Food, water and shelter are the three basic needs of man. Of these three, Agriculture provides two- food and shelter. It is therefore easy to see that Agriculture is a very crucial element in the survival of mankind. Many western nations place a lot of importance on the development and improvement of the agricultural sectors in their country and some other countries like Tanzania have agriculture as the highest contributor to their Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The state of Agriculture in Nigeria today is a far cry from what it used to be. In the early years after Nigeria had gotten her independence, Agriculture was the mainstay of the Nigerian economy contributing a little over 60 percent to GDP of the country . At that time, Nigeria was one of the chief exports of cocoa, rubber, cotton, oil palm and groundnut. Today, income from Agriculture makes up a measly 20 percent of the GDP with petroleum contributing the most .
Although the agricultural sector in Nigeria has rallied itself enough to carry the burden of feeding the nation, more is expected from them if the exponential increase in population continues. The recent fall in the price of petroleum does not bode well for the country’s GDP either. If this trend continues, the Nigerian economy would take a hard hit that may require several years to come back from. To stave off this great depression, the government and private sectors need to join their efforts to see that Agriculture is restored to its former glory.
For this to happen, the numerous problems affecting the development of Agriculture should be addressed. Some of the most pressing of them include capital, lack of knowledge, poor agricultural policies, transportation and availability of land.
LACK OF CAPITAL
One of the top three problems that agriculturists face is a lack of capital. Capital has a far reaching effect on agriculture. For one, it does not encourage young people to engage in agriculture as bank loans do not favor young start ups with no reasonable collateral. Again, the issue of capital has sorely limited a lot of rural farmers from making the move from subsistence farming to commercial farming while some commercial farmers find it hard to acquire the necessary machineries needed to operate their farms. Some rural farmers do not have enough capital to get seedlings and fertilizer for the new planting season and so settle for what they already have.
For the farmers that have enough capital to float another farming year, the issue of transportation comes up to frustrate their efforts after harvesting. The roads are not good enough to transport the produce to the markets and this can cause the farmer to experience loss especially with the perishable goods like vegetables. Since most of the farmers in Nigeria are located in rural areas, transportation becomes a major issue as the roads linking the villages to towns are bad most often than not leading to copious amounts of loss for the farmers.
Another large factor affecting agriculture in Nigeria is ignorance. The majority of farmers in Nigeria are subsistent, mostly reside in villages and are ignorant of the happenings beyond their immediate environment. As a result of this, these rural farmers make use of outdated agricultural practices and old tools because they do not have access to knowledge on new agricultural practices. The bridge in information dissemination is so wide that many rural farmers know nothing about the improvement of agricultural practices made by researchers world wide. Their lack of knowledge limits the amount and quality of crops they cultivate every year thus limiting agriculture on a wide scale.
POOR AGRICULTURAL POLICIES
In addition to the effects of capital, transportation and lack of knowledge, poor agricultural policies have also contributed to the stunted growth and development of Agriculture in Nigeria. Even at the highest level of leadership in the country, Agriculture is being relegated to the background. No new policies are being made and the older policies aren’t reviewed and updated to accommodate recent changes. This lackadaisical attitude towards agriculture at the top bleeds down to affect even the rural farmers thereby limiting agriculture.
POOR LAND TENURE SYSTEMS.
Arable land for cultivation of crops has become a scarce commodity. Many farmers are ready and willing to till the soil but are hindered by their lack of land. The land tenure systems in Nigeria do not answer their need for more land to be made available for farming.
The government and private sectors have a role to play in resuscitating the agricultural sector. The bulk of the work would of course lie on the shoulders of the government but the private sector still has its work cut out for it.
Social entrepreneurs can serve as a link between the rural farmers and the marketers in the towns thereby solving the problem for transportation. This could be done in such a way that all parties are satisfied with the outcome at the end of the day.
To combat the issue of ignorance, extension workers armed with knowledge on the best of agricultural practices for sustainable yield should be sent into the villages to educate the rural farmers on better agricultural practices. Organizations like the Green River Project can also lend a hand to rural farmers by supplying them with improved species to cultivate.
The government should create new policies and update older ones to promote agriculture in the country. In conjunction with other agricultural organizations, the government should create provision for farmers to be able to take out loans on reduced interest rates so that they can easily pay back.
As for the problem of land, the government should look into the prevailing land tenure system and try to ensure that it favors the availability of land for agriculture. The government could lease out some of their land to those farmers who are willing to work but have no access to any land.
When all these and more are done, the agricultural sector of Nigeria would experience a much needed positive change.