• Saturday, April 20, 2024
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Revitalising Nigeria’s agriculture: Confronting food insecurity challenges

The issue of food insecurity continues to loom large across Nigeria, casting a dark shadow over millions of lives. Malnutrition, a grim reaper claiming countless victims, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, remains a harsh reality. While the world has seen e

The glaring contradiction of the events in Nigeria stuns the world. A land bathed in sunshine, blessed with fertile soil and abundant natural resources, yet burdened by the weight of widespread poverty. Millions of Nigerians struggle to survive on less than $2 a day, a stark contrast to the vibrant tapestry of its diverse economy—one fueled by agriculture, rich mineral deposits, and the infectious energy of its sporting and entertainment sectors. This seemingly insurmountable challenge, entrenched poverty, has its roots in both internal and external forces. Inadequate domestic policies and an unfavourable global economic landscape have combined to create a complex web of obstacles hindering Nigeria’s true potential.

In 1956, a gush of black gold erupted from the earth at Oloibiri, Bayelsa State, forever altering the course of Nigeria’s history. This discovery of oil propelled the nation onto the international stage as a major petroleum player. Suddenly, over 70 percent of Nigeria’s earnings flowed from this single resource—a seemingly endless fountain of wealth. However, this newfound fortune came at a cost. Enthralled by the allure of oil, other sectors, particularly agriculture, were sadly neglected. The fertile fields that once provided sustenance for a nation slowly began to lie fallow. The consequences were far-reaching. Nigeria, once a proud food-sufficient nation, was forced to turn to the international market to fill its plate. This shift, from self-reliance to dependence, exacerbated existing inequalities and plunged countless Nigerians into the clutches of food insecurity, casting a long shadow over the nation’s future.

Traditionally, the bustling fields and fertile soil of Nigeria formed the backbone of its economy. This agricultural sector, employing a staggering 65–70 percent of the national workforce, served as the lifeblood of the nation. However, agricultural practices remained largely rooted in subsistence farming, with a staggering 80 percent of the country’s food supply produced by small-scale farmers. This dedication to self-sufficiency held immense potential, but a shift in focus proved detrimental. As the discovery of oil ushered in an era of petroleum wealth, the agricultural sector, once the cornerstone of development, was relegated to the back burner. With petroleum revenue taking centre stage, essential investments in agricultural infrastructure, research, and modernisation dwindled. This neglect, a consequence of the oil boom, began to hamper agricultural productivity, casting a long shadow over the future of food security in Nigeria.

“With petroleum revenue taking centre stage, essential investments in agricultural infrastructure, research, and modernisation dwindled.”

The issue of food insecurity continues to loom large across Nigeria, casting a dark shadow over millions of lives. Malnutrition, a grim reaper claiming countless victims, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, remains a harsh reality. While the world has seen efforts to bolster food production, the fight against hunger persists. Population surges, an insatiable demand for energy, and the ever-present threat of climate change all conspire to exacerbate this complex challenge.

Read also: Food insecurity: Senate seeks introduction of food stamps

Yet, a beacon of hope glimmers within Nigeria’s borders. The nation harbours a rich and diverse tapestry of ecosystems, each brimming with potential. Lush pastures could sustain thriving livestock populations, while abundant water resources beckon for responsible agricultural practices. However, these natural advantages are not uniformly distributed. Variations in climate and precipitation dance across ecological zones, influencing not only farming practices but also the very food preferences of communities. This intricate tapestry of nature, while offering immense potential, also presents unique challenges that must be acknowledged and addressed.

However, a crucial turning point arrived with the discovery of oil. While the black gold initially promised prosperity, its allure eventually led to a stark neglect of other sectors, particularly agriculture. Lured by the promise of quick riches, Nigeria began to prioritise oil revenue, leaving its agricultural sector marginalised. This shift in focus, while seemingly beneficial at the time, has had far-reaching consequences, one of which is the rise in food insecurity that now plagues the nation.

Despite enduring years of neglect, agriculture clings on as the lifeblood of Nigeria’s economy. It remains a significant contributor to the national GDP, a testament to the unwavering spirit of its vast workforce, the majority of whom find their livelihood in the fertile soil. Yet a sense of missed opportunity hangs heavy in the air. The sector’s vast potential, brimming with promise, has been underutilised, overshadowed by the allure of the nation’s oil wealth. This overdependence on a single resource has stifled growth and innovation in agriculture, leaving a fertile land yearning for its rightful place as a pillar of national prosperity.

Read also: Lagos supports 5,000 farmers with inputs to tackle rising food prices

However, tackling the formidable challenge of food insecurity demands a multifaceted approach that transcends the boundaries of mere agricultural practices. The issue is deeply rooted in societal attitudes and ingrained behaviours. A disconcerting lack of enthusiasm for locally produced goods persists, creating a market gap that foreign imports often fill. Socio-political instability in certain regions disrupts agricultural activities, further hindering progress. Additionally, the inadequate infrastructure present in many rural communities serves as a formidable barrier, hindering the efficient transportation and distribution of agricultural produce.

Furthermore, the modern agricultural sector’s heavy reliance on energy, particularly fossil fuels, creates a paradoxical situation. While these resources are essential for powering equipment and transportation, their continued use exacerbates the very problem they were intended to alleviate. This necessitates a paradigm shift towards embracing sustainable and energy-efficient alternatives. Biofuels, derived from renewable sources, offer a glimmer of hope, promising to fuel agricultural progress without jeopardising future food security.

To address food insecurity and drive economic growth in Nigeria, a revitalisation of the agricultural sector is paramount. Policymakers must prioritise agriculture by implementing supportive policies and creating a conducive environment for investment. Diversification of the economy and reducing over-reliance on the oil sector are essential for a more resilient economy. Farmers should be empowered with access to modern technology, credit facilities, and training programmes to boost productivity and efficiency. Collaborative efforts among all stakeholders, including the private sector and international organisations, are crucial to developing value chains, improving infrastructure, and ensuring food security for every Nigerian.