Issues against agriculture, farmers
The recent closure of Nigeria’s land borders to help curb criminal activities especially the issue of smuggling, has further brought to limelight the urgent need for us to take concerted efforts at achieving self sufficiency in food production.
At independence, agriculture was the major source of revenue for the Nigerian government. However, when the ‘petrol dollars’ (oil revenue) began to pour in, the nation shifted its attention away from agriculture to focus on the ‘black gold’ (crude oil).
The consequence of neglecting the agricultural sector has been the dependence on importation of food items from other nations that ordinarily we should be the ones feeding. The total closure of the country’s land borders has once again brought us before the harsh reality that our farmers presently lack the needed capacity to feed the nation. The big question here is can the Nigerian farmers feed the nation? The answer is in the affirmative; yes. So, if they can, why are they unable to do so?
Since 1960 when Nigeria gained independence, the northern part of the country as a result of its vast arable land mass has been the ‘food basket’ of Nigeria accounting for over 60 per cent of the country’s total food production. But over the years, Nigeria’s population has increased at geometric progression while her food output increased at arithmetic progression (exactly what the Malthusian theory predicted) giving rise to a huge deficit where the food demand outrageously outweighs the food production.
If you’ve ever traveled to the northern part of Nigeria, you will always definitely disagree with anyone who thinks or is of the opinion that Nigeria cannot feed itself. The vast land mass coupled with the large population of hard working farmers there should be able to not only feed Nigeria but also the entire West African sub-region; you will have a glimpse of how much Nigeria is blessed and how productive these farmers will be if given the necessary support by the government; but most importantly, their struggles and pains in a bid to feed the nation.
Several factors have been acting as stumbling blocks against the Nigerian farmers (especially those in the North). These factors include desertification. It’s like a cancer that is eating deep into the arable lands in northern Nigeria. The issue of desertification in northern Nigeria should be a source of concern for the country because this is a great threat to our drive to achieve self-sufficiency in food production.
Other factors include communal crises. Insecurity generally has been a major problem militating against farmers, especially in the North. There is also the problem of inadequate storage facilities. Every year, over 60 per cent of farm produce in Nigeria is lost due to the absence of storage and agro-processing facilities in the country.
The challenges faced by farmers in the North and Nigeria generally are enormous and can never be over-emphasized. We don’t just need to compel Nigerians to buy locally produced goods; we need to make the goods available at affordable prices by assisting the Nigerian producers to increase their production capacity and reduce the cost of production.