Globally power and agriculture have remained twin sisters in the development and sustainability of economic growth in both developed and developing countries. No nation of the world can boast of economic viability without investing heavily on these two sectors, especially in this 21st century where modern technology has made investment in economic activities very easy.
In developing countries like Nigeria, the survival of about 60-70 per cent of the total population is hinged on agriculture and their productivity can be enriched with steady supply of electricity in these communities.
The economic potential of Nigeria’s agriculture sector is second largest after oil and gas with an estimated 60 per cent of Nigerians employed in the rural areas. Economic activity in the sector although consist mainly primary production with limited value added through processing and agribusiness, it contributes to employment, food production, foreign exchange earnings, industrial inputs and Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Therefore, there is need for the deployment of innovative technologies in all aspects of these two sectors in order to sustain their transformation and by extension the rural areas where the farmers live in line with the transformation agenda of the Federal Government.
Like in many developed countries of the world, the infusion of scientific knowledge and technologies to agricultural practice, process and business automatically endowed such economies with remarkable transformation from simple agrarian societies to high-tech mechanized farming including employment of best practices for product re-engineering and other techniques to achieve increased yields and other general improvement of economic activity in the sector. The new technologies beside increases in agricultural productivity require scientific and technological skills as a system for technology extension and other services for farmers, and commercial orientation in farm management.
But the question is, are there modern scientific and technological agricultural tools in the country to make agribusiness more attractive? Do farmers get enough incentives from the government to boost their efforts in ensuring that there is no shortage of farm produce in the country? Do they have enough water for the irrigation of their farms? Are there small dams to support their farming activities and at the same time electricity to power the dams? These are just few questions among many that need answers.
In many parts of Asia like Malaysia, China, Indonesia, Japan, etc. small farmers have shown remarkable capacities to use new technology once they are given incentives, adequate financial and infrastructural support. Also, small cash-crop farmers in Africa like Kenya, Uganda have demonstrated the potential of farmers within the continent to use technologies and in the last few years successes have been recorded in food crops also. But ecologically disadvantaged areas and land-poor rural masses in African countries like Nigeria have not benefited from advances in technology and will not until there are deliberate efforts to distribute such technology resource, machines and infrastructure among other incentives. In an increasingly globalized world, therefore the ability of African farmers to find pathways out of poverty and to contribute actively to the growth process depends on improving infrastructure and education, distributing key technologies and inputs, and promoting producer and marketing organizations that link small farmers to new market chains.
Nigeria is blessed with a wide variety of agricultural potentials, ranging from varieties of crops to varieties of animals, plants and natural agricultural-supportive factors like forests, waters, soil and most of all human resources that are being under-used. Findings indicate that, in many African countries, only agriculture has sufficient scale to increase economic growth significantly over the foreseeable future.
Agricultural growth is also more effective at reducing poverty, even in countries that may have the potential for industrial growth driven by rich natural resources. Within the agricultural sector, there are a few countries that can generate broad-based growth without expanding the food-staple and livestock subsectors.
It is also a fact that Nigeria with vast arable land, favourable weather condition and population advantage has all it takes to feed its population. Economic analysts also believe that with the right policies in place, the revenue stream from agriculture can effectively surpass earnings from oil. However, the general consensus among the economic players is that such economic transformation can only occur when Nigerian farmers move from being mere agents of food production to being businessmen and women who enjoy the fruits of their labour.
What government is doing in agriculture and power sectors at present.
The present government came with a lot of promises to revitalize the agricultural sector of our economy which had once fed this nation and nations far and wide with her cocoa, groundnut, palm oil (not crude oil), rubber, hides and skins etc. A vision for agriculture is expressed in the National Economic, Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) document, which was adopted in 2004. The strategic objective of NEEDS is to move the economy away from oil and to foster private sector development with community participation. NEEDS recognizes the importance of agriculture in the Nigerian economy, despite the projected dominant role of oil as the chief export. Poverty reduction in Nigeria is critically dependent on agriculture, given the share of the labour force producing rural goods, prospects for food security and the supply of industrial raw materials. Accordingly, the government is committed to increasing investment in food and agricultural production with 3 per cent of the national budget going to agriculture and a growth target of 6 per cent for the sector.
To restore agriculture to its former status as a leading sector in the economy, NEEDS envisages an increase in agricultural exports to $3 billion by 2007 and reduction in food imports from 14.5 per cent of total imports to 5 per cent by 2007. The Federal Government is at present doing a lot in the transformation of both power and agricultural sectors knowing very well that the economic sustainability of the nation depends largely on them.