Technology has done a lot to spur the agricultural sector in the past few years. The transition from subsistence farming to large scale production has been rather slow but steady for some farmers. However there are still a lot more of these farmers in the rural areas who still engage in small scale productions. A scenario were the reverse should be the case is necessary if we as a country plan to regain the glory we enjoyed in the 1960s that saw agricultural sector as the major source of foreign exchange earnings.
There is no doubt that the government has been doing a lot in the area of agriculture in Nigeria but there is still a lot more to be done. It is high time we looked at the possibility of putting a stop to the importation of tinned tomatoes, frozen sea food and poultry. These are products that we should actually be exporting if we play our cards right. This leads us to an examination of one major area in agriculture that could do with some turn-around
Educating farmers would create a lot of impact on agriculture in Nigeria. Farmers need to be brought up to speed on recent technologies and innovations that will assist them with production. This will ensure that the there is increased income on the part of the farmers, increased productivity which in turn lead to expansion over time and subsequently to the employment of more labour. The government should ensure that agricultural education cuts across the formal, informal and non-formal means of education.
Educating farmers means that they would be versed in the best preservation techniques of surplus foods. Waste is as issue that need serious attention because if this area can be looked into, it would ensure the availability of seasonal foods all year round which would in turn ensure that the price of certain agricultural products remain stable no matter the time of the year.
Market linkage is another area that could be tackled by education. One of the major problems facing farmers in the rural areas is the inability to market the products being produced. Today, a lot is being said about ethanol which is a by-product of cassava. A lot of research has gone into the study of ethanol as a source of bio fuel. Cassava is one crop that yields a significantly large percentage of ethanol during process. Cassava is also one of the major crops being produced in Nigeria but ironically, most cassava farmers in the rural areas are not in communications with these research facilities that require their products.
Several governments and organizations over the past three decades have come up with various ideas and policies that sought to create a turn-around in the agricultural sector. The Oyakhilome administration in 1985, set up the school to land scheme in River State with the mandate to;
• Promote self-employment amongst the youths in agriculture
• Check the rising trend of rural-urban migration of school leavers and
• Boost increased food production for both local consumption and for export.
Over the course of its existence it has trained over four thousand people, which is quite commendable. During the civil war, General Yakubu Gowon initiated a similar project which was known as the National Accelerated Food Production Program. This program was designed to feed Nigerians sufficiently. The question however is this? What has become of these programs and what impact have they made so far? How many of these people are gainfully employed in the agricultural sector? How many of them are actually utilizing the skills taught? How many of them are agricultural entrepreneurs?
It is obvious that the issue in Nigeria is not execution, but rather the will to see these projects to fruition. These are programs that should be given the full backing of the government from the federal level down to the local government levels. These in turn should be broken into community outreaches were various agricultural programs should be initiated by each individual community depending on what agricultural product is peculiar to that particular region. The people should be part of their own success story. Cocoa, rubber, oil palm, tomato and cassava are just some of the few agricultural products that could reduce Nigeria’s sole reliance on oil as a foreign exchange earner while simultaneously reducing the rate of unemployment in the country. Suffice it to say that if all these issues are looked into, vision 2020 would certainly be achieved.