Nation-building is a requisite, all over the world, and for Nigeria, through her existential history, diversified struggles and achievements, however, has been confined within the limits of a few sectors, to dictate its tidal economy.
The Agricultural sector, for instance, was the agelong and resilient sustenance for the nation’s development during the colonial era until the early 70s, when policies were made from economic indiscretion, in favour of the “Oil Boom” – the exploration of crude oil in commercial quantities; which had been a major point of distraction for successive administrations in Nigeria, to date.
This explains the obvious decline in the agricultural output, the overall contribution of the sector to the national growth and arguably the perspective of the young and able minds, of the place and role of this “goldmine” called agriculture in the development of the Nigeria economy.
It would be no wonder that many millennial seem not consider the agribusiness noble enough, or to be chosen as a career journey.
During its first decade of independence, Nigeria was one of the world’s most promising agricultural producers. Nigeria was not only agriculturally self-sufficient and food secure, but it thrived in global markets as the world’s largest producer of groundnuts and palm oil, and as a significant producer of cash crops like cotton, cocoa among others.
Agriculture was the nation’s main source of employment and income. In 1965, the agricultural sector employed over 70 per cent of the labour force. Export cash crops were responsible for over half of the young nation’s foreign exchange and of its GDP.
To resuscitate an underperforming economy, provide jobs, and address chronic food insecurity in the Nigeria of today, there are steps that are required to truly change the agriculture sector into an engine of transformative growth that generates significant export revenue, and as such, the place of the government in this cannot be overemphasised.
A way for the Nigerian government to show its commitment to transforming agriculture would be to put the conditions in place to incentivize farmers and processors, attract investment, and increase competitiveness. The vision for the sector must be matched with a significant budget by the government, and if need be, the government should step out of the way, to allow the private sector to take the lead, while the government assumes a regulatory role instead.
The masses, on the other hand, have their responsibility too. When systems are in place, a multitude of the new generation must arise, to harnessing their innovative potential, utilizing new technologies and techniques, and taking advantage of new opportunities in emerging value chains. We could also create a thriving business and tackle the challenge of feeding a growing population.
This active involvement by the youths should go a long way, as a ray of hope for the ageing labour force (which, undoubtedly, characterise the agricultural sector), and to ensure sustainable food security, reduce youth unemployment, and combat unplanned migration.
1. Richard Downie: Growing the Agriculture Sector in Nigeria
3. Empowering Youth to Engage in Responsible Investment in Agricultural and Food Systems: Challenges, Opportunities and Lessons Learned from Six African Countries – Knowledge Portal – Food & Business Knowledge Platform