IS AGRICULTURE THE NEW OIL IN NIGERIA?
The foreign exchange market is unpredictable as it can have prices of commodities dwindling with the twinkle of an eye. The continuous depreciation of the Naira, as well as discovery of oil reserves in many countries have led to the fall of the price of oil as an export commodity. These changes not to mention the reduced dependence on combustion systems with the dawn of renewable energy sources, have all contributed to the nation’s decline in finances. As a response to this, the Federal government are looking for viable options to substitute for the gap and none other shows as much promise as the agricultural sector.
THE STATE OF AGRICULTURE
Beyond the need for finances, the fact remains that Nigeria and Africa as a whole has huge potentials for agricultural development. Yet it is the continent where food insecurity and malnutrition is normal, this shouldn’t be the case. Agriculture is fundamental to every nation’s development. If not for anything, for the assurance of food security – people work better on full stomachs than on empty ones. The simple truth is that no one can eat crude oil. And as many countries depend solely on oil generated revenue will agree, the money realized does not improve the agricultural sector- at least not passively. Many countries have realized this fact and have placed emphasis on agriculture, the US for example teams up research, with favorable policies to ensure the farmers promote a great agricultural economy.
Why hasn’t Nigeria taken any step to this effect? A short brief gives that Nigeria had mainly agricultural exports in the 50s, 60s and 70s but switched dramatically to oil after that. Depending on it far too heavily for export income and for development, when the country has over 18 million hectares of arable farm land, with two of Africa’s largest rivers and 160 million consumers for food.
ACTIONS THAT ENSURE AGRICULTURE BECOMES NIGERIA’S NEW OIL
The drift to sustenance of the agricultural sector is definitely one requiring more than just talk. Action needs to be, and has been taken to ensure that the sector rises up to the challenge and meet expectations.
The launch of Agricultural Transformation Agenda in 2011 is one such actions. It had the goal of increasing the supply of food by 20 metric tons by 2015, while creating 3.5 million new jobs for the Nigerian populace. This perhaps has had a ripple effect as the sector is increasingly growing in its contribution to the GDP growth and employment. The World Bank recorded an increase in the contribution of agriculture to the real GDP from 24.6% in 2016 to 25.3% in 2017. The effect is also seen in employment, considering the recorded employment of people in the Agricultural sector which was at 62% before experiencing a drastic fall 30.5% in 2010, the rise to 36.3% and 36.7% in 2016 and 2017 shows that there is record of increase in growth.
Agriculture after all isn’t about making money but about changing lives of the citizens of a country. The strategy to rejuvenating the Nigerian agricultural sector is to start from the grassroots with agricultural research, and with the rebuilding of national research institutions – aimed at building newer generations of farmers. Continuity is in the assurance of future generations of farmers; the desires of young people need to be met. The country needs young people as food processors and farmers – young hands to take on the challenge of growing food for the nation. Judging by the increase in employment rates it could be concluded that more of Nigeria’s youth are getting their hands on deck to grow the sector.
The road to food security and the freedom of the agricultural sector is not rosy, as there are literally very few roads in the country. To fully achieve this state of agricultural self-sustenance, the rehabilitation or construction of roads are necessary. To stress the importance of roads a comparison between nations is imminent, there are approximately 200 kilometers of road per million people in Nigeria. This when compared to the US road network of an outstanding figure of 21 thousand kilometers per million people shows just how behind Nigeria is. Great road network enables easy access of farmers to the farm or of produce to the necessary destinations increasing productivity.
No Agriculture is not Nigeria’s new oil, but it stands a very good chance to be. The road to independence from oil export revenue is not an immediate task. Measures are being put in place to bolster the agricultural sector, time will see that the strategies yield more positive results than they already are, seeing that the sector returns to and surpasses it’ former glory.