Africa’s vast arable land has long held the promise of feeding not only its own burgeoning population, but also contributing significantly to global food security. However, a harsh reality persists; more than 50% of Africans go to bed hungry. Nigeria, as one of the continent’s largest and most resource-rich nations, is no exception to this disheartening statistics.
The Nigerian agriculture sector, despite its immense potentials, grapples with numerous challenges that have stifled its growth and competitiveness on the international stage. One of the most glaring impediments to agricultural progress in Nigeria is the pervasive use of outdated farming practices. Despite the existence of modern agricultural technologies and techniques, many indigenous farmers remain tethered to traditional, often inefficient, and labour-intensive methods handed down through generations. This reluctance to embrace change not only limits crop yields, but also hampers the sector’s overall growth.
Another formidable obstacle to the modernisation of Nigerian agriculture is the slow adoption of technology by small-scale farmers, who constitute a significant portion of the agricultural workforce. Illiteracy and limited access to capital create a dual barrier, preventing these farmers from harnessing the potential of modern farming tools and techniques. The consequences of this technological lag are dire, leading to significant post-harvest losses, estimated at a staggering 50% of yearly crop output. Small-scale farmers, lacking knowledge and resources for proper crop preservation, bear the brunt of these losses. Dr. Manzo Maigari, the Director-General of the Nigeria Agribusiness Group, has aptly pointed out that Nigeria has yet to meet international best practices in agriculture, despite its favourable climate and vast, fertile lands.
This failure to optimise its agricultural potential places Nigeria at a disadvantage compared to countries with smaller landmasses, such as Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia, which have successfully thrived in world markets, particularly in the realm of rice production. Even countries like Libya, situated in desert regions, have managed to dominate the wheat and barley market through judicious employment of irrigation techniques. To address these pressing challenges, there is a growing consensus that Nigerian farmers must transition from a subsistence-oriented approach to one that treats agriculture as a business. This shift in mindset is essential for unlocking the sector’s full potential. As Dr. Ikechukwu Kelikume, the Programme Director of Agribusiness Management at the Lagos Business School, emphasised that farmers need to view themselves as entrepreneurs.
They must approach farming, not merely as a means of survival, but as a viable business opportunity that can significantly contribute to both their own prosperity and the nation’s food security. In recognition of the urgent need for change, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has taken proactive steps by initiating programmes and projects aimed at empowering local farmers. These initiatives are designed to promote the use of technology in agriculture, creating a competitive farming system capable of thriving in global markets. To overcome the challenges of illiteracy and limited capital, efforts are being made to educate and train farmers in modern farming techniques. Additionally, access to financial support and capital is being facilitated to help farmers invest in technology and improve their farming practices.
Nigeria has the potential to set high standards for agriculture that can serve as a model for others to emulate. By optimising its abundant resources and embracing modern farming techniques, Nigeria can ascend to a leadership position in the global agribusiness market. In summary, while challenges persist, the pathway to transforming the agriculture sector in Nigeria is one of immense promise. With a shift in mindset, increased technological adoption, and unwavering support from the government and institutions, Nigeria can harness its abundant agricultural potential. This transformation journey requires dedication, innovation, and collaboration among all stakeholders. Doing so, Nigeria can work towards ensuring food security, reducing hunger, and establishing itself as a formidable player in the global agricultural arena.