Nigeria being a net food importer in recent times has challenges of providing enough food and jobs for her ever increasing population, especially the youths. This is evident in the facts that she is one of the largest importer of cereal in the world, yet buying about two million tonnes annually to offset local consumption of five million tonnes against a production of three million tonnes. Nigeria spends almost 22 billion dollars annually on food importation according to the Minister of agriculture and rural development, Chief Audu Ogbeh. This situation poses danger to the economy of the nation, and if this can’t be fixed before long, then the country will be in more danger than she is now.
The Nigeria has over 80 million hectares of good fertile soil to grow any kind of crop, with a favourable climate too, yet it seems agriculture is not growing at the expected pace the West African nation should be – one of the biggest in this sector in the world. Many have blamed a decline in Agricultural productivity to the discovery and creation of oil and gas sector in the 1970’s and 1980’s, however efforts has been made to revive this great heritage of the nation to no avail, thus the question; why is agriculture not growing in Nigeria.
The Nigerian government has received her own share of the blames in recent times even though she has tried to introduce different projects agriculturally related especially for the youths, yet has failed to tackle fully the growth and impact to the nation’s economy. Steps such as the ban of rice importation and more has been taken to put an end to the importation of some agricultural and food produce that can be grown and exported by the country, this though being a good step in the agricultural revolution of the country for economic growth isn’t enough to see that the amount required for consumption and exportation is produced internal. Thus the need to take a critical look into this sector especially from the perspective of countries that have gone far ahead.
Looking at developed countries and their agricultural sector, one will notice one peculiar difference when compared to agriculture in Nigeria. “Technology”.
Depending on the old and archaic methods of agriculture in this present time is not only appalling but also leaves us far behind when the land and man power is available. Farmers especially in rural areas of the country where most of our agricultural produce are produced still have to depend on trial and error methods of farming which is already archaic . This is indeed a major setback in the agricultural sector.
Globally, the introduction of technology in agriculture has led to growth in yield and production in the sector. In fact, the agricultural revolution of the 21st century is all about innovations in machinery and biotechnology. This also lead to increase in food production as well as saves cost, reduce environmental impact and more income for the farmers, increase both quality and quantity of agricultural output while using less input (energy, water , fertilizer, pesticides etc.) Crops and livestock are grown with more precision too. Such modern technology can be seen used in developed and developing countries such as India, China, USA, etc. these countries experience not only boost in agricultural output but also a rise in their GDP.
The availability and affordability of these technologies has been the major setback though in the agricultural sector of Nigeria. Although the uses and advantages are been taught in schools and by extension workers in rural areas, yet implementation remain a theory. Even those that are enlightened through the help of some extension workers cannot purchase some of these machines, thus the need to focus on not just making them available but also affordable to the farmers.
With the implementation of several agricultural policies and programmes by the Federal Government in this sector (even though some were abandoned while others restructured), and despite all these policies framework and programme, it has been noted that the sector performance has not been impressive enough in terms of its contribution to the Nation’s development and GDP. Thus a look into the introduction of technology in the agricultural sector of Nigeria (with its affordability and availability) should be done as this will not only boost Nigeria’s economy but also make agriculture interesting and appealing to both the young and old therefore create employment opportunities in the country and attracting investors to Nigreria.
Nwakanma, Victor is an Agricultural policy expert and a graduate of Crop Science and Horticulture from Unizik.