Poverty: A Call To Farming
THE alarming poverty level in Nigeria has again called for urgent attention from all stakeholders. Poverty is not solely an economic issue but rather multidimensional.
ACCORDING to World Bank report on Nigeria economy, Nigeria has one of the world’s highest economic growth rates, averaging 7.4%. Poverty however remains significantly high at 33.1% in Africa biggest economy.
THIS situation may remain unchanged unless Nigeria changes its status to a producing state instead of a consuming nation.
THE present situation where Nigeria spends large chunk of its national resources on importation of food is alarmingly perilous and a serious threat to the nation’s economic health. There is no denying the fact that providence has given us all it takes for the country to be great and not only be self sufficient in food production but have enough to generate foreign exchange that will take care of critical sectors of the economy.
The weather is clement and ideal for planting different types of arable and cash crops. A very greater percentage of our land is fertile enough to produce bountiful harvests with little or no artificial fertilizers. The rivers are there criss-crossing the country serving as good avenues for irrigation in some parts of the land.
WE are not unaware that prices food items have sky rocked as a result of the recent ban on rice importation. It became virtually unbearable just because what we produce locally cannot meet the consumption needs of Nigerians who are already used to having rice as their most popular staple food. This is pathetic when one considers the fact that Thailand which supplies the largest percentage of rice eaten in Nigeria today has a population a little above 60 million people. Thailand, like other Asian countries, is making the best of its land, technological advancement and human resources in agriculture to rake in billions of Naira .
WE therefore call on Nigerians to wake up from their slumber, take the bull by the horn and embrace farming as panacea to solving the present food crisis problem and generate foreign exchange for our country. Corruption, which in the past had been the bane of our national development plans should no more be an excuse to Nigeria not achieving food self sufficiency.
THE situation in the past where bureaucrats usually end up coveting loans meant for agricultural development schemes should not be allowed to continue. Our institutions of higher learning should be encouraged to go into farming. All students should be made to take agriculture as a compulsory course, irrespective of their course of study. This may encourage some of them to go into agriculture and stop looking for white collar jobs after graduation while universities should be encouraged to embark on researches that will help at producing seedlings that would increase yield .
BANKS should provide soft and interest free loans to real farmers and not arm chair bureaucrats in offices. Government should ensure that loans are not swindled off the ultimate beneficiaries. Civil servants and average Nigerians should be encouraged and enjoined to “compulsorily” have farms or gardens at the back of their houses. We also canvass that primary and secondary schools should be made to have school gardens as it used to be in the past.
BOTH Federal and state governments should reinvigorate the farm extension services of the past while Agric extension officers should be motivated and remunerated so as to be able to give the farmers needed advice and assistance required from time to time. The Federal Government should make provision for more silos all over the country so that there could be adequate opportunities for storage of produce during the periods of plenty.
THE idea of posting Youth Corpers to schools to teach, even when some of them majored in agricultural related courses, should be discouraged. They should be deployed to agric farms where they will be more productive and relevant to our national needs. Our various Universities of Technology scattered all over the country and our numerous engineers should be given grants to invent cheap agricultural tools for Nigerians with comparative advantages.
THE Federal Government should go back into the farm settlement scheme of the then old Western Region under late Chief Obafemi Awolowo which performed “wonder ” in the region in those days.
THE Hope believes food problem facing Nigeria should be seen as a war which should be fought from various fronts and with all seriousness and ferociousness because as the Yorubas say, “When hunger is removed from poverty, the problem is almost gone.”