Prior to the discovery of oil, Nigeria’s economy was dependent on agriculture which accounted for approximately 57 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The sector was also responsible for generating 65 percent of the economy’s export earnings in the 2000s. However, the advent of exploring the oil production and its quick cash proceeds has catalyzed the neglect of the agricultural sector by the previous governing administrations. As the new year unfolds, stakeholders of the Nigerian economy must ensure a renewed prioritization and enact necessary efforts needed to re-develop the agricultural sector and harness it towards the country’s economic growth.
One major area in the agricultural sector that must be addressed is the investment in agritech. Agricultural Technology has to do with the use of technological implements to enhance productivity and quality of the industry. Most advanced countries have enhanced their food production and quality by immensely investing in agricultural technology and as such, stakeholders of the industry in Nigeria also advocate for an increased investment in the sector. Numerous young Nigerians with passion for agriculture have commenced procuring possible solutions to some of the biggest food insecurity challenges that have ravaged the sector such as post-harvest losses. The industry is crippled by the high cost of farm inputs. The use of agricultural technologies such as drones, automated irrigation and software to predict disease outbreaks will importantly see to a level of agricultural production, if properly invested in.
Underfunding and neglect have led to unproductivity of research institutes.
Also, numerous research institutes for agriculture have become very unproductive in their tasks of making necessary research to further advance the agricultural sector. This is as a result of the neglect and underfunding that these institutions have faced through different administrations. Presently, there are only about 15 agricultural research institutes in the whole country which is intensely far off what is required to advance the sector in a country like Nigeria. Dr. Muda Yusuf, the Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprises (CPPE) in an interview, complained about the overt neglect and underfunding of the agricultural research institutes across the country, noting that the poor funding has stopped the institutes from serving their main purposes.
The National President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Kabir Ibrahim noted that the research systems should be prioritized and properly funded through the Agriculture Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), as well as utilizing research projects. He pointed that the bane of research in the country wasn’t necessarily the funding but the utilization of the research findings and the incentives given to compliment the researchers. Ibrahim also advised that the small holder farmers should also be incentivized by the government so as to boost agricultural production, processing, marketing, storage and distribution.
Tackling unemployment is a major way to salvage good insecurity.
It cannot be overemphasized, the immediate need for Nigeria’s security apparatus to be upgraded. Over the years, there have been numerous cases of bandit attacks which have mostly focused on kidnapping and brutalizing farmers and as a result, there have been increasing fears among farmers who now avoid their farms as against being victims of these cases of insecurity. Findings by Proshare indicated that farmers had recently become main targets for kidnapping and killings by gunmen/bandits. On a poignant solution to curbing this menace, Proshare noted that tackling unemployment was very important to salvaging insecurity in the agricultural sector. The availability of social protection services was also suggested.
Youth participation in agriculture is another area that needs immediate attention. Per survey by the Federal University of Technology, the average age of farmers in Nigeria is about 65 years. The research also indicated that the average age is possibly going to increase unless youths are encouraged to take up the farming profession. Most youth have abandoned the rural areas for urban living. As such, the government must invest in advanced technological measures for agricultural production to further encourage youths to take up the farming profession.
Federal Government urged to rescind its removal of subsidy on fertilizers.
According to Mr. Oluwasina Olabannji, the former Executive Director of Lake Chad Research Institute, there is still a huge prospect for agricultural growth in Nigeria if the federal government shows commitment to this development. He noted that the inconsistent policies of the past administrations had immensely contributed to the backtracking of the industry. Olabanjo added that upon the necessary support of the government, the agricultural sector could be the best paradigm to achieving economic diversification. Mr. Aloys Akortsaha, the National President of the Agricultural Product Seller Association of Nigeria also lauded the efforts of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and urged the federal government to rescind its decision to remove subsidies on fertilizers.