A time for agricultural industrial parks
I Heartly congratulate Nigeria and rejoice with our leaders at 59.
As many of us, public intellectuals and commentators, will focus on our journey though this great country in the past 59 years, today, I would like us to dwell on the people in the context of productivity, a critical factor in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Doubtless, we should engage the people too on what should work for us as a country. As we celebrate this day, we need to harp not just on what government should be doing, we need to juxtapose that with what we the people too can do in this new world that knowledge drives and shapes daily at the speed of light. That is why I want to suggest that we should simplify our governance model without looking up to the hills in foreign lands. In a specific way, we need to shift our discussion from Taxation and Agriculture as a business. These are two key areas where we can deal with the ‘mocker’ called oil and gas resource.
So, I feel that if we can harness “food security” that is intrinsically linked to “Agro- Food Industry Potential & Value Chains”, which we exploited before in this country when federalism was federalism, we will be great again. This is critical to sustainable development because this too will provide governments with independent revenue for investing in development and reducing poverty.
I have carefully chosen the to write on agriculture as a business because I am of the view that we need to move from rhetoric on this to action before we clock 60 next year. We need to watch carefully how the big oil-producing nations are planning without and beyond oil. Just as the G-7 members too are planning their energy life without oil for their automobiles. The volatility in oil prices in recent years too should have significant implications for the agriculture sector, especially in our great country that used to rely solely on the sector.
There is so much ado about Food Security. Agro-Food Industry…Value chain should be the focal point.
Food security has been a subject with us from creation. It has been so much rhetoric and too little action. But now paying attention to it is an idea whose time has duly come. What is it? It is a condition related to the supply of food, and individuals’ access to it. Concerns over food security have existed throughout history. There is evidence of granaries being in use over 10,000 years ago, with central authorities in civilizations including ancient China and ancient Egypt being known to release food from storage in times of famine.
The final report of the 1996 World Food Summit states that food security “exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.
Household food security exists when all members, at all times, have access to
“Agriculture was the main stay of our economy in the past. Over 80 per cent of our citizens were involved in agriculture. Our farmers tilled the land, planted all the crops possible. The arable crops of grains, vegetables, tubers, groundnuts etc, provided food and cash for the people, the tree crops of rubber, oil palm, cocoa, cola, cashew etc, sustained the people and the country enough food for an active, healthy life. Individuals who are food secure do not live in hunger or fear of starvation.
Therefore, people are considered food secure when they have availability and adequate access at all times to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life. Food security analysts look at the combination of the following three main elements: availability, access & utilization.
‘Man must not live by bread alone’.
But it is written that man must not live by bread alone. And so we are looking at the elasticity of the term Food Security within the construct of agriculture as business as the Western Region, for instance used to do. For those who are too young to know, before the 1966 disruption of democratic rule, the Western Region used to depend on revenue from agriculture and proceeds from its business, value chains were used to build some of the edifices such as the first television station in Africa, (later seized by the federal government (and now NTA); first stadium in Africa (Ibadan Liberty stadium), the Great University of Ife (later seized by the Federal Government, among other monuments robust investments such as Western Scholarship Board. There are much more. So we should move our discussion points today to agriculture as business and that is where we need to deepen our understanding about Agriculture “Value Chains” beyond officialdom in the coun- try’s nation and state capitals.
The term value chain was first popularized in a book published in 1985 by Michael Porter who used it to illustrate how companies could achieve what he called “competitive advantage” by adding value within their organization. Subsequently, the term was adopted for agricultural development purposes and has now become very much in vogue among those working in this field, with an increasing number of bilateral and multilateral aid organisations using it to guide their development interventions. So this is where we can benefit from agriculture business, lest we stay in the valley with the traditional “subsistence farming” that
will not reduce poverty in any way.
As I remarked in a keynote, at the 60th Anniversary of the School of Agriculture, Akure on December 4, 2017, ‘Agriculture is life’. In addition to food production, it provides emphasis ad practical knowledge in animal health, economics and home science, farm facilities construction and many
aspects of technology of today.
Agriculture was the mainstay of our economy in the past. Over 80 per cent of our citizens were involved in agriculture. Our farmers tilled the land, planted all the crops possible. The arable crops of grains, vegetables, tubers, groundnuts etc, provided food and cash for the people, the tree crops of rubber, oil palm, cocoa, cola, cashew etc, sustained the people and the country. Livestock including cattle, sheep, goats, poultry, pigs were the source of animal protein for our food and cash. Cotton in the North sustained the textile industry. We indeed worked the land and worked on the land. We were excited and exported cocoa, groundnut, cotton, cola, rubber, palm oil. We worked hard.
Then, the fossil fuel issue came. The nation engaged international companies to prospect, to explore, to exploit oil, as crude and we lifted and sold as crude. There was so much money coming to Nigeria and we abandoned the farmland, as we exported the crude, we imported our food, all kinds of food items from anywhere possible in the world, particularly the Asian countries. We even import food that are not good for our health. Unfortunately the items we used to export to other countries, we now import. In that 2017 when I spoke to this in Akure, we had spent a whopping 116 billion naira importing palm oil alone, a commodity of which we were the biggest producer and exporter worldwide. However, we commend the efforts of the federal Government today, through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture for the new initiative and focus on food production.
‘Agricultural Industrial Parks Model’
But as I noted in Akure two years ago, to achieve sustainability, we need to support Food security has been a subject with us from creation. It has been so much rhetoric and too little action.
But now paying attention to it is an idea whose time has duly come. What is it? It is a condition related to the supply of food, and individuals’ access to it. Concerns over food security have existed throughout history. There is evidence of granaries being in use over 10,000 years ago, with central authorities in civilizations including ancient China and ancient Egypt being known to release food from storage in times of famine.
the establishment of Agricultural Industrial Parks, possibly in every state of the country. Quite a large park in each state, possibly as large and even bigger than an average city. The park will take care of the total agricultural enterprise and agriculture business. It will focus on value creation of all crops and animals, concentrate on waste management and waste recycling to promote agro-industry and provide raw materials for the manufacturing industry.
It is obvious that Industrialisation in Nigeria will depend on agriculture. Most needed at this point in time will be the establishment of huge Agro-Industrial Parks by each state, funded through diligently designed Public-Private Partnerships and dynamic investment formats in comprehensive and appropriate agricultural operations for commodities, processing food chain, value chain, waste recycling, product conversion, manufacturing etc within the park, developed to accommodate modern human settlements of quality housing, organic and comprehensive education, power system, research and on-farm applications, effective transportation system etc, to create an economically wealthy country totally utilizing all forms of modern technology. The major Agro-Industrial Park in each state will serve as the hub, while food production Nodes will still be created in strategic points for on-farm adaptive research, processing and value chain.
It is sum of the parks and the Nodes that will within a short time industrialise Nigeria. They will provide jobs for our youth, engage different age groups to work and see the results of their labour. Our citizens that have generally stopped working will resume work to benefit themselves and the country.
All the new technology in communications technology, engineering, medical research, utilizing plants, crops, animals and livestock for in-depth studies, infrastructural development, manufacturing from raw material by-product from the farm etc. the large Agro-Industrial City- Parks will build new population matrix where everyone is engaged. All facilities of roads, water, schools, hospitals, research centres, shopping centres will be needed and provided in the Agro-Industrial Cities, local and foreign investors will have the opportunities to be part of the Industrial Cities. Our youth will be engaged and be glad to live in the modern industrial cities all over the country.
Professor Omole, former Vice-Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife is Chairman of the Editorial Board.
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