How to end food importation in Nigeria


Prior to the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantity in 1956 in a village called Oloibiri in present-day Bayelsa state, Nigeria was known for her agrarian economy. Agriculture was the major source of her foreign exchange earnings through the exportation of cash crops such as rubber from Delta state in the south-south region; groundnut, hide, and skin produced by the northern region; cocoa and coffee from the western region; and palm oil and kernels from the eastern region of the country.

However, Nigeria has shifted her attention to crude oil production and abandoned agriculture. This has turned the cash crops exporting country to an importer. Nigeria has failed woefully and finds it hard to feed its citizens.
It could be recalled that President Muhammad Buhari in his Eid el-Fitr Sallah message, challenged farmers to go to farms and save lives so that Nigeria can produce what we need in sufficient quantity and that we don’t have to import food. The president added that Nigeria doesn’t have any money to import food.

The question is where did Nigeria get it wrong? First of all, Nigeria as a nation has missed a step right from the time crude oil was discovered. The discovery has indeed done more damage than good to the agricultural sector. It is a pity that Nigeria is facing this challenge in the 21st Century which was never experienced sixty years back. To tackle the challenge of depending on other countries for our foods, Nigeria must put Agriculture first on her scale of preference as it was before independence.

Secondly, governments at federal, state, and local levels only pay lip service to agriculture, without pragmatic commitment to the sector. For instance, the federal government has budgeted only 1.5% in 2019 and 1.3% in 2020 of its national budget to agriculture. The same thing applies to states and local governments. Budgets on sgriculture are quite meager, and the worst part of it is that governments are not into the farming business, thinking that citizens alone could farm and feed the nation.

For instance, if each of the 774 local governments in Nigeria could produce 20,000 metric tonnes of grains yearly with each of the 36 state governors harvesting 50,000 and federal government 100,000 metric tonnes or more, then Nigeria would in the nearest time end food scarcity and begin exporting.
Furthermore, governments must digitalize the farming system in Nigeria. The era of analogue farming systems is over. It is unfortunate that even in this 21st Century, most farmers carry their farming activities using hoes and equipment used by our forefathers. We need up to date farming technologies, chemicals, and seeds. If Nigeria wants to grow, agriculturally, then we must adopt the method of farming being used in India, Thailand, Germany, Brazil, and China.

Another factor that needs to be dealt with in order to experience a bumper harvest in Nigeria is farmer-herder incessant clashes. The clashes have led to inflicting injuries, loss of lives and properties worth millions of naira in many parts of the country as a result of jungle justice, reprisal attacks, and communal clashes. This has retired thousands of farmers and rendered many susceptible. Governments must protect both the farmers and the cattle rearers as well as providing a lasting solution to the problem.

To sum up, farmers must be equipped with the practical and theoretical knowledge of farming so as to maximize yields and lessening expenses. Nigerians must also change their perception on farming; see it as something that must be done not optional. The government must also introduce price control in order to cushion its impact on both farmers and consumers.
Kong-kol writes from Bayero University, Kano via[email protected]

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