Agriculture use to provide livelihood for about 60 per cent of Nigerians labor force, a main stay of most nation; it is said that any country that cannot feed itself is an impoverished land. Countries like Somali, Darfur and others are being sustained by the United Nations and other organization because they are not able to feed their citizen.
Yet Nigeria that boasts of fertile land has majority of its citizens impoverished. Farmers’ yields have been reported to be stagnated. Although total output has been declining, the Nigerian farmers have suffered years of neglect, successive government have paid lip services to the plight of farmers and farming in Nigerian. Nde Goshit, a farmer from Pankshin in Plateau State said that,” we have heard all manner of things like the Green revolution, Operation feed the nation, DFRRI, and so on, yet none has gotten to us, instead thing became worst. We only hear billions of naira on newspaper being release for the Agricultural sector, yet nothing ever get to us, fifteen years ago, I will farm and get twenty tons of food, but now getting two tons is a big task, I cannot afford fertilizers, the politicians only give their party men, the ones government subsides is re-sold in the open market for five thousand –seven thousand, so farming is no longer lucrative like it use to be in the time of our parents and even when I started about twenty years ago.”
Another farmer from Gusau, Zamfara State, Mallam Shehu Inuwa and he said “in my state, things are getting better for farmers, we use to have problems with farming, but since the coming of democracy, our state government from the time of Yerima have been trying to revive and improve the sector. They have made farming very lucratic for us. What they do is to give us soft loan, after farming, they come and buy the food from us and sell it to the federal government, so we make profit from farming now. If they will continue this way, then our youths who are rushing to work for government will come back to farming.”
On his part, Peter Asukutu, an Agricultural consultant said “Agriculture plays an important role in the development of humanity. It is widely believed that the domestication of plants and animals allowed humans to settle and give up their previous hunter-gatherer lifestyle during the Neolithic Revolution. When government Develop the Agricultural sector with latest techniques, it will increased Agricultural productivity output and this can led to a revolution. There has been a remarkable shift in Agricultural practices over the past century to correspond with new technologies, like the use Synthetic nitrogen, along with mined rock phosphate, pesticides and mechanization, which have greatly increased crop yields in developed nations.
These were all part of The Green Revolution and it lead to the export of the technologies to the developing world. In this country, successive government have claim to subsidies the agricultural sector, yet the sector is gradually been eroded from our system. Nigerian Agriculture can be revolutionised by introducing things like hydroponics, plant breeding, hybridisation, gene manipulation, better management of soil nutrients, and improved weed control, occurring plants, such as higher yields and disease resistance. If farmers can be taught how to modify seeds, it can germinate faster, and thus can be grown on a fast level. Develop nations now use Genetic engineering of plants particularly in the case of herbicide-resistant plants engineering and that allows it for easy irrigation, drainage, conservation, sanitary engineering, this type of farming required little fossil fuel.”
Reacting on this issue, Alhaji Mohammed Mogaji, the National publicity secretary of All Farmers Association of Nigeria who believes that “people started losing interest in Agriculture a long time ago, because whatever one does, you will want to benefit or reap from it. you spend a lot of money without getting anything from the farms, the output is always small compared to the input. For example, if the cost of production per ton is five thousand naira, you take your goods to the market and you sell a ton for three thousand, five hundred naira, it means you have lost form what you invested in. With the way the state and federal government are handling agriculture, I will say that, people are just suffering for nothing. But if the government at all levels will adopt the new technologic that is being done in other nations, things can change for Agriculture. during the Obasanjo time in 2003-2004, there was a fifty billion naira loan that was release for the sector, farmers were not able to access the money, the conditions attached to the money were so difficult of the average farmer to meet up, then during the late Yaradua tenure, there was two hundred billion naira that was release for the sector again, though it was intended for commercial farming, but still, many people were not able to access it because of the same conditions.
Let me tell you, Nigeria is being feed by the smallest farmers. The big farmers are very few and when they produce a lot, they put it in their store and leave it for two- three years; they take farming as a luxury. But the small farmers bring the small gods they are able to produce to the market, anytime you go to the market, who do you see supplying goods? I am glad government has introduced this new price that will help the small scale farmers. If these small farmers can be assisted with seedlings and fertilizer at the appropriate time and rate and let me repeat, at appropriate time, not the one that they will start giving farmers fertilizer in June /July, fertilizers should be given in January/February so that farmers can use them in the farms. Government should also come in when they farmers harvest their crop; they should give them farmer’s fair price and sell it to the public. In the past, anywhere you go in Nigerian and see a beautiful house, they will tell you, it is owned by a farmer ( tsarkin noma) , but lately anywhere you go and see beautiful house, they will tell you it is owned by a custom officer, senator, member or permanent secretary. Another thing is that, the land too is not arable, in the past, when you have a farm in your family, it can sustain you but as the family grows, and continue to use that farm, it become too small for the whole family and they gradually stop yielding crops like it use to because of over use. If the Nigeria farmer can be given the required assistance, then we have no reason to import food from other nations. Let me tell you, Nigeria is being feed by the smallest farmers. The big farmers are very few and when they produce a lot, they put it in their store and leave it for two- three years; they take farming as a luxury.”
A staff with the ministry of Agriculture, Bala Y. said, “the problems with our Agricultural sector is corruption, government have really tries to revitalize the sector, let me tell you, every year, government spend $4.2 billion (N638.4bn) to import agricultural produce, where does this go to? Government also release N22 billion yearly for fertilizer, do the farmers get them? Where does the fertilizer go to? These are questions I expect Nigerians to start asking, yet they keep insulting government. if these monies is allowed to get to the intended farmers, then Nigerian have no reason to comply of joblessness. This sector alone can create over ten million jobs for Nigerians. I think government became weary that is five, not much is relapse to the sector again. Before the Agricultural sector can improve, Nigerian must fish out the people that are frustrating government effort. There should be a proper investigation by the house and anti-graft bodies and those indict be prosecuted. Government has spent trillion on this sector over the years and it is only fair that, Nigerians get return for their monies. Agriculture is the only sector that can create jobs for teeming Nigerian youths and also generate money for the country.”