…Inconsistent policies, poor infrastructure, inadequate mechanisation, insecurity, others trouble sector
By Olaseinde Gbenga
Back in 1950s, ‘’agriculture was the main source of Nigerian economy before the discovery of oil in Nigeria”. It was said to be impossible to grow a colourful and robust economy without agriculture. Cashew nuts, Palm oil, Cocoa bean are among the notable crops for export earners. Agriculture in Nigeria is made up of four sector, which include: Crop Production, Livestock, Forestry, and Fishing.
“The Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations (FAO)”, revealed that Nigeria has a total agricultural area of 70.8m hectares. This is distributed among arable land area of 34 million hectares, 6.5 million hectares for permanent crops, and 30.3 million hectares. In the south-south, Nigeria, 7.3 percent of households practice fishing. While 69.3 percent of households own or raise livestock in North West.
Over 70 percent of households engage in crop farming mainly at subsistence level. Maize, cassava, guinea corn and yam are the major crops among households in Nigeria.
According to a survey conducted in 2019, by “Statista”, one of the leading provider of market and consumer data disclosed that about 50 percent of farming households in Nigeria were growing maize crops, the most common crop in the country. Cassava crops followed directly, with some 46 percent of households growing this root. In addition, other widespread crops were Guinea corn, yam, and beans, with 20 percent to 30 percent of surveyed households cultivating them.
Also, FAO reported that Agriculture in Nigeria is a branch of the economy for about 35 percent of the populace as of 2020 and it remains the foundation of Nigerian economy, despite the presence of crude oil in the country. ‘Between January and March 2021’, the agriculture contributed to 22.35 percent of the total Gross Domestic Product.
The challenges of agriculture in Nigeria can never be overemphasized, despite the contribution to the economic growth of the country. Agriculture is under the non-oil sector that contributes immensely to the economic growth of the country. But sadly, there have been so many factors hindering the impact and success of agriculture in the country. These include; non implementing of government policies, poor Access to farmland, inadequate Mechanisation and modernization , insecurity, poor road network, among others .
Non implementing of policies by the government Is a major concerns to growth of Agriculture in Nigeria. The majority of the Farmers producing major food we consume relies on obsolete tools for farming. It is the sole responsibility of the government to put more effort into implementing the Agricultural policies that will bring significant growth and expand the sector. There have been good laid down policies created by the government in the last four years to improve agricultural productivity in the country but the implementation of these policies has been truncated rendering the effort of the government unseen.
Also, poor access to farmland is one of the biggest problems inhibiting farmers’ productivity in Nigeria, especially the smallholder farmers. In 2018, Data revealed from the World bank shows that Nigeria’s percentage of arable land to the total land area was 37.3 per cent. And, of course, with the constantly growing population, access would continually shrink, with the poor smallholder farmer being the most affected. Niger Delta suffers from a shortage of arable land based on the fact that it is surrounded by water
Access to arable land remains a major constraint to the increased productivity of small farm holders in Nigeria, particularly the Niger Delta. As you know, Niger Delta suffers from a shortage of arable land based on the fact that it is surrounded by water.
In 2018, in a presentation made by Prof. Adegboyega Oguntade, a lectural from the University of Acure (FUTA), emphasised that access to land is at the heart of the insecurity concerns not just in Niger Delta but across the country. Hence, the need to enhance access to land transcends the bounds of agriculture and food security to security of lives and property and the peaceful co-existence of the divergent groups in the country. For the smallholder farmers whose livelihoods are partly or entirely dependent on agriculture and based on a traditional production system, land plays a pivotal role in shaping and directing livelihoods and lack of access to farmland may cause multiple livelihood difficulties.
Inadequate mechanization and modernization is another factor that has hampered the growth of Agriculture in Nigeria. The majority of the rural farmers still cannot afford mordern equipments, and this is because the modern equipment is very expensive to purchase or hire, rather they rely on primitive tools for farming.
In a statement released by FAO, increasing levels of mechanization does not necessarily mean big investments in tractors and other machinery. Farmers need to choose the most appropriate power source for any operation depending on the work to be done and on who is performing it.
Insecurity is the most recent problem faced by farmers in Nigeria today. Many farmers have lost their lives and properties in past years. In the struggle to protect their farms from herdsmen, numerous farmers have been slaughtered by herdsmen across the Country.
Insecurity has formed a major threat to the productivity of Agriculture and food security in Nigeria in recent years. July 27, 2021, in a publication by premiumtimes, Farmers lamented how they have been deprived of access to their farmlands for fear of either being kidnapped for ransom, or killed by rampaging criminals.
Esonu Udeala, who farm orange-fleshed sweet potato along Kubwa Road in Abuja disclosed that ‘’insecurity has affected his farming activities badly.” Also, Mr Udeala lammented that herdsmen’s invasion of farms has affected his farming activities and that he could not commence farming early this year.
However, there’s urgent need for government to exploit every available opportunity, take swift action to make policies that will yield labour mobility and growth in our Agricultural sector. Invest in farm productivity, adopt and learn new technologies.
There is also need to have quantitative and monitoring policy to resuscitate the economy through modern Agriculture by incorporating technology and mechanization within the Agricultural value chain.