In this interview, Dr. Oluwasina Olabanji, the former executive director of the Lake Chad Research Institute in Maiduguri and Borno States, discusses his views on the necessity for Nigeria to prioritize investments in the country’s agricultural sector in order to achieve economic diversification. Any country’s transformational growth and development are supported by its agricultural sector. Small-scale/subsistence farming, fragmented landholding, labour-intensive, ineffective agricultural techniques, and most importantly, a lack of knowledge about how to gain access to capital and markets, are all characteristics of Nigerian agriculture. Rural areas with plenty of land for farming are plagued by a lack of electricity, roads, and other basic social amenities, which leads to low food production and rural-urban migration.
Nigeria has a lot of open space, a pleasant temperature, bodies of fresh water, and irrigation infrastructure, among other things. Many countries that are self-sufficient in food production lack these potentials, but they represent opportunities for greatness. After years of benevolent neglect, the Nigerian government realized the need to diversify its economy. As a result, it started to transform the agricultural sector through a number of initiatives, including the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), which aimed to rebuild a sector whose relevance had drastically decreased, and the Agricultural Promotion Policy (APP), whose goal was to establish a disciplined framework for the development of the agribusiness ecosystem. These actions had a notable effect on the economy of the nation, generating enormous riches for farmers and opening up employment opportunities for women and young people, particularly in rural areas.
The FAO says, Agri food system is a failure across the world.
The Federal Government of Nigeria has recently worked on food and nutrition security with international organizations including the African Development Bank (AfDB), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and others. Through the encouragement of regional food production and the displacement of imports, the interventions and partnership have a substantial impact on the Nigerian economy. If agricultural investment is not taken seriously, closing the gap between food demand and supply in Nigeria will remain a mirage. Lack of funding and poor technology use, among other things, are impeding the country’s agriculture-driven growth and food security, which leads to rising food prices, escalating poverty, hunger, and malnutrition.
Through several presidential initiatives, the Federal Government must concentrate on increasing its investment in Nigeria’s agricultural sector in order to address these issues. The government must support mechanized farming in order to draw young people into the industry, as well as foster an environment that encourages the private sector (agribusiness) to embrace and support agriculture. It is also crucial to adequately fund research and development in order to generate new agricultural technologies and provide extension services. The economic managers must also make investments in solid, long-lasting government policies that will increase Nigeria’s competitiveness on the world market. Food and nutrition security can be achieved through the interaction of all of these factors, together with the protection of people and their property.
High cost of farm inputs have discouraged a lot of farmers.
Many farmers have been deterred by the high cost of farm inputs, rendering them unproductive and uncompetitive. Agriculture should be the focus of government investment both now and in the future since it is the most effective means of preventing hunger, poverty, and unemployment. In the medium run, the government must maintain its investment in agriculture through subsidizing farm inputs. Additionally, the government must make available time-limited, single-digit agricultural loans. The government ought to offer medium-sized to large-scale farmers more attention, improving their access to mechanization and all other necessary inputs through low-interest financing. Loans should be set up in a way that allows for both use and repayment.
After rice, bread is the non-indigenous food item that Nigerians consume the most. Compared to traditional mainstays like maize and cassava, foods manufactured from wheat have become more popular. Following South Africa, Nigeria is sub-Saharan Africa’s second-largest consumer of wheat. A shortage of almost 5.0 million metric tonnes will need to be imported at a cost of more than $2.0 billion to meet domestic consumption. The current annual wheat demand is 5.78 million metric tonnes, with a total local production of 71,000 tonnes (NBS 2018). This demonstrates the stark disparity between Nigeria’s supply and demand. The Nigerian government’s efforts to increase domestic wheat production will boost the country’s food security and open up more employment opportunities in the local wheat value chain and other industries. Nigeria’s successive governments have tried a number of different tactics to promote and expand the country’s wheat industry.
Does Nigeria have the capacity to meet its wheat demand?
Nigeria has the ability to both meet its own wheat demand and export wheat to its neighbours on a net basis. The country, which consists of fifteen States in the North East, North West, and North Central for the production of irrigated and rain-fed wheat, has great production potential for wheat despite the multiple issues affecting the wheat sub-sector. The AfDB spearheaded and sponsored the development of a national strategy for wheat self-sufficiency with the goal of achieving the medium-term target of raising productivity and production to 4.0t/ha and 70% self-sufficiency, respectively, and increasing farmer income from 300,000t/ha to 600,000t/ha. This might be accomplished by the FG strategically intervening and revitalizing the ailing irrigation facilities already in place to assure a steady supply of water. A few more are the creation of aggregation centres, improvement of the wheat seed system, enough finance, extension agents, and farmers, among others.
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