We be talking about problems in agriculture as though it is the root of all the evil happening around us in Nigeria. Hello! Problems generally arise from poor management, and often times they are blessings in disguise to improve upon what many would have thought a better system; at least that is the case for most developed countries.
Well, welcome to our Nigeria (and West Africa as a whole) where the problems we are facing with agriculture transcends time and even generations. It is like the problems are those will deep-rooted supernatural tap-roots that will need a like-for-like intervention for it to be resolved.
Some be shortsighted thinking agriculture is safe, based on its archaic primary school definition, of how it is the cultivation of lands, rearing of animals – all for human consumption. The definition to me is even part of the problem; where is value addition? Where is marketing? Where is technology? Where is sustainability? And the other essential things that ought to have been included; all omitted. Ok, say that was the first definition of some sort, cavemen and all – just focused on primary satisfaction; then why was it not refined? Developed? Or Revised?
So crazy that we still have the same set of problems dating 3 decades ago; the same poor infrastructure, poor this, poor that – that I wrote for pry1 agricultural science exams, same for jss1 and still did for my final year papers as an undergraduate [lol, funny in a pity way]. If care is not even taken who knows maybe my unborn lastborn will still repeat the same set in his papers too [hopefully not o, make Jesus/alkiyama kukuma just come].
So allow me enlighten you; lemme be your light in this dark night that is full of terrors [smilewinking] and share with you from my experience and study what the real problems are. I’ve summarized it into three points [cos I know all these lazy readers are already scared] which are accompanied by each of their respective probable solutions;
1. Branding/ image/ publicity
We all know how we package ourselves; maybe on twitter/instagram to get followers and likes in all of our majestic tushness, for a job interview to be considered all formal and responsible, and yeah for the best part – how we do it around that guy/lady that we have been eyeing.
Agriculture right from time in Nigeria have not been lucky to have such; our Nollywood and the society at large adorn agriculture with rags of poverty – there goes farmer Ojo Chukwuma Danladi; a stark illiterate cocoa farmer, he can hardly fend for his family needs, and yet acts like a pig because he is highly prolific. He settles-in after making heaps with palm wine and trust me that he’ll be heavily drunk. On the opposing end stands doctor Frank Ijoko Williams; all formal in his white overalls attending to patients with huge and welcoming grins, his parents are happy, the society loves him and his children attends king’s college.
So at an early stage in life; our orientation that agriculture is a poverty-stricken endeavor was set, that we rather pay attention during elementary science to be a doctor than even listen in agricultural science classes. Don’t get me wrong, medicine and surgery is a very nice profession but it shouldn’t have been to the detriment of agriculture [shey our adults said the sky is enough for two birds to fly simultaneously without hindering each other’s path].
This image from there created a ripple effect, the youth don’t want to get involved, and the ageing farmers are working day and night so that their litters can be anything rather than a farmer.
Now thanks to the advent of social media and youths in agriculture; this stereotyped image is being revolutionized. We all see prospects now; agricultural ICT, veterinary sciences, natural disasters management sciences, value addition consultants and experts, amidst a host of other career opportunities where we garnish ourselves in some classic-British suits.
Still; I believe it can be improved on, the culture amidst undergraduates where engineering students ridicule and call agriculture students names should stop [abeg]. We ought to effect the change together because that is the only way the image can be completely made anew, anybody can be poor so please let’s cut Ojo Chukwuma Danladi some slacks [I even have one poor doctor like that in my street with that his yeye Peugeot 504; so no dey think am o…smiles].
2. Agricultural facilitators (teachers and lecturers)
The education system in Nigeria generally is at a decline [I agree], yet one admires how the secondary school management goes about it though – changing textbooks based on contemporary findings [from intensive English textbooks to elementary or whatever names they call themselves and etc.].
Entrez moi professeur! They never update their lecture notes –they be feeding undergraduates [who we are still thanking God came for agricultural courses after a lot of rebranding and wooing] redundant research works. Dictating their ‘80s notes in class, some will even printout the entirety of Wikipedia to students as handouts [they will not even erase the web addresses o, lazy people], not narrowing/streamlining it to our situations in Nigeria.
Then one is left in wonder; is it that the profession is too hard? Or are the lecturers too blind that they cannot pick one of our obvious numerous problems to solve? And then actually lecture us on tested methods and not their theoretical jargon.
One is left with an obvious answer, they lack initiatives – in spite of their so-called research grants and numerous project supervision (though there are few exceptions to the rule). It is quite piteous that these are the same set of people who will dive into politics and later be the ministers/commissioners of agriculture and rural development.
I totally agree with what Nasir El Rufai did with Kaduna teachers, I believe same can be deployed for some of these lecturers. They should sit for entrance and occasional (say bi-annual) qualifying exams; one that needs critical reasoning which they can’t bypass by cramming past questions.
By so doing; under-qualified ones are relieved of their jobs as examples to others – consequently they’ll reason to put their wonderful brains together in a concerted effort towards improving agriculture. Some be like you’re a bad person, but hello they can always re-sit for the entrance exams when they are ready to work at it – we can’t have some lazy people soiling our rebranding efforts [abi na, winks].
3. Gestation period and management/leadership
Though the gestation part is more of an issue and not really a problem problem. Say you’re working at a company; of course you won’t be paid until an agreed time like the end of the day/month. Agriculture works like that too; only that it requires longer time – more like months, and years. The best way to go about this issue is to practice mixed farming, as well as having other streams of income.
The real deal though (i.e. the major problem battling agriculture in Nigeria) is management. Management is like a universal set that houses other subset-problems like poor access to credit and loans, poor infrastructural facilities, poor marketing, dead prospect, and the likes.
Management issues Contributors
Corruption and misappropriation of funds Lack of follow-up Lack of structure
access to credit facilities
The problem of no credit facility is ill, we do have the facility – the main issue is that the proposed beneficiaries are not benefiting from it. CBN grant and loan scheme for agriculture for example is pretty much the source of all these money-lending schemes [organizations like LAPO, or whatever name they call themselves in your locale].
Banks generally prefer lending to these organizations – to our precious farmers as the interest rates and returns are much more profitable. In some other cases too, some of our so-called youth vie for these funds under fake associations as they know that after 2-3months the monitoring and follow-up stops.
The same thing happens with our infrastructural facilities; even in the developed countries, roads and silos aren’t that strong that they last forever – they are maintained. First, our governments will start with shady highly-inflated budgets only to sublet crucial contracts at crumb-size cost to hungry and amateur contractors.
Then they keep maintaining the same infrastructure on and on with no obvious change, but all to siphon more funds.
There used to be a cocoa marketing board in the late 90s; then cocoa export was running smoothly (farmers and GDP were smiling), but because generalization of price wasn’t creating way for middlemen to embezzle funds – they made sure the system crumbled.
So Dr. Akinwumi (former minister of agriculture) came up with the GES (Grow Enhancement Scheme) using e-wallet. Farmers would be registered, allotted a special number to receive seeds and fertilizers at subsidized prize, even updated on global prizes so as not to be cheated by middlemen. The scheme was very successful at the onset; then they – the evil perpetrators – started with nepotism [person know who], later on; they registered themselves as farmers, award these facilities to themselves and resell to the real farmers at inflated prizes.
ADP [Agricultural Development Programmes] summarizes our management of agriculture in Nigeria, and even provided insight as to the reasons for many of our problems. It started as a multipartite project (World Bank, federal and state government and other key actors), and trust that it was running smoothly until it was handed over to our government.
The vehicles meant for extension workers for reaching out to farmers were not maintained [I’m quite sure some might have already been sold even before the fault sef, then the spare parts after…lol], funds for fueling stopped coming, seeds and fertilizers were sold to elites who can afford its inflated rates. Some few states still run ADP to a commendable level though, especially Kwara state [3 gbosa to them].
Management issue represents a chunk of the headaches we facing as regards agriculture in these parts of the world. Its effect are deep-rooted in our African philosophies that most would consider prayer in solving it.
However; for the less spiritual folks – let’s be of good morals and shun corruption at all levels. The system and funds are there, it needs our coordination to work, and when we are at it – let’s lecture our friends, family, and neighbors to do away from cultural bigots. We should stop the unruly killing of farmers and the destruction of their farms, we need to stick together and be alive to refurnish our agricultural sector.