The potential of the agricultural industry is no longer in question – it contributes about 21% to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually. Yet, as we strive to make agriculture ‘the new oil’ – and perhaps, even a ‘better oil’ – the question of its viability goes far beyond abundance to one that asks: are we enabling the sustainability of our nation’s agriculture sector? Unfortunately, today, the answer to that is: not sufficiently.
The global population has rapidly quadrupled from 1.5 billion people to 6.1 billion over the past 70 years. Perhaps the greatest effect of this population expansion is the proportionate increase in the demand for food.
This has been no different in Nigeria, where the current population of 200 million people is expected to surpass 300 million by 2036. However, food production barriers and challenges in the country have significantly stifled the performance of the agricultural sector: the high cost of farm inputs, poor access to credit, inefficient fertilizer procurement and distribution, inadequate storage facilities and poor access to markets, have all combined to keep agricultural productivity low. As a result, food production has not kept pace with population growth, resulting in rising food imports and declining levels of national food self-sufficiency, as well as the stunted growth of the smallholder farmer.
In Nigeria, of the enormous percentage of individuals and groups engaged in agriculture, more than 80 per cent are smallholder farmers – they usually own small plots of land of less than a hectare, on which they grow one or two crops at micro and small levels; and 72 per cent of them live on less than $2 per day. The nation’s agricultural sector contributes about 20.85 per cent to the GDP yearly, while the majority of its contributors live in abject poverty. Smallholder farmers are not just at the mercy of the elements, they are also limited by limited financial and business literacy. Guardian