I have a dream, that Nigeria will produce more rice than Thailand, more cocoa than Cote d’Ivoire, more palm oil than Malaysia and abundant wheat and sugar for local consumption. I have a dream that the era of malnutrition and hunger in Nigeria have come to an end.
I have a dream that Nigeria will no longer import vegetable oil, frozen fish and poultry products. I have a dream that we’ll produce enough feed for livestock while we’ll also own abundant fishing fleets. I have a dream that Nigeria’s agricultural produce will meet international standard as they will be largely sought after. I have a dream that our agricultural institutions will become one of the best in the world.
It has been erroneously believed that commercial and subsistence farming are the two forms of agriculture being practised in Nigeria. Subsistence and commercial agriculture may be what are obtainable in other nations, but what we practise are far from these. Actually, the forms of agriculture we practise are mainly ‘primitive’ and ‘political’ farming.
Primitive farming is practised by rural farmers. They lack capital, information, modern implements and other necessary facilities that can initiate massive food production. Political farming is practised by governments and her agencies in which so much noise is made concerning provision of loans, fertilisers and farm implements to rural farmers, yet the outputs are nowhere to be found.
A terribly wrong perspective Nigerians have towards agriculture is that ‘it is a cutlass and hoe thing’. We have been able to abundantly produce some food items such as cassava, beans, onions, tomatoes and maize with cutlass and hoes, so we assume we must use these primitive tools to cultivate all crops. The buoyant agrarian economy Nigeria had in the 1950’s and 1960’s was achieved without use of modern machines, therefore we dream of bringing back the good old days with same operation mode.
Nigeria imports so much rice, wheat and vegetable oil and more because peasant farmers who are into agriculture do not have what it takes to import necessary technology for massive food production. Our engineers and scientist are poorly equipped to develop modern machines and facilities needed on farm as well. One more thing is that, instead of investing in agriculture, a business which adds more value to the economy, Nigerian investors prefer to invest in hotels, clubs, importation, filling stations and bureau de change.
Our educational system trains medical students who graduate to practise as doctors, such that our hospitals can do without expatriate doctors. Likewise we have Nigerian trained professional economist, lawyers, pharmacists, accountants, architects, and nurses who are doing exploits in their various fields without relying on foreign professionals. But agricultural science graduates are not so, I mean they do not end up as professional farmers after school.
There are three approaches we can utilise in order to achieve this dream. They are the short, medium and long term approaches. We should totally discard political farming as it an avenue to corruptly enrich few people. I believe in introducing new capable investors and organisations to venture into agriculture for transformation of the sector.
Firstly, I have identified a specific organisation -religious organisations- they have massive investments in education, health, media and other socio-economic activities. They can equally be harnessed for job creation, especially in the agricultural sector. They are potentials waiting to be tapped for further exploits. I am confident that if these organisations are properly harnessed, they are capable of providing investments worth over 100 billion naira in the agricultural sector over the next ten years. The major challenge is how to sensitize them so that they can do more in the economy (I am seeking for partnership on a proposal I have on this).
We should encourage Nigerians in diaspora to invest in agriculture. Today, many state governments have association with Songhai Farms because of the giant strides Songhai has recorded in agriculture. A Nigerian named Rev Father Godfery Nzamujo, who once lived in the US, heard of the severe malnutrition in Nigeria, returned to Africa to establish a farm. The success story of Songhai Farm (www.songhai.org) is what we need to replicate in almost every local government area in Nigeria.
The long term approach Nigeria needs to achieve agricultural revolution is for research and educational institutions to develop and commercialise abundant machines, chemicals and processes for the sector. Sustainability can never be achieved when all facilities needed for production are imported. Food exporting nations have understood the need for developing sophisticated technology locally as a panacea to abundant food production and this is what Nigeria must emulate.
Modern agriculture is a business of the educated people in developed nations. I mean people who can access information and provide innovative solutions for agricultural revolution. I believe the government should equip our agricultural science students in order to own own farms before and after graduation as this will yearly increase the number of professional farmers in an arithmetic progression.
We must understand that the criteria for acceptance of our agricultural produce in developed nations is when it meets their stipulated standards. We cannot afford to continue to depend on crude oil as the only foreign exchange earner. Standards must be locally established while required government agencies must have well equipped laboratories to offer adequate monitoring. Measuring up to their standards means creating more avenues for exportation and foreign exchange.
Government must be ready to adequately fund the academic and research institutes so that they’ll measure up to their responsibilities. Tax holidays, import waivers and incentives for a specific time should be given to the new investors. Other investment friendly policies should also be made.
When the agricultural revolution dream is achieved, we’ll save over $10bn spent annually on importation of rice, sugar, vegetable oil, wheat, apple, fish and other agricultural products. Achieving this dream means a great reduction in unemployment, poverty and malnutrition.
Adeyemo Olajire Philip