Agro-Industry Taking the Front Seat.
Over the years, there has been a noticeable growth of the agricultural sector in Nigeria.
In comparison to the past when agricultural practices were carried out mainly in small scale (subsistence farming) for consumption purposes, it is evident that a milestone of development has hit the agricultural sector as these practices are now carried out on a much larger & commercial scale.
In 1990, it was speculated that roughly 82 million hectares out of Nigeria’s 91 million hectares of land are arable, sadly, only a measly 42% of this area was farmed, this was due to the petroleum boom in the 1970s which brought about an adverse effect on the production levels of food and cash crops.
The government, who turned all their attention to the oil sector as a means of boosting the country’s GDP, started paying less for agricultural products. This made the agricultural sector seem unattractive and enhanced the search for white collar jobs.
Unfortunately, the world is now moving past oil. Innovations and technology is beginning to drive advanced economies.
Knowledge-based economy is the new trend and there has been increased research and development activities into sustainable energy. Therefore, there is a steady decrease in the demand and exportation of Nigeria’s oil, hence forcing the Nation to look into other areas for economic growth.
According to the former minister of Finance, Ms. Okonjo-Iwela, “no fewer than 1.8 million graduates move into the labour market yearly” and from this number, the available resources can only cater for about 40% of these graduates. The rest are left to roam the streets, moving from one menial job to the other, or worse, finding themselves entwined in illegal practices.
In recent times, the Nigerian Government has tried to stimulate the interest of its youth towards the agricultural sector in order to curb unemployment by adding incentives such as loans, provision of infrastructure, machinery, etc., but these actions have not been well received as most Nigerian youths still dream of white collar jobs and find the Agricultural sector to be dirty and unglamorous.
This notion is conceived from the fact that our forefathers carried out agricultural practices on a small scale (subsistence farming) basis, mainly for feeding purposes rather than commercial, so when agriculture is preached to most youths today, it is not surprising that they envision themselves in a farm, in old clothes, probably bent over with a hoe and they immediately hate the picture and in turn, hastily discard the idea.
This fear is not well-founded because Agriculture in today’s world is heavily mechanized and largely driven by modern technology. There are extreme technological innovations in this sector which Nigeria is yet to explore.
Technology and digitalized solutions are increasingly making the industry attractive. More importantly, government support in terms of the right infrastructure and policy to drive the industry will be a huge step forward.
Until we can tap into today’s knowledge, maximise the technologies available and create tech solutions to solve our peculiar agricultural challenges in Nigeria, the sector will continue to take the back seat.
We see Agri-tech start-ups springing up on the African continent and in Nigeria. Young techies are beginning to embrace the food and agricultural sector by providing app solutions and this in turn has brought a revealing effect on them about the opportunities embedded in the agriculture value chain.