Nigeria is a heterogeneous nation with the largest population of any African country, therefore admitting different forms of cultures, celebrations, and festivals. In Nigeria today, there are two sets of citizens, the minority bourgeoisie and the majority proletariat. The bourgeoisie includes businessmen and politicians who survive in affluence and enjoy a completely balanced diet. The majority of the population (proletariat) in Nigeria live in poverty and are unable to afford a steady balanced diet due to the costly price of food.
Farming is an important source of livelihood in any part of the world, it involves tough work but it contributes to food security and national health. In Nigeria today, less than fifty percent of the citizens work on farms, most farms are owned by families who established them for the sole aim of making enough food for themselves or selling locally among themselves.
Back in the 80s, farming and agriculture is the glory of Nigeria’s economy not until the oil boom era shattered the glory and shifted the attention of the government from agriculture to oil.
Recall that in 2015, Buhari’s campaign operated a CHANGE mantra that made numerous promises to Nigerians, part of which is to revive the forgotten agricultural sector, guarantee a minimum price for all cash crops, and facilitate storage of agricultural products to overcome seasonal shortages of selected food crops. This arose the expectations of Nigerians for the promisor to wave a magic and eradicate all their dilemma.
It must be noted that the high cost of cash crops, low participation in farming and unavailability of storage of agricultural products forms part of the challenges facing part of Nigeria’s Agricultural sector. Hence, in the early part of his administration, Buhari’s assured to focus and give much attention to agriculture in other to attain a sustainable economic balance from it and as an effort to diversify the economy.
But does President Muhammadu Buhari actually fulfill his 2015 promise? Does the present situation of the farming system in Nigeria enough to salvage Nigerians out of hunger?
Although in the early period of president Muhammadu Buhari administration, the Agricultural sector looked promising by its 19.71 contributions to the real gross domestic product, though uncompared to its contribution in the 70s and 80s that has reduced drastically by 80 percent to 10 percent when income was derived from the export of major cash crops such rubber, cocoa, palm oil, groundnut and cotton, e.t.c.
But in previous years the promising improvement faded down, with commercialization and mechanization in which the efficiency of farming rests solely on, not maintained and everything seems to be sinking down.
According to the United Nations, improving farming techniques and yields is the only way to achieve its sustainable development goals of eradicating poverty and hunger by 2030. Tractors and fertilizers are farming techniques that yield agricultural products. Though, there is a wide room for improvement on fertilizer with about 12 out of 32 eleven fertilizer blending plants existing in different parts of the country being revived from its initial six(6).
Meanwhile, what has happened to our tractors? Many farmers still stick to archaic farm practices due to insufficient machinery. And sometimes, a farmer will simply abandon his problematic machinery and result back to his old way of farming when there are no service stations put in place to repair such machinery.
For instance, in 2018 President National Federation of Cowpea Farmers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Kabiru Mohammed, explained that it was not as if the country had a shortage of tractors, but that a lot of them had been abandoned at the regional offices of the ministry across the nation. The association further alleged that the country had enough old and spoilt tractors which can be repaired and revived rather than wasting the country’s resources by buying new ones.
A high percentage of annual harvest loss is still bedsore in Nigeria’s Agricultural sector, due to the lack of proper storage facilities. According to the Raw material research and development council, the Lack of storage facilities, ailing processing industries, and poorly developed marketing channels are responsible for the loss of about 50 percent of tomatoes produced in Nigeria.
In the Agriculture Promotion Policy (2016 – 2020) document submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari, The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, confirmed that the country’s current post-harvest loss rates of perishable crops are up to 60 percent. Millions of farmers in the country work so hard to harvest but the lack of agro-processing and storage facilities remains an impediment to their product’s value chain.
Meanwhile, the blame for this unproductive agricultural system should never rest solely on the government’s shoulders. Instead, research has implied that Nigerians are also responsible for the agricultural catastrophe, despite different agricultural initiatives initiated by the country’s federal ministry of agriculture. Most youths especially in the southern part of the country have no passion for farming, they rather hunt for white-collar jobs that generate fat remunerations in the oil and gas sector of the economy.