About 80 per cent of the Nigerian population lives in the rural areas and they are mostly farmers engaged in subsistence agriculture. These rural dwellers produce the food consumed in the cities and most of the agricultural raw materials used by the industries.
Transport plays an important role in the economic and social development of a nation. A well functioning and integrated transport system increases accesses to markets and links local, regional, national and International markets and allows markets to operate by enabling movement of goods and people.
Similarly, many rural communities in Nigeria still lack good roads and consequently find it difficult to transport their goods. It even becomes difficult and at times impossible to reach some rural communities during the rainy season due to difficult terrain caused by bad roads or collapsed bridges.
In most cases, the vehicles needed in transporting the farm produce are not available. Where they are available, they are often rickety and lack the strength and courage to work.
This condition has resulted in longer journey times, higher fares, delayed journeys, unnecessary consumption, high cost and destruction of farm products and the increased risks of major delays.
Despite its contribution, it is acknowledged that agricultural production cannot be expected to meet the rising level of population demand in Nigeria due to the many problems confronting rural farmers.
In a chat with Leadership, an agriculture expert, Mr Mike Umoru, said that in rural areas where the foods are produced, the movement of farm produce even to the same rural markets is a problem due to lack of transport system.
Also speaking, Mr Paul Agada, emphasised that the poor in the rural areas would get poorer if effort were not made to ensure that these stimulus packages announced by the federal government got to them to enable them transport their goods from one place to another.
According to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, federal government was determined to actualise the objectives of the National Rural Travel and Transport Policy(NRTTP) because the socio-economic development and growth of the national economy depended to a very large extent, on the rural economy and enhancement of the income and standard of living of the majority of the population.
Furthermore, almost all the local government areas have their mass transit schemes in place.These vehicles engage in inter and intra-state movements. The unfortunate thing however is that most of them do not serve the interest of the rural dwellers as they do not operate within the rural communities.
The establishment and input of the Directorate for Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructures (DFRRI) in the 80s to support rural development and open rural roads was to improve accessibility to the rural areas. This was also to aid rural agricultural productivity and ease transportation of farm produce to the market.
Commenting on the issue, the National Coordinator, Rural Access and Mobility Project, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Ubandoma Ularamu, said implementation of the Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP), in six States of the federation has brought about a lot of revelations on the state of the rural roads in the country, adding that implementation of RAMP in Kaduna and Cross River States has revealed that given the right guidance, funds and the right staff, States could sufficiently address the challenges posed by rural transport infrastructure development and management.