President Muhammadu Buhari, this week, called on Nigerian farmers to embark on massive agriculture activities this farming season to ensure food sufficiency in the country.
Rightly so because of the common saying that the quality of food consumed by a people is a stark revelation of the quality of life of the people. Thus, the role of agriculture in Nigeria’s economy cannot be over emphasised.
Nigeria, a country with an estimated population of about 200 million, needs to produce enough food to cater for its growing population and also export to earn foreign exchange.
Thankfully since Buhari became the president, Nigeria has been cutting down on the huge amounts of money it used to spend on subsidising food imports. The government implemented policies to promote agriculture in the country and a lot has been achieved in the area of food security while much needs to be in other areas.
Speaking after Eid-El-Fitr prayer which he observed along with his close family members and a handful of presidential aides at the State House in Abuja, the president emphasized the importance of engaging in massive agriculture activities and concluded by saying that Nigeria has no money for food importation.
“I wish the farmers will go to farms and save the lives so that we can produce what we need in sufficient quantity so that we don’t have to import food,” he said. “In any case, we don’t have any money to import food. So, we must produce what we are going to eat.”
In any case, the role of agriculture in Nigeria’s economy, which the president has highlighted, cannot be underestimated because it is regarded, especially, in recent times as the most viable route with which Nigeria and Nigerians can successfully follow to solve plethora of their economic problems.
After all, like the president observed, the main purpose of agriculture is to provide food, and raw materials for factories for eventual human use. Nigeria, under the Buhari-led administration, is poised to be a world power in the agricultural sector.
The fact that Nigeria is richly blessed with abundant human and natural resources is one point that has been consistently repeated in various fora. It is believed that 80% of the land mass in Nigeria is arable. This land area amounts to about 82 million hectares. Unfortunately, only about half of this arable land mass is being currently cultivated.
Currently, agriculture contributes not-so impressive percentage to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country with a huge majority of the rural population engaging in subsistence agriculture.
The relatively diverse variety of climatic conditions in Nigeria makes it possible to raise a wide range of crops across the country. The climate varies from the desert-like and savannah climate in the north and central regions to the thick rain forests of the southern region.
The major crops grown in economic quantities in Nigeria are beans, sesame, cashew nuts, cassava, cocoa beans, groundnuts, gum Arabic, millet, oil palm, plantain and banana, rice, rubber, sorghum, soybeans and yams.
Prior to the discovery of oil, agriculture was the mainstay of the economy. Agriculture was then the highest earner of foreign exchange for the country, and Nigeria was also largely self-sufficient in food production.
However, with the discovery of oil, the lure of petro dollars turned the focus of the country away from agriculture. Nigeria began to import food that we could have easily produced locally.
These activities have had adverse effect on the economy of the nation, forcing concerned people, including the president, to call for a shift of attention back to agriculture.
Although no longer the largest sector of the Nigerian economy, agriculture still remains the single highest employer of labour in the country, most especially in the rural areas. As of 2010, agriculture alone was employing about 30% of the population. This figure, since the coming of the present government, is steadily on the increase because a whole lot of young people are encouraged to view agriculture as an alternative after leaving school.
Still, Nigeria currently has a very high youth unemployment rate, a situation that is viewed as a security threat to the country’s development. However, if the youth, especially, will heed Buhari’s call to go to farm, agriculture has the potential to rescue Nigeria from this problem.
Other than that, despite it taking back seat in the scheme of things until recently, agriculture is the second highest foreign exchange earner for the country even as this advantage can be maximised if the current traditional methods of farming are left for more mechanised methods.
Unfortunately or otherwise, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic which led to dwindling of crude oil prices in the international market, there has never been a time that Nigeria needs to develop other areas and diversify its economy more than now.
And, happily, like the president rightly made his call, in Nigeria’s quest for diversification, agriculture seems to the most sustainable way forward.
Therefore, if the proper investments are made by this administration in the agriculture sector, the current contributions to the economy made by the sector can be greatly improved mainly because Nigeria has both human and natural resources to achieve this potential.
So, for now, the message, as far as development of agriculture in Nigeria is concerned, is simple: Let’s heed the president’s call.
Why Africa must silent the guns
As usual, in a few but meaningfully loaded words, President Muhammadu Buhari has called for peace on the continent of Africa without which, he said, there cannot be sustainable development.
In a message to African leaders to mark the ”Africa Day 2020,” commemorated by the African Union Commission, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the president said Africa has given the world a new hope by choosing the theme: ”Silencing the Guns in the context of the COVID-19” for this year’s Africa Day.
Africa Day is observed annually on May 25 to commemorate the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the precursor of the African Union (AU), which was created on May 25, 1963, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The president stressed the need for African leaders to silence the guns and build bridges and connections to engender peace and development in the backward continent.
“Peace, security, unity and harmony are prerequisites for development in Africa,” the Nigerian leader said, and urged citizens, all over the continent, to discuss and discover ways of ”Silencing the Guns” in order to achieve peace and grow African economies.
No doubt, like the president said, it is unfortunate that the African continent continues to hear the cry of guns while it is faced with the challenge of establishing peace and growth and development of its economies.
Crises in Africa do occur, despite the numerous peace initiatives launched on the continent. Vast amounts of resources have been utilised to arrange peace agreements which have often collapsed under the weight of competing interests.
No doubt, at the core of the crises within Africa’s war-affected countries and regions is the desire to acquire power and secure resources for one group of elites or one ethno-national group at the expense of others.
The issue of identity has mixed with culture, heritage and the control of economic resources to create a cauldron of political tension and violence in the continent.
Sadly, the effects of conflicts in terms of refugee flows into neighbouring countries and the emergence of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have demonstrated that no African country is an island unto itself.
In all of the continent’s crises, violence has led to the breakdown of societies. Human lives have been lost. Infrastructure has been destroyed, education and health services have suffered, and the environment has been damaged. The ties that link people together have been broken, social solidarity has collapsed and political tension has been generated.
In addition, socio-economic development has also been severely retarded as a result of the carnage and destruction caused by conflicts.
Therefore, in order to address the issues that give rise to crises in Africa, progressive cultural principles which promote human dignity and the well-being of the individual and society must be developed.
Africa must build its own indigenous value-systems which emphasise promoting social solidarity with a view to confronting corruption and ensuring good governance and equitable distribution of resources among all members of the continent.