A new face for agriculture in Nigeria

Prof Omole

Many distinguished graduates of agriculture have contributed immensely to national development wherever they found themselves.

This has been made possible by the great spread of the subjects taught in colleges of agriculture that include direct and practical exposure to the studies of the soil, the plants and crops, the animal studies and livestock; their derivatives and convertibles.

The subjects were also as broad as dealing with book keeping, store management, ledger, balance sheet etc. All forms of engineering and mechanics. It’s difficult to forget the things learnt in these colleges and the opportunities provided. How can one forget the five and six points, a total of eleven, you needed to check before starting the ignition of the Mercy Fergusen Tractor.

The five points were compulsory and the six points were for coupling on to the tractor. 5 & 6 was expression of money at that time; five shillings and six pence. So you never forgot

In my time, we were taught to drive tractors; the first time probably, any of us at least in my set, ever drove any vehicle. By November 1963, this opportunity enabled me to obtain my first driver’s licence. It’s an important part of history of my life.

The training was so comprehensive and diversified that an average student became so multitasking. By 7:00 a.m. we were all on the farm, Edu farm, for practicals till 9:00 a.m., to go for breakfast and then changed for lectures to start at 10:00 a.m., at times till 3:00 p.m. and many at times resumed at 4:00-6:00 p.m., except on Wednesdays reserved for physical exercise and sports.

Agriculture is life. In addition to food production, it provides emphasis and practical knowledge in animal health, economics and home science, farm, building construction and many aspects of technology of today.

Not long ago, the Federal College of Agriculture, Akure celebrated its diamond jubilee. The title of the lecture to celebrate the college’s 60th anniversary was most appropriate: “Repositioning Agricultural Value Chain opportunities for Sustainable Development in a Diversified Economy,” which was delivered by no other expert than a distinguished alumnus of this college: Professor Kolawole Adebayo of the 1986 class exposed strategies to reposition agricultural value chain for sustainable economic development of our Country.

Agriculture was the main stay of our economy in the past. Over 80 per cent of our citizens were involved in agriculture. Our farmers tilled the land, planted all the crops possible. The arable crops of grains, vegetables, tubers, groundnuts etc. provided food and cash for the people, the tree crops of rubber, oil palm, cocoa, cola, cashew etc. sustained the people and the country.

Livestock including cattle, sheep, goats, poultry, pigs were the sources of animal protein for our survival in terms of food and money. Cotton in the North sustained the textile industry. We indeed worked the land and worked on the land. We were excited and exported cocoa, groundnut, cotton, cola, rubber, palm oil. We worked hard.

Then, the fossil fuel issue came. The nation engaged international companies to explore and exploit crude which we lifted and sold as crude. There was so much money coming to Nigeria and we abandoned the farm land, as we exported the crude, we imported our food, all kinds of food items from anywhere possible in the world, particularly the Asian countries. We even import food that is not good for our health. Unfortunately the items we used to export to other countries, we now import. We spent a whopping 116b naira importing palm oil last year alone, a commodity that Nigeria used to be its biggest producer and exporter worldwide.

However, I commend the efforts of the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture for the new initiative and focus on food production. On behalf of the College of Agriculture Akure, I say well done.

In order to achieve sustainability, we need to support the establishment of agricultural industrial parks, possibly in every state of the country. Quite a large park in each state, possibly as large and even bigger than an average city. The park will take care of the total agricultural enterprise and agric business. It will focus on value creation of all crops and animals, concentrate on waste management and waste recycling to promote agro-industry and provide raw materials for the manufacturing industry.

It is obvious that Industrialisation in Nigeria will depend on agriculture and the endowment of the rich land that generally remains green all year round. The major agro-industrial park in each state will serve as the hub, while food production nodes will still be created in strategic points for on-farm adaptive research, processing and value chain.

It is the sum of mostly the parks and the nodes that will within a short time industrialise Nigeria. They will provide jobs for our youth, engage different age groups to work and see the results of their labour. Our citizens that have generally stopped working will resume work to benefit themselves and the country.

This will come with expansion and acquisition of the new technologies in communications, engineering, medical research, utilisation of plants, crops, animals and livestock for in-depth studies, infrastructural development, manufacturing and processing of farm produce. The large agro-industrial city-parks will build new population matrix where everyone will be engaged.

Ancillary physical and social infrastructures such as roads, water, schools, hospital, research centres, shopping centres will be provided in the agro-industrial cities. Local and foreign investors will have the opportunities to be part of the industrial cities. Our youth will be engaged and be glad to live in the modern industrial cities all over the country.

At 60, the Federal College of Agriculture in collaboration with relevant institutions nation-wide should kick-start, study and plan for the implementation of this initiative.

Prof. Omole, OFR, Chairman of the Editorial Board of The Guardian, made these remarks as the Chairman, Diamond Jubilee Public Lecture, Federal College of Agriculture, Akure, recently.

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