The Oasis Reporters
December 12, 2017
“I’m spending a few days at home in Daura before I travel to France for the One Planet Summit. Today I paid a visit to my farm. I grow fruits & vegetables & keep cattle. I hope this will inspire one more person to take up farming. My vision is for a country that grows what it eats” – Muhammadu Buhari
Nigerians love simplistic nuggets which are not true, and often times stupid.
The statement credited to the president might look like a good advice. But put under scrutiny, it’s in fact, a damning verdict on the state of the nation and it’s unpreparedness to become industrialised. It’s not even ready to reach the lofty heights of quality and affordable food for all.
THE MORE OF YOUR POPULATION INVOLVED IN FARMING, THE LESS YOUR MANUFACTURING AND TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENT.
Let’s start with America. In it’s agrarian past, say 1850s, farming was the primary source of income. Hence 64% of the population were in on it. (SLAVE LABOUR AND A FEW LARGE FARMING HOUSEHOLDS PLUS WHITE FREEHOLDERS).
That meant 4.9 million of the 7.7 million people in America were involved in farming. This is typical of a nation in its infancy. Agricultural enterprise often provides the foundational wealth from which industrialisation is financed.
Fast forward to 1929, only 22% of Americans produced the food and industrial raw materials from farms for local consumption and export. This result is not far fetched. As massive wealth was generated from agricultural business, that wealth was used to fund technological development and infrastructural investment, which in turn produces an environment feasible for services and development of products leading to a more sophisticated economy.
By the turn of the century, year 2000, only 3% of the American population was involved in farming.
Soon enough, only 2% are in. It’s not hard to fathom. The technological advancement which agricultural practices funded, has now come full circle to drastically improve the processes and practices in agriculture.
According to the last US Census of agriculture (NASS, 2007) there are approximately 2.2 million farmers in the US comprising less than 1% of the US population based on a current US population estimate of 300 million
The end result is that the less than 1% of Americans produce enough to feed Americans. They also produce an awful lot for industrial purposes in health/medicine, manufacturing, science, and space exploration.
In fact, I do know that the Nigerian Flour Mills, which is a massively profitable company in Nigeria, was actually birthed off the back of excess wheat production in the United States. At some point, they were throwing excess wheat into the sea!
You will find in the Wiki entry that “Agriculture in the United Kingdom uses 69% of the country’s land area, employs 1.5% of its workforce (476,000 people) and contributes 0.62% of its gross value added (£9.9 billion).”.
The Eurostat (journal of statistics in Eurozone) puts it this way “Therefore, the agricultural labour force represented only 1.4% of the British active population in 2010, one of the lowest shares recorded among the EU Member States.”.
SO, WHAT’S THE POINT?
The ‘admonition’ of the president is basically, an admittance of ignorance as to how a nation can PLAN a STRATEGY for FOOD SECURITY.
All of the cash stumped up and flushed into ‘farming’ by the last administration and the current one could have been concentrated in large mechanised farm steads, between 60-70%.
The rest would then carefully be spread among small stakeholders.
The large farm steads will develop huge capacity for direct farm and allied industrial employment of Nigerian youths with technical skills in large numbers.
Just take a look at all the youths who studied Food Technology in the Universities and Polytechnics . How many of them are actually working in the food industry?
And we cannot just tell youths to ‘go into farming’! Even the Awolowo regime of the old Western Region understood that without the Agricultural Board to preserve the profitability of the small stakeholders, by buying their produce at going market rates, the cost of storing and marketing will leave the farmer perennially poor.
This is why you want to have the large farm steads. They can meet fixed industrial demands and will free up the small stakeholders to have a stake in the subsistence level.
A president who cannot even meet the demands of subsistence farming to inspire agriculture beyond ‘hand-to-mouth’ cannot be trusted. He’s got millions of naira money to run for elections. In fact, 27 million naira loan to buy just the form. Yet he could not borrow between 2-5 million naira to build a proper ranch, bring in modern processes and systems to stop the ancient free roaming which has been the source of disruptions to the agricultural sector.
The Fulani herdsmen have been known to cause unfathomable damage worth billions in naira to farm produce across the land. Might we remind him that those non-animal produce, feed and sustain more Nigerians than the meat from the cows?
And that bovine meat is only a fraction of the sources of meat consumed in the country?
We cannot build a country based on native intelligent sound bites masquerading as wisdom nuggets.
Neither can we invest the future of all our youths in farming. There are major areas of development we need. Doctors are in short supply. Astronauts we need. IT developers, Innovation Managers, Researchers, e.t.c are needed.