Tuesday, 9 February 2016

HOW TO MAKE AGRICULTURE WORK IN NIGERIA


The need to explore agriculture as an alternative to oil hitherto is the most sang song in Nigeria after the national anthem. Successive governments have pledged to revive the agricultural sector to its past glory (the days of the groundnut pyramid of Kano and the oil palm plantations of the South East). And what is their approach? Subsidizing fertilizers and farm inputs (which most times doesn’t get to the real farmers in the field, rather it ends with the air-conditioned bedroom farmers).

On a normal day, that should have been a good bait to lure people (particularly the youths who are the targeted test organisms) into agriculture but truth be told, Nigerians are not ‘normal’ people. Nigeria has gotten to that point of rot where pride of job or career is lost to a communicable disease called get-rich-quick syndrome.
To revive agriculture, you don’t need to subsidize anything or give out farm inputs for free. What you need is to convince an average Nigerian graduate that they can make money (plenty of it) from farming. If you cannot achieve that, borrow all the money in the world and pump into agriculture and it will be in futility. The same old people and plebs doing the jobs now will still be the same faces there tomorrow. Sadly we all know how far they can go.

The mistake was made a long time ago and thinking that it can be corrected overnight is a mere myth. Government should forget the current crop of youths (17 – wherever the age tag, ‘youth’, ends). Going after them is a wild goose chase. I imagine someone coming to give me lecture about going to the farm with my current orientation, heavens save you I don’t have a slap to give at that moment because I will give you a resounding one.
Quote me, as much as 80% of youths, right from their first year in the university are already day dreaming and romancing with oil companies and multinationals in their mind (including the so-called agricultural science students).

My approach is a practical and simple one and goes thus;
First off, Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (NKJV). This passage summarises my approach. Revival of agriculture should start from schools––primary and secondary.

Let having a school farm be a pre-requisite before a school can be approved. As young as from primary five, the class should be split into teams and each team given a portion of land to farm any food of their choice (under the guidance of their agricultural science teacher) on the condition that the crop can be harvested within three months (duration of a term).
Let the quality and quantity of each groups’ harvest be recorded as part of their continuous assessment (a substantial part). In the few schools (and I guess if there is any, really) where this is already in practice, there is a disturbing trend in which the school management gang up and convert the produce while the pupils get nothing. This is a NO NO and in fact is one of the problems. It should be made a criminal offence.

On the contrary, the school management should be charged with organising a food or agricultural fair at the end of the term. The school will be saddled with the responsibility of inviting dignitaries too. The teams will get a chance to sell off their produce in unction. The basic idea is to let these young minds know they can make money from agriculture (farming).

The schools can keep 10 – 20% of the revenue each team gets for maintaining the farms but the bulk of the money should stay and be shared among each team members. This can be replicated in a larger scale for secondary and possibly tertiary institutions and with other forms of farming such as fishery, piggery, poultry and so on. Believe me; the thrill will not wear off in a hurry.

Where is the place of government in all of these?
The government will play the fatherly role of putting the right policies in place (like making sure schools comply and formulating laws to punish defaulting schools and some form of tax incentives). Government can also provide loans and land to farmers who are working on expansion. Like many other venture, agriculture will not live long if starved of social amenities of which the most important are road and water. Another surging problem is security.


All these are primary responsibilities of the government. When all these have been done and agriculture still continues its downward plunge in Nigeria, then I will conclude that the Bible lied.

1 comment:

arthur agu said...

Lovely piece. D twist of words is quite captivating. That's a very sound advice. Government,take note!!!