By Omolola Pedro
Nigeria’s dependence on crude oil as its main revenue generation avenue has called for concerns from the people and stakeholders, over the years. In the early years of the country’s existence, the agriculture sector was a solid means of generating income; both for the government and the citizens. At this time, the government and the people play active and sustainable roles in making the agriculture sector a world-class venture. Export was flourishing. People farmed and farmed for. However in recent times, things have not been the same with the agriculture sector. If you say that it’s dying, you’re not far from the truth.
This is because appropriate quarters have shifted focus from the sector and are now focused on other things. Apart from oil, the country is dependent on white collar jobs. This is more particular to the youths. Agriculture is now seen as an old fashioned, outdated, and unprofitable adventure. But for how long would this continue? How sustainable are the new found loves of our people, when compared to agriculture? Agriculture now enjoys patronage only when there is a need a for a side/hustle, supporting source of income. Food production should not be seasonal, because hunger is not. According to reports, by 2050, the total world population is estimated to be at over nine billion. How do we intend to facilitate agricultural sustainability and ensure food security, to avoid starvation as a result of food scarcity?
In the 2022 Global Hunger Index (GHI), Nigeria ranks 103rd out if 121 countries. A recent report by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that there had been an increase in inflation rates right from the beginning of the year 2023. Every month, prices of goods rise in the general markets. Guess the category of goods that contribute largely to inflation? Yes, you guessed right. Food items! Yam, potatoes, oil, and even fish. Fish! You see why the agriculture sector needs to be revived as soon as possible? For as long as humans exist, agriculture cannot die. Crop farming, fish farming poultry, and others. All of these cannot die. You’re most likely already wondering how we can enhance food production in the country to avoid continued increased inflation, and maybe food scarcity. Not to worry, I have an idea. Technology. I’m sure this wouldn’t be the first time you’d hear that “technology can enhance food production” but a reoccurring question you’d most likely ask every time is “how”? Here are ways technology can contribute to food production and the sustenance of agriculture:
1. Modern agricultural technology can boost food production.
As of March 2023, the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) has projected that the country’s unemployment rate is likely to hit 37% before the end of the year. Imagine half of the unemployed population deciding to venture into agriculture. More people, more input, and more output. If half of the total unemployed people decide to go into agriculture with modern technological tools, what do you think would become of the agriculture sector? Massive production of food while also providing job opportunities for people. The use of advanced technological tools like the autopilot tractor, combine harvester and other tools on a large scale would consume less time, and give more output, as advanced tools are faster and easier to use, while also maximising production.
2. Enhance access to services.
Introduction of digital applications and Internet services can contribute to how farmers access services. Through digital and mobile applications, farmers can be able to equip themselves with necessary information needed to boost farming and avert losses. This could include access to weather forecasts and climate conditions before each farming season, have access to markets information, and be able to make necessary surveys without leaving their houses. Through technological innovations like this, farmers can also have direct access to buyers, where they can get to initiate and complete business talks and transactions.
3. Increased value chain.
Technology can also help to increase value chain by directly connecting producers to consumers. Through this, reviews and interventions can be made, when underperformance can be detected, addressed and corrections made, almost immediately.
4. Development of safe vaccines for animals.
Safe vaccines can be developed for animals using technology. Unlike the use of usually untested vaccines and medicines on animals, which sometimes result into avoidable deaths and losses, technology can contribute to developing safe vaccines for animals by testing already produced vaccines, prior. An example is the Irradiation Technology Initiative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which allows the development of safe vaccines for animals, which in turn boost the livestock industry, in places where diseases represent a huge barrier to a sustainable production, among others.