Agriculture: The Alternative Economic Hub

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In the face of current economic challenges in the country, there have been calls among stakeholders for the diversification of the economy from its oil-based monolithic status.
Since the discovery of oil in Nigeria in 1956 and the oil boom in the 1970s, oil has dominated the economy of the country. Nigeria presently operates a monolithic economy with over 95% dependence on oil. Oil accounts for more than 90% of the country’s export, 25% of Gross Domestic Products (GDP) and 80 per cent of government total revenues.
Consequently, this has led to substantial instability in the country’s economy, a concurrent decline in other economic sectors, and the collapse of infrastructure and social services.
Worthy of attention is the fact that oil is gradually losing its relevance as the major driver of the economy globally due to discoveries like solar energy and other alternative energy sources for vehicles and various uses. Solar energy, for instance, evolves to become one of the most cost effective and efficient sources of energy.
These developments have affected the prices of oil in the international market. The U.S Energy Information Administration (EIA) has predicted that between now and 2022, solar energy and other renewables will account for the majority of new power.
Before the discovery of oil, Nigeria’s major economic earnings was agriculture but the advent of oil led to the neglect of the obvious potentials in agriculture. Agriculture has suffered from years of mismanagement, inconsistent and poorly conceived government policies, and the lack of basic infrastructure.
Still, the sector forms about 42% GDP and two thirds of employment. Agriculture provides a significant fraction (approximately 10%) of non-oil growth. Poultry and cocoa are just two areas where production is not keeping pace with domestic or international demand. Fishery also has great potentials but is poorly managed.
It is no secret that Nigeria is blessed with arable land and resources for agriculture and there is no tropical agricultural crop known to man that cannot be grown in Nigeria.
Agricultural development in order to be enhanced should be based on the concept of comparative advantage of the North, South, East.
The North occupies 70% of Nigeria’s land mass giving it a comparative advantage in terms of agriculture, raw materials and livestock . A large chunk of the north is arable and supportive of year – round food production. With a transition from subsistence to mechanized agriculture, northern Nigeria alone can produce enough food to feed the whole of Africa.
The south is blessed with abundant water resources, adequate rainfall, numerous rivers and ponds to enhance aquaculture. Aquaculture has been the world’s fastest growing food production sector for nearly two decades.  The contribution of fish farming and fisheries to the nation’s economy is very significant in terms of employment, income generation, poverty elevation, foreign exchange earnings and provision of raw material for the animal feed industry.
The Eastern region is also not left out as it is a major source of palm oil production. In the 1950s, Nigeria held centre stage as one of the largest producers and exporters of palm oil accounting for more than 4% of the country’s independence from British colonial rule in 1960.  Palm oil contributed 82% of national export revenue.
Having considered all these, it is imperative that all parts and regions of Nigeria should be made to embrace agriculture. Government should mobilize people from every region and give incentives.
The Green Revolution introduced by the Shagari administration in the 80s should be revived. The programme which was intended to ensure self-sufficiency in food production and introduce modern technology into the Nigerian agriculture sector largely through the introduction of modern imputs such as high yielding varieties of seeds, fertilizers and tractors should be reenacted.
There should be proper sensitization and mobilization of the rural areas to be actively engaged in agro-based activities and the provision of loans and incentives for “Real Farmers”. These funds should be monitored to ensure that they are not hijacked and diverted by portfolios carrying farmers.
Currently, Nigeria wastes a staggering 1.3 trillion on food imports, virtually one third of the annual budgets. Therefore, government should reduce the rate of importation of food and invest this money in agricultural development. All stakeholders must be sincere to ensure that agricultural revolution in Nigeria is not politicized.
It is obvious that with the phasing out of oil in the global scene, the economic future of Nigeria can only be secured through massive investment in agriculture. Agriculture can be the most reliable way to sustainable development and economic advancement. It covers all aspects of human activities and also serves as the basis of humanity. Therefore, Nigeria should give it first place by developing and exploiting the sector.
Enebechi is a student of Abia State University, Uturu.

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