Rethinking on Agricultural Sector

 “To own a bit of ground, to scratch it with a hoe, to plant seeds, and watch the renewal of life – this is the commonest delight of the race, the most satisfactory thing a man can do”.

The above quote was deducted from the words of an American essayist and novelist, Charles Dudley Warner (September 12, 1829 – October 20, 1900) while he was expressing in mind on the benefit of agriculture to the society.

 

Prior to the modern industrial revolution in the world, agriculture was regarded as the basic occupation in which a man engages purposely to satisfy his personal needs and those of his family. In the Great Britain for instance, it has been reported that the British Emperor imported thousands of African slaves to facilitate agricultural produce. Since the initial attempts to find gold and silver failed around the 16th Century in Portugal, the Portuguese colonists strategized and adopted an economy based on the production of agricultural goods that were to be exported to Europe using African slaves.

The major focus of this economies were the production of tobacco, cotton, fast-growing trees (often conifers), coffee, sugar cane, sisal, some oil seeds (notably oil palms), rubber trees and some other agricultural goods, but sugar became by far the most important Brazilian colonial product until the early 18th century.

These agricultural produce became the basis for the societal development and the emergence of industries in those economies. The same trend became the medium through which some other states like Brazil, France and others attained their early civilization.

Martin V. Buren, a nobel prize winner states that “the condition of the tribes which occupy the country set apart for them in the West is highly prosperous, and encourages the hope of their early civilization. They have for the most part abandoned the hunter state and turned their attention to agricultural pursuits.”

By 1960s, Nigeria placed considerable emphasis on agricultural research and extension services; and put in place effective measures to enhance its economic condition with the curiosity to facilitate agricultural sector. During the periods, additional scholarship and facilities for training of junior staff in agriculture were provided in higher institutions.

Through these measures, Nigeria witnessed emergent developments such as  Alien Cotton in the South, rice cultivation in Sokoto, Niger, Ilorin, Abeokuta and Ondo; the introduction of wheat cultivation in most northern parts; the extension of product of such export crops as cocoa, palm oil and groundnut, development of agricultural implementations as well as designing farm buildings.

There was intensification of horticultural activities, development of a marketing sector for agricultural outputs, the extension of the Product Inspection Services to cover all principal export crops, investigations into the possibilities for organized land settlement schemes and investigations into the possibilities of irrigation in northern Nigeria.

Those vibrant developments were jeopardized when Nigeria diverted the economy towards a newly discovered product—crude oil in 1970s.

So far, the emergence of crude oil in Nigeria has resulted to the dominance shift in the fortune of the economy over the years from the major sector (agriculture) of the economy which was contributing 64.1 percent to the GDP and supply food needs of the citizens in addition to generating income, foreign exchange and employment. Unfortunately the sector only contributes less than 5 percent total foreign exchange earnings in 2000.

There is a shift in structure of domestic demand for food and agricultural products in favour of massive imports of grains, beverages, vegetable oils and fibres which Nigeria was once reported as leading world producer.  

The Nation encyclopedia (2001) while highlighting economic and individual standard of living, states that despite Nigeria’s enormous resources and potential, poverty is widespread throughout the nation. It adds that basic indicators place the country among the 20 poorest nations of the world. The issue of poverty can be easily traced to underutilization of national endowed resources most especially in the agricultural sector.

The agricultural sector which could have been the livewire of the nation, is neglected and has resulted to national embarrassments where there is massive unemployment and graduate youths engage in prostitution, burglaries, and cybercrimes among other vices.

Human kinds have long had tools and skill to eradicate poverty and chronic malnutrition from agriculture. United State agronomist and novel prize winner, Norman Borlaug states that man can and must prevent the tragedy of famine in the future instead of merely trying with pious regret to salvage the human wreckage of the famine.

The use of Green Revolution Technologies exponentially increased the amount of food production worldwide. It is interesting to see the emergence of “green revolution” which has triggered an explosion in agricultural productivity in Latin America and Asia but less in Africa, especially Nigeria which claims to be the giant of the continent.

Nigeria with its abundant resources and fertile land is still rated among the poor nations in the world. Although, it is argued that petroleum industry has brought unprecedented changes to the Nigeria economy particularly in the past five decades, however, the challenges it poses to the development of our nation are enormous.
 
For Nigeria to witness timely growth and development it has to shun the ongoing over-reliance on crude oil revenue painting it a mono-economic nation and embrace economic diversification especially the idea of Green Revolution to further diversify the economy. Many great nations today are not oil producing, so we should rethink in our national policy to address the problem.

Abubakar Jimoh
abujimoh01@yahoo.com

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