It is no longer news that Nigeria’s future lies in building a productive economic base in agriculture. At every forum, both experts and non-experts, echo it that to wriggle out of the dangers of our mono-product economy or the current recession, we should look at the direction of agriculture to create jobs and reduce the high unemployment rate in the country, guarantee food security for over 170 million people of this nation and earn the often-scarce foreign exchange. The onerous task of doing this rests on smallholder farmers who operate on subsistence level in rural areas characterised by lack of basic infrastructure such as good roads, electricity, potable water, hospitals, you name it.
The smallholder farmers still rely heavily on crude implements such as hoes and cutlasses. The result is that agriculture cannot keep pace with Nigeria’s rapid population growth, and that is why our country, which once exported food, now relies on imports to survive. With poor funding still an issue, farming remains at the subsistence level and so cannot attract youths or investors. Government should change the poor state of affairs and encourage farmers to move from being primary producers to agro-processors by investing heavily in procurement of agro-machinery, equipment and inputs.
There is no way we can diversify the economy with obsolete farm tools and equipment. Again, there is no way the smallholder farmers can afford the needed funds to purchase machinery to go into commercial agriculture. The Federal Government should leave rhetoric and embark on massive investment in agricultural technology and other incentives such as access to needed funds to drive increased food production and make it attractive to the youths and graduates. For instance, governments should procure such expensive machinery and equipment such as tractors, harvesters, and hire them out to real farmers, not politicians, at a highly subsidised rate.
Since the land tenure system in many states does not encourage long-term investment in technology or modern production methods state governments should consider acquiring land for crop farmers to enable them embark on large-scale commercial farming where tractors and other heavy equipment can be deployed for massive food production.
Some state governments are doing a lot in this regard but more should cue into it especially now that we are approaching a new planting season. Only recently, the Kebbi State government announced the procurement of 100 tractors, bought 1,000 ox-drawn ploughs for farmers in the state.
Alhaji Muhammad Garba Dandiga, the state Commissioner for Agriculture, also told newsmen that the state has sponsored 20, 000 farmers to produce soya beans across the state in addition to investing into other crops that the state have comparative advantage such as wheat and vegetables.
According to him, the state also purchased 100 motorcycles for extension workers in the state which he said has resulted in increased yield per hectare and recorded from 2.5 tons per hectare to minimum of 5 tons per hectare. This is highly commendable. More states should invest in those technologies and other inputs which poor farmers cannot afford and rent them out to farmers at an affordable rate.
The state governments and private investors should step up the intervention by investing in mass production of agro-processing equipment so that processors would take advantage of the resultant surplus that would have spoilt to add value to them and make money. We need low cost palm oil refinery, palm kernel shellers, melon shellers, garri, yam processing equipment, cassava chips machines, dryers, mango, orange, cashew juice processing equipment and many more. In this way, the economy would become vibrant again while the youths and graduates would create jobs for themselves and others.
This is predicated on the hope that government would find solution to the perennial electricity logjam. When this is done, governments can then go ahead to create agro-processing zones where agripreneurs would converge and take advantage of localisation of mini-industries.
Governments should then begin campaign for our youths and graduates of higher institutions to embrace entrepreneurship in agriculture to take advantage of our natural endowments such as large uncultivated arable land, good weather, good rainfall and soil fertility.
To unlock the full potentials of agriculture to diversify the economy, government should create the enabling environment, enact relevant policies, laws and give incentives to farmers. And through entrepreneurship training, develop and transform agriculture value chains to provide new income opportunities and add value to all commodities through agro-processing. That is the way to go.
Source: Independent Newspaper
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