By: Mukhtar Garba Kobi and Musa Shehu Musa
The proud of any nation in the world is its ability to sustain its daily increasing population through food production; no country could call itself developed if citizens residing within its territories are living in abject hunger. Agriculture goes beyond cultivation of crops and rearing of domestic animals, it involves marketing which covers production, packaging, distribution of numerous agro-products until they reach the final consumer. National Bureau of Statistics stated that Nigeria exported agricultural products worth N321.5 billion in 2020, representing 19.16% increase when compared to N269.8 in 2019.
Following the discovery of crude oil in 1956, the agricultural sector continues to receive less especially in the annual budgets; that led to low outcome and farmers engaging in other ventures. Prioritizing other sectors to agriculture make farmers in rural areas viewed migration to towns in search of greener pastures than farming. Several policies to thrive agriculture were implemented which comprises Operation Feed the Nation in 1976, National Accelerated Food Production Program in 1992 and National Special Program on Food Security in 2002 but governments did not sustain them because they paid little attention to them.
Factually, Nigeria is known globally as one of the best in tomatoes farming but sadly it is the highest importer of tomato paste. There are countless number of developed countries that invested heavily in agriculture and succeeded economically, when a country is capable of cultivating ample consumable crops to meet the need of its citizens then it is food secured. Food security is the availability to cultivate crops at a right time, at the right place and in enough quantities for people to consume. Unfortunately in Nigeria, people engage in farming if all chances of getting their dream jobs are impossible.
Advantages of agriculture cannot be overemphasized as it serves as source of income, food security, means of livelihood, source of foreign exchange, provider of conducive environment and above all source of raw materials for industries. Employment opportunities in agriculture could be harnessed in poultry production in which if one is rearing Layers; he or she can be selling eggs laid by them apart from chicks they hatch or be done technologically. Fish farming is another lucrative business where 20 fish seedlings could turn to over 200; one could be consuming and still making huge profits.
Interestingly, small scale farming helps an average farmer feed his family members for the whole year. If a civil servant engages in selling farm produce, the profit gain could be used in meeting up family needs without waiting till the end of a month for salary. Agro processing like processing of paddy in to rice, cassava to garri, groundnut to oil, etc are suitable ways of getting lucrative returns without much suffering. Challenges bedeviling agriculture includes diversion of funds, lack of modern facilities and storage, passive supervisory bodies on funds or tools given to farmers, etc
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, it is estimated that Nigeria has lost about $10 billion in annual export opportunities from groundnut, palm oil, cocoa and cotton alone as a result of the decline in the production of these commodities. For Nigeria to sustain agriculture there is need for education, orientation and training of farmers by extension agents especially those in inaccessible areas on new farming techniques or machines. Farmers need to be supported financially by governments; this would help them invest more and at the end have bumper harvests.
Practical agriculture should be a core course at higher institutions; doing that would go a long way in making students develop interest in farming and become potential farmers after graduation. Loans given to farmers or farming tools should be regularly supervised in order to prevent them from diverting the funds or selling tools provided. Anyone with innovative talent should be supported to actualize it; the more inventions, the higher the chances in reducing tediousness in the fields during farming. Advisably, nothing could be done with an empty stomach; farm today and be free from starvation tomorrow!!