Chance for Agriculture to Rise Featured

Sunday, 01 February 2015 00:00 Written by  Published in Agriculture Read 1041 times
Akinwunmi | Minister of Agriculture Akinwunmi | Minister of Agriculture

Apart from the tales of the now extinct groundnut pyramids, or perhaps the now unpopular oil palm significance of Nigeria in the global production market, the sky scraper Cocoa House, which was built as far back as 1965 from the proceeds of cocoa, shows that Nigeria had her fair share of agricultural prosperity.

Dr. Victor Oladokun, a frontline media practitioner, in a video documentary on the state of agriculture in Nigeria showed a lorry his father bought. But more interesting was the monumental significance of the lorry when it was purchased. The lorry made Oladokun the first man to buy a lorry and paid for it in cash. This historical milestone was achieved from the proceeds from Oladokun's cocoa farm.

You may want to say 'those are the glory days'. Yes, things have taken a different turn since the discovery of oil. However, one must say that indeed oil was not the real cause of our present economic plight, but rather leadership decisions and administrative policies. These generally are the bane of African countries, not only Nigeria. 

When the nations were eventually freed, they were like a lost child in the middle of nowhere and had to return to those who enslaved them intellectually and human capacity-wise, for advice on how to advance their economy. Our case was like a person who chased a foe out of his compound and later ran to him to seek advice.

Presently, Nigeria is a template of a mono-economy, with 95% of her export earnings coming from crude oil and natural gas, which accounts for 70% of government's revenue. The non-oil sector (Agriculture, Information and communication technology, Tourism, Entertainment, Roads and transportation) do contribute the remaining revenue. Proper enhancement of the potentials of the non-oil sector can turn the hands of the clock to boost our economic potentials.

In an online report based on World Bank's 2013 and 2014 growth estimate, Mathew Boesler in 2012 projected 29 countries with highest growth over the next two years. 16 of these countries are in Africa and subsistence agriculture is a major part of five of these countries' economies. On the list, Nigeria is ranked 12th, and ahead of her are Mozambique, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Uganda.

Nigeria has been directing efforts towards diversification of the economy. Due to the consistent decline in the contribution of the oil sector to the country's nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with records of 17.52%, 15.89%, 14.40% and 10.45% in the years 2011 to 2014 respectively. The economic team constituted by the president under the leadership of the coordinating minister of the economy, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has thus been encouraging the non-oil sectors with significant financial aids and policies.

However, of the entire non-oil sector, agriculture holds a remarkable position in the quest to diversify Nigeria's economy. This is because it can contribute up to 50% to the nation's GDP. In 2012 agriculture contributed 30.9% to the GDP and was responsible for 70% of the country's labour force. Besides the tendency to augment the financial strength of the economy, agriculture can also significantly reduce the unemployment statistics of Nigeria.

The minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina {who is over-seeing government's Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA)} has remarkably blocked the leakages in farmers' access to fertilizers, provided real-time information to farmers through mobile phones and improved farm input materials; according to a well known public analyst, Professor Pat Utomi.

Other things the present administration has done or is still doing worthy of mention include: collation of comprehensive data base of Nigeria farmers, with 14.5 million already registered under the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES), subsidy on fertilizer and cost of mechanization, introduction of Tap cards for easy collection of farm inputs as well as expansion projects to ensure increase in production capacity of crops like paddy rice, cassava, oil palm etc.

It is important to know that ATA is not the first project aimed at fortifying the strength and contribution of agriculture to the Nation's economy. The likes of Green Revolution, Operation Feed the Nation to mention but a few, have ended up in the history books. Sustenance of paper policies and adequate implementation of these policies will ensure consistency and sustenance of the projects.

The government should not be quick to privatize everything or introduce private sector all the time. The motive of diversification goes beyond monetary or financial gratification, but also includes wholesome overhauling of the standard of living of Nigerian commoners. If not, we will continue to export commodities that are not in sufficient supply locally. Government should invest in agriculture on an extremely large scale to ensure food security locally.

The drop in oil price to an all-time lowest may just be a justification not to put all our eggs in one basket any longer. With the optimization of our agricultural potentials there will be employment (not only to agricultural experts) and we can think of our economy to be more robust even on paper.

Last modified on Monday, 27 July 2015 15:51