Agriculture for employment and food security
Sir: The pride 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 per cent increase when compared to N269.8 in 2019.
Following the discovery of crude oil in 1956, the agricultural sector continues to receive less attention especially in the annual budgets; that led to low outcome and farmers engaging in other ventures. Prioritising other sectors to agriculture make farmers in rural areas migrate to towns in search of greener pastures other than farming. Several policies to improve agriculture were implemented which comprise Operation Feed the Nation in 1976, National Accelerated Food Production Programme in 1992 and National Special Programme on Food Security in 2002 but governments did not sustain 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 is 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. 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. Fish farming is another lucrative business where 20 fish seedlings could turn to over 200; one could be consuming and still making huge profits. 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 Organisation 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 of learning.
Mukhtar Garba Kobi and Musa Shehu Musa.