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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Food security and sustainable agriculture – a hanging fruit?

Nigeria, with over 170 million people, is one of the most populated countries in Africa. Before the oil boom, the economy was known to thrive excellently on agriculture and it was no wonder the Naira was able to rub shoulders with western currencies. But, with the emergence of crude oil and the “pot of gold” that came with it, agriculture, like the old wife, was discarded and forgotten.

Agriculture in Africa is rain fed and thus vulnerable to climate change. Photo credit: osundefender.org
Agriculture in Africa is rain fed and thus vulnerable to climate change. Photo credit: osundefender.org

Nigeria indeed is a country blessed with vast lands, springs of water, human resources and, most of all, beautiful weather all year round. With all of these factors working in her favour, Nigeria can hardly feed her citizens. It is not news that with the oil crunch, this “pot of gold” is quickly looking like an illusion with the negative impacts it has left in its wake. No longer do the leaders brag that the economy can only survive on crude oil.

Though the current administration has said that it will give priority to agriculture, it leaves a lot to the imagination on how they hope to achieve this goal. The previous administration is rumoured of draining the nation’s funds, the Naira depreciated in value and loan agencies are making the processes for farmers to access loans problematic for large-scale farming. How can the country achieve its agenda of achieving food security when the major players are rendered incapacitated by the powers that be? Once loans and grants are easily accessible and used appropriately, the agricultural industry will flourish, and Nigeria will gradually be restored to the robust economy she was before the oil boom.

Imagine for once, Nigeria with its huge population becoming self-sufficient and being able to feed its populace adequately, all other problems confronting the economy such as: poverty, unemployment, crime, etc. would be abated. I trust that it would be profitable once the current government can, with the tenacity of a bulldog, focus on agriculture. I foresee the populace will feel what it is like to have a progressive and effective government.

Due to the large population in Nigeria, and the low percentage of involvement in agricultural practices, a lot of the staple foods consumed are imported. This is another problem that faces both the farmers and the economy alike. I do not advocate for an abrupt ban on importation by the incumbent government, however, with the aid of agricultural NGOs, it would create a sturdy and thriving structure. A readily available and conducive environment needs to be at the disposal of both the young and old. The youth are the strength of a nation’s success. They are the epitome of a country’s power and ability to generate food security through agriculture, an assurance that cannot be compromised before banning importation. The relationship between the government and aforementioned youth need be “glove in hand.”  Sentiments of tribalism and marginalisation need to be entirely eradicated before the government can gain total support from its citizens and achieve her goal. I believe that there are young people who have the passion to go into the industry. All they desire is a guarantee of solid agricultural training, on best practices, subsidised tools and technology for high scale farming projects. A return on investment for the nation would be surplus produce sold nationally and internationally for export. The long term goal of such a concept would be job creation, reduction of crime rate and a sustainable economy.

On the other hand, there are quite a number of NGOs present in Nigeria currently partnering to improve these agricultural pursuits. These organisations have been around for a long time, but the apparent question remains, why no obvious results and deliverables? Could it be that the citizens do not accept their practices, or are there some power plays behind the veil? Most times the organisations and the NGOs that support them are seen dancing to different tunes of music, thereby making the main objective of the organisation or NGO as the case may be, unachievable.  In Dorothea Hilhorst’s book “The Real World of NGOs”, she pointed out: “Because of the asymmetry between givers and receivers,” Stirrat and Henkel point out that partnership should not be understood as legal partnership but more as the partnership of marriage, “…the relationship is as much a site of struggle as a cause of harmony.”  Whatever the case may be, there is need to strike a balance for restoration.

Nigeria, with more than half of her populace being the youth with over 60 million hectares of uncultivated land, I see great possibilities. Channels if properly utilised will bring about the change this current regime has promised.

By Uchenna Joan Awa

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