Challenges of reverting to agriculture as economy’s mainstay
Obviously, before the discovery of crude oil in Nigeria, Agriculture was the country’s major source of revenue. But with oil boom, successive governments abandoned and neglected the agricultural sector completely. Even when government policies on agriculture are made occasionally, they were often characterised with flip-flops, lips service, inconsistencies and poor implementations.
A bold attempt to revive agriculture started in 1976 when the then military Head of State, Major-General Olusegun Obasanjo, launched Operation Feed the Nation. But instead of reforming it, his successor, President Shehu Shagari, quickly dumped it in preference of the Green Revolution of 1980 that ended in failure. Since then, none of the agricultural policies of the government survived its initiator in office. The trend continued unabated, with easy oil money being squandered with impunity by government officials and some privileged Nigerians, especially since the return of democratic governance in 1999.
While revenue from crude oil came in billions of dollars, it was being spent extravagantly. Agricultural sector, infrastructures and other basic needs of humanity that were to grow the country’s economy were virtually left unattended. Eighty per cent of the country’s consumables were imported, while the local industries suffered neglect.
With the sudden crash in the price of crude oil in the international market in June 2014, Nigeria with a mono-economy became one of the worst hit countries. Since then, the Nigerian economy has been in tatters. Not helping matters is the delay in clear-cut economic policies by the present government, since it assumed office.
Recently, the government came up with a plan to revive agriculture as the economic mainstay of the country with the Green Alternative Road Map. The policy seeks to reduce drastically Nigeria’s over-dependency on imported food. Its fundamental objectives include stimulating agro-export for foreign earnings and achieving food self-sufficiency. Among other goals, the programme will boost employment with 100,000 youths to be trained in extension services, enhance wealth creation and drive economic diversification.
As good as this policy looks on paper, it can only achieve the desired objectives, if it is implemented to the letter and other numerous challenges facing agricultural practice in the country tackled adequately. These glaring challenges include the herdsmen attack, high borrowing interest rate, poor rural roads network, importation of foreign food, lack of agricultural research, poor farm implements, poor storage and processing facilities and several others.
Nigerians who are into farming business also expressed their challenges, while suggesting way that government can help them key into the new “agrarian revolution.”
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