigeria achieved the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, of halving the number of hungry people two years ahead of the datelines set by the United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO.
With the solid foundation already laid by the out-going administration in the agricultural sector, it is expected that the incoming administration of Muhammadu Buhari would build and improve on existing structures. By doing so, Nigeria can create its own Silicon Valleys across the country, where young and vibrant entrepreneurs would initiate, create and grow businesses and employ hundreds of thousands of workers. The multiplier effect of this on the national economy cannot be quantified.