By Olamide Tejuoso
You probably woke up this morning to breakfast on bed, or you had your breakfast bag packed for you already alongside some lunch as you stepped out for work. Or in fact, you had a cake and some fruit drinks delivered at your doorstep because it’s your birthday?
Perhaps for starts, you had some fruits on your table, then some milk to your pap or cornflakes with some savoury steamed moinmoin ‘ẹlẹmi meje’ (beans pudding with seven lives) – All bought with your money! I guess. But have you ever stopped to think about where all of those come from? Their sources and how they are grown?; plus the processes each of those items you feed your body with, goes through before it gets on your table? Trust me, ‘The destiny of every table you set or is set before you, actually rests on the soldier of a person: His name – Farmer’. Familiar, right? You could call them our food heroes!
You might say, And so? What’s the big deal about farming? Is it not just tilling of land? Can’t anybody just farm? … Wow, farming like any other productive adventure, is a battlefield, a job full of long hours and hardwork; and there’s a lot that goes on inside of it than meets the eye.
From the days of sunshine and rain, to the days of drought and pain, someone’s means of survival is at stake while the farmer trusts his tools and seed to wrought wonders of yield during harvest. America’s third President, Thomas Jefferson once remarked, “Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens”. This is not far from the nature of farmers, who are hard workers as they never go on break in and out of season.
However, in a country where there’s still argument and controversies around a certain date for national farmers’ day. We, as consumers especially, should take on the responsibility of thanking a farmer in our own little ways.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, about 88 per cent of farmers in Nigeria are smallholder farmers producing 98 percent of agricultural produce such as maize, paddy rice, soybeans, sorghum, cocoa and yam that are needed for consumption with activities being carried out on the nation’s 74 million hectares of arable land.
There is never a day off for farmers, and we must often make them feel this worth. If you own a farm or a garden, you must have been through the rigours of land clearing and land preparation to making of ridges, seed planting, watering/irrigation, watching and guarding, tending and nurturing till harvest time. Despite that, all of these rigours, most times, is not commensurate with their income/take-home especially with the influence of middlemen, farmers still make varieties and choices available to alleviate hunger in the land.
Sincerely, that you were able to choose ‘jollof’ rice over beans and bread this morning, is likely because of the labour of farmers, who have taken this field as their destiny.
Asides just putting food on your table, do you also know that farmers keep the economy moving. As of last year, the agriculture sector contributed 23 per cent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the first half of 2022, according to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Dr. Mohammad Abubakar. Despite the little attention agriculture gets from the government, Nigerians often times, contend with poor land tenure system, low level of irrigation farming, climate change and land degradation including low technology, high production cost and poor distribution of inputs, limited financing, high post-harvest losses and poor access to markets; just to ensure that the food and nutrition of the nation is not stifled.
Finally, our environment is still sane and habitable; thanks to activities of farmers. There are many human activities now in the 21st century that could leave the air polluted for many days or even years. But thanks to farming activities, through cropping and afforestation; worse effects of climate change are stayed or prevented in the country. For instance; the reason why you could still enjoy some fresh air in your office or at home, after a long day job, is probably because of some farming practices that help absorb some of poisonous deposits from our mechanical activities.
Beyond setting aside a day for the celebration of farmers, this writer believes these life savers should be celebrated every day. I, therefore, challenge you, yes, you our dear reader, to thank a farmer. Remind them that you are grateful for the food on your plate. The jobs they created for you and your friends. Remind them that they matter. Remind them to be safe. Maybe, you even gift them something really nice too?