By Saheed Ibrahim
If Nigerian government could focus on the development of the rural areas which hold the keys to the country’s development, Nigeria would be regarded as the food basket of the world and compete favourably with developed nations.
The capacities of the agragrian people must be enhanced through buttom-up and problem-driven approaches in order to ensure development of these areas is sustainable.
This submission was made by experts at the Young Rural Development Summit organised by the Rural Nurture Initiative (RNI) .
While delivering her keynote address, a Rural Development Consultant, Prof. Janice Olawoye said that Nigeria had all the potential and resources needed to achieve sustainable development but the management of resources had not been put in proper perspective.
The Professor of Rural Sociology at the University of Ibadan submitted that if the money spent on oil in the country had been spent on developing agriculture and the rural areas, Nigeria would be regarded as “the land of food”.
She noted that the country is blessed with human, natural and material material resources but these had not been exploited for sustainable development.
According to American married to a Nigerian, the people in the rural areas must be adequately empowered and must be engaged in providing solutions to their problems in order for interventions in these areas to be sustainable.
She also added that one-size fits all approach must not be adopted to proffer solutions to the problems of the rural areas, saying each of them has its peculiarities.
The Rural Development Consultant however identified that the government, corporate world and the academia must work together in order to bring development to the rural communities through problem-driven approach.
In her address, the Executive Director of RNI, Damilola Iyiola noted that developing the rural areas involves a multidimentional approach to ensure that every aspect of the agragrian communities are developed, especially agriculture.
Miss Iyiola said that the income of this people should be diversified in order to enhance their livelihood, their health, education, welfare and social amenities must be provided.
She suggested that in every rural area targeted for development, situation analysis must first be conducted before solutions are provided to problems, saying that solutions provided must be people-focused through buttom-up approach in order to ensure sustainability.
She warned government, Non-governmental organisations and other interventionists in these areas must not regard them as unknowledgeable, adding that the rural communities are embodiment of knowledge and resources needed to develop the country.
Also speaking, the Founder, Slum and Rural Health Initiative, Dr Isaac Olufadewa said that farmers and dwellers in the rural communities must be protected and their capacities enhanced, adding that myths that stand as barriers to development in the rural areas must be deconstructed so as for the people to give room for reorientation and development.
In her own submission, the Co-founder CATO Foods, Atinuke Lebile suggested that farmers in the interiors must be trained in use of modern technology to enhance their productivity, adding that agricultural extension workers should be sent to these areas to guide farmers on the use of modern farm tools and orientate them on the value embedded in any intervention brought to them.
On the shortage of food crops in Nigeria, she recommended that farmers should be educated on the need to plant more nutritious crops.