President Jonathan’s Pursuit of Food Security
The social and economic importance of agriculture cannot be over-emphasized. Agriculture provides is the major employer of labour, as it contributes substantially to the Gross Domestic Product of a nation. Even in the advanced economies, agriculture forms the basis of industrialization, as it is a source of raw materials for industries. In Nigeria, prior to the discovery of crude oil, agriculture formed the plank of the economy.
Without doubt, agriculture accounts for about more than a quarter of the Nigerian economy and has important linkages, direct and indirect, with industry. Hence, the increase or decrease of agricultural production has a significant bearing on industrial production and corporate performance. Companies using agricultural raw materials as inputs or supplying inputs to agriculture are directly affected by the changes in agricultural production.
Meanwhile, a strong and an efficient agricultural sector would enable a country to feed its growing population, generate employment, earn foreign exchange and provide raw materials for industries. The agricultural sector has a multiplier effect on any nation’s socio-economic and industrial fabric because of the multifunctional nature of agriculture, and Nigeria having great agriculture potentials is not an exception.
One would concur that the Nigerian economy, during the first decade after independence could reasonably be described as an agricultural economy because agriculture served as the engine of growth of the overall economy before the potential discovering and full exploration of the black gold called crude oil. From the stand point of occupational distribution and contribution to the GDP, agriculture was the leading sector. During this period, Nigeria was the world’s second largest producer of cocoa, largest exporter of palm kernel and largest producer and exporter of palm oil. Nigeria was also a leading exporter of other major commodities such as cotton, groundnut, rubber and hides and skins. Agricultural sector contributed over 60% of the GDP in the 1960s and despite the reliance of Nigerian peasant farmers on traditional farming methods, these farmers produced 70% of Nigeria’s exports and 95% of its food needs.
However, the agricultural sector suffered neglect during the hey-days of the oil boom in the 1970s. Ever since then, Nigeria has been witnessing extreme poverty as the insufficiency of basic food items. That is, historically, the bane of the crisis in the Nigerian economy lie in the neglect of agriculture and the undue increased dependence on a mono-cultural economy which is based on oil.
But today, there is a sigh of relief as certain programmes and policies by Federal Department of Agriculture are beginning to take conspicuous effects. The activities of the department have been geared toward promoting the production of food and industrial crops; sustaining agricultural land management and farm productivity, as well as enhancing income and quantity of life of rural dwellers. This department evolves policies and programmes for the crops subsector including sustainable land management; identifies, designs, and implements programmes and projects directly or through state implementing agencies; promotes agricultural conservation as well as reclaiming problem soil; promotes agricultural engineering, mechanization, and farm power use; promotes comprehensive agricultural land tenure and surveys using GIS and remote sensing; supports efficient soil management through erosion control and the National soil testing programmes; endorses the transfer and adoption of improved crop production technologies; encourages home economics, nutrition, and gender- sensitive and women- related programmes in agriculture, amongst others. Considering the above programmes and policies, it will be heart –warming that with the current technocrat in the person of Dr. Adewunmi Adesina at the helm of affairs in the ministry of agriculture, that there will be serious pragmatic zeal to religiously implement all the policies and programmes to urgently develop the monumental agricultural potentials inherent in our land. This will mean that paying of lip service to agricultural development will be a thing of the past or a total by-gone, in order to engender sustainable development and a significant level of poverty reduction in Nigeria.
After all, Dr Adewunmi Adesina, the Hon. Minister of Agriculture has recognized that the agricultural sector has the potentials to be the industrial and economics springboard from which Nigeria’s development can effectively take off, as more often than not, agricultural activities are usually concentrated in the less- developed rural areas where there is a critical need for rural transformation, redistribution, poverty, alleviation and socio- economic development.
With the recent pronouncements by the Hon. Minister that agricultural production will be boosted to ensure not only abundant food in the country, but also for export, and that henceforth, farmers will be receiving seeds and fertilizers through cell phones to prevent diversion and ensure efficiency and effectiveness, it is only hope that he will back up these pronouncements with hard work and indomitable spirit to strategically position the agricultural sector to have a high multiplier effect on the nation’s quest for socio-economic and industrial development particularly the alleviation of poverty and employment generation in the land.
As Mr. President has always emphasized; agriculture will be seen as a business as it is done in America. Nigeria has one of the richest soils in the world. Rainfall is modest to abundant over most areas of the country; rivers and underground water permit extensive irrigation where it is not. The language of the Federal Government is clear: Nigerian farmers should drive tractors with air-conditioned cabs fast-moving plows, tillers, and harvesters. Our farmers will use fertilizers and pesticides and make farming as attractive as other businesses; earn reasonable incomes and maintain a reasonable standard of living.
The Jonathan administration should use the machinery of government to carry out land reforms to ensure that land is freed up for commercial agricultural practices. The strict implementation of good agricultural programmes will infuse dynamism into the industrial sector and buoyancy to the Nigerian economy in general. Mr. President’s pursuit of food security and agriculture as business is a step in the right direction. It is indeed a veritable step to the diversification of the economy.
Andrew Ehigiator – is of the Niger Delta Integrity Group