Written by Shamsiyya Haruna
Africa has abundant uncultivated arable land, roughly over half the global total tropical climates that permit long growing seasons, and an expanding population that provides a readily available market for produce consumption.
Though African farmers who deploy old traditional tools for farming may look poor and dirty in appearance, the venture still remains a profitable business.
Back to pre-colonial era, the main economic activity in the African region was agriculture as farmers were encouraged by high economic returns from productions. The farmer developed the societies and maintained as local marketing of the crop was well organized.
Meanwhile, in modern times, the overall productivity of African agriculture has remained low, both in the food production and export sector. The agriculture, as a productive sector has rotted over the years due to lack of interest and preference of the youths for white collar jobs.
While the African continent is well endowed with abundant and fertile lands for production of different farms produces, the region is today viewed as a home of poverty, hunger, malnutrition and disease due to lack of food and clean water.
In Nigeria agriculture has its place in the history of the country, even the ‘green’ in its flag symbolises its commitment to develop and promote farming for economic development. Back in the days when Nigeria rely on cotton, cocoa, beans with historic groundnut pyramid in Kano, there was abundant economic progress that subdued hunger and malnutrition. In fact, every household was happy and healthy.
Decades after, with the dissolution of the groundnut marketing board, farmers have been left alone and most of them are not only struggling to get seeds and fertilizers but also have problems selling their produce on remunerative prices. Farmers are no longer assured of a ready market for their produce.
The downward slide and the complete neglect of Agriculture in Nigeria was influenced by the discovery of oil in the early 50s.The consequence of this development was a more complex problem militating against effective agricultural productivity. In addition, there was a high cost of labour resulting from the exodus of young people from rural areas into urban centres in search of white collar office work.
The painful irony is the fact the people and the government fail to realise that as human we survive on feeding and clothing which are by-products of agriculture. The government at all levels fail to mount campaign in promoting the agriculture.
It is still not late for the government to initiate back-to-farm programmes and establish agencies that will encourage people into farming, even from curricular in elementary schools.
The government should also will find a way in transforming agriculture by providing modern farming facilities to farmers. It would not be out of place to compel military personnel during peace time and idle prisoners in cells, to go into farming activities. Apart from rewarding the participants, the policy will boast national revenue and increase economic activities.
There is also the need to form a network between research institutes, seed multiplication agencies and quality control organizations to monitor the sector. The network will identify bottlenecks in the seed production chain, catalyse or instigate applied and adaptive research and policy changes, that may be required to ensure rapid movement of new cultivars to farmers who need them. This approach will require continued interaction between the various stakeholders.
Africans must see farming as a business and blood of our continent without over-relying on mono-products, like oil that may dry. With heavy investments in agriculture, the continent could feed itself and develop other economic potentials through diversification.
I am sure transforming agriculture business will turn Africa into a net exporter as well as set the continent in line with global commodity.