AGRICULTURE: THE GREEN OIL
Food is an integral part of our survival as humans as it is to every other organism.
Therefore the food production industry is one of the most important and crucial sector of the human society. The food industry is fundamental to our continued existence. At present, with the ever-increasing global population, the pressure on the food production sector to produce greater quantity of food and supply the marketers is enormous. From time immemorial, agriculture is believed to be a major sector in the proliferation of any economy and therefore culminate in the development of such homeland. Someone out of conviction said “Africa is a land flowing with milk and honey but it’s only served in Europe”. Our country, Nigeria, is blessed and bequeathed with fertile and arable land running into millions of hectares but despondently cannot provide her populace with basic food crops.
I was mesmerized and bewildered from my findings after a little research. Our country, the “Giant of Africa” as at 1961, was the leading exporter of groundnut with a world’s share of 42%. The country also had 27% of the world’s palm oil export, 18% of cocoa and 1.4% of cotton as the major West African cotton exporter. This glory however declined over years hence Nigeria’s dominance in the export of groundnut was eclipsed by other agricultural productive countries. Cote d’voire and Ghana also become the leading exporter of cocoa while Mali and Burkina Faso led cotton exports. Malaysia took over in palm oil. It is disheartening to note that Malaysia and Indonesia, the world’s present leading producers of palm oil and rubber respectively, came to National Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) and Rubber Research Institute of Nigeria (RRIN) to learn how to cultivate these basic cash crops, and even went away with some seedlings. Ironically, Nigeria now imports these products from these countries.
I incessantly ask myself this question, what went wrong? Considering Nigeria’s economic pedigree, we were doing quite well but something along the line went wrong. There was a paradigm shift from Agriculture to the oil sector. It is common knowledge that in the advent of the discovery of oil, the economy of the nation began to colossally decline and most people are enrolled in the school of thought that oil brought with it more harm than good. This is intrinsically because Nigeria failed to decipher the formula for translating its oil resource into significant welfare improvement for the teeming population.
I find a story quite fascinating in the Bible; it’s the popular story of David and goliath. David was optimistic to go fight goliath, but Saul, the being in the sovereign seat of Israel’s government felt he was placed the responsibility of equipping his representative in the imminent fight. So he armed David with his Armor but David not seeing through his prism, made a striking statement “I cannot go with these, for I have not proved them”. He therefore reverted to what he had proved to conquer the fiery enemy before him. Taking a cue from that legendary tale, we also as a nation need to revert to what we have proved. Agriculture is one thing that we engaged in and accrued to it were infallible proofs of economic progress and development. Our investment in agriculture played a pivotal role in ploughing the path to the establishment of research stations across the country. Some of these include; Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), Ibadan; National Institute for Horticultural Research and Training (NIHORT), Ibadan; Institute for Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T), National Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR),Benin; Rubber Research Institute of Nigeria (RRIN), Benin; National Cereal Research Institute (NCRI), Badeji; Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN), Ibadan; National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI) Vom, Jos; National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), umudike; National Institute for Fisheries and Fresh Water Research, Kainji; National Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research, Lagos; National Institute for Animal Production, Zaira; International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan; National Institute for Trypanosomaisis Research (NITR), Kaduna; and 3 Universities of Agriculture across the regions. Back in the days, Proceeds from Agriculture, especially cash crops like cocoa was said to have financed the free education and free health care in the western region. Correspondingly, the northern region funded the Ahmadu Bello University via proceeds from the groundnut pyramid, whilst the eastern region funded the University of Nigeria and other edifice predominantly from the proceeds of oil palm. From all indications, Agriculture can transcend any nation no matter how deplorable it is in the present to an admirable one.
Someone might ask, why agriculture? I presume it is one sector that is sure to salvage us from the imminent economic distress as a result of a fall in fuel price, provide employment and a source of income for our youths trekking the streets in droves, alleviate poverty to an extent, provide an alternative source of foreign exchange and drastically reduce the importation of food that can be grown locally. According to United Nations, by 2050 there would be an additional 2.2 billion mouths to feed with the world’s population of 9.2 billion grown by 32%. Nigeria’s population is estimated to be 200million in 2020. In the light of this, Agriculture and food production would ad infinitum be a relevant sector that can provide us with the wherewithal to be truly ‘independent’.
In recent times, successive administrations have always made agriculture a priority e.g. vision 2020 and seven point agenda, Agriculture Transformation Agenda (ATA) etc but in the end the results are usually negligible, diffusing into oblivion. This is more or less a clarion call that we need not depend absolutely on the government but contribute no matter how diminutive to bring into fruition our long awaited change. Therefore, start up that poultry farm or that vegetable farm you have always envisaged, Venture into that agro-processing business idea of yours and invest in individuals who have zest and passion for Agriculture. I end this piece with this quote by Albert Einstein “”Today’s problems cannot be solved at the same level of consciousness that created them.”. Let’s revert to what we have proved and together we can restore the lost glory of our Nation. #ThinkBeyondNormalcy
By Olufemi Adeyemi