Farming is an age old profession. The genesis of farming could be traced to the garden of Eden(in the Bible)where God put the first people on earth-Adam and Eve.It has been practised by past generations and will continue to be by generations yet unborn. It is the most rewarding but highly neglected occupation in Nigeria.
At independence,farming was a hereditary career handed over to the son by the father.. A child followed his father to the farm and watched him did the job and learnt the rudiments of farming in the process. That was only for subsistence in nature and farming was done with crude implements -hoes and cutlasses.
INTRODUCTION TO SCIENTIFIC FARMING
Today,civilization or education has brought a lot of changes to agriculture. Science and technology have introduced mechanized farming and instead of hoes and cutlasses,mechanized devices such as tractors,mowers,and other machines are employed to weed,cultivate and harvest farm produce. However,majority of our farmers in Nigeria still depends on the obsolete implements which are are wearisome and frustrating. Full mechanized farming is mostly practised by the elite farmers who have access to the corridor of powers and use their political leanings to monopolise the machines.
LACK OF CONTINUITY OF GOVERNMENT POLICIES
In all Geo-political zones in Nigeria,there are suitable form of one agricultural products or the other. Now that oil has failed us,each of the state of the federation is involving and diverting attention to agriculture.Perhaps, one of the major constrains of Nigeria’s development apart from corruption in the polity can be attributed to lack of continuity of development policies on the part of the government and its indigenous development agencies..As such, numerous development programmes have suffered still-birth owing to abandonment by successive administrations.Some of the development programmes that are now relics of history include:OFN,GREEN REVOLUTION,DFRRI,FSP,FEAP,PAP etc.
In 1970s, General Gowon’s National Accelerated Food Production Programme and General Obasanjo OFN both concentrated on extending cultivable areas through large scale mechanized farms which were run inefficiently. The productivity problems of Nigeria’s peasants who accounted for over 90% of total agricultural output were ignored. The Shagari administration continued this agriculture programme but with a different tag-Green Revolution tailored towards agricultural development. What happened to it after Shagari’s era? Total neglect for quick to get oil glut.
As mentioned above, in Nigeria,successive governments have been known to have advocated a mass return to the land on the part of the youths of this country. They have posited that the destiny of this country is with the youths going back to the farms,hence the slogan”Back to land”. A critical examination of this reveals that the whole exercise is nothing short of delusion because it was not properly handled. No amount of television agriculture propaganda or campaign to score cheap political points will make the youths go back to the land unless the governments take pragmatic approach to bring a change to the use of obsolete agricultural implements used on farms. Farming should be made as attractive as pushing a pen. Most of the agriculture graduates are complaining of lack of patronage or discouragement in taking farming as their professions. Only few ones are lucky to be trained by governmente lucky to be trained by governments. Loans are difficult to come by and they still use crude implements and made to employ labourers on the farms with huge wages paid to them leaving them with little or no profits.
BENEFITS TO EXPECT FROM FARMING
There are numerous advantages in farming. Farmers get a lot of food from the farms freely which in turn will save a lot of money that could have been spent to buy them in the markets. Such money saved,may be used for other domestic purposes. As a professional or government, there is the opportunity to be involved in large scale farming. Produce from cash crops or arable farming can be utilized in the country and also export to foreign countries.This will earn us foreign exchange and positively affects our GDP There will be food in abundance at affordable prices both for the rich and the poor.
—Efforts should be made by governments to provide enough tractors for rentage at rock bottom fees and provide adequate seedlings for the established and would-be farmers.
— Loans should be made available to young and willing graduate farmers who want to be involved in farming
—Farmers should not be heavily taxed as it has been the practice in the past to encourage them on the farms.
—Governments at the Federal and local levels must create a monitoring team who will see to the genuine distribution of farming implements,seedlings and even loans to the ready farmers and youths.
—-There should be price incentives and guaranteed profitable producer backed up by well run countrywide buying organisations for farmers who choose to engage with them.
—-Wide Silos and other storage facilities should be developed.
—-There should be a reduction in waste and inefficiency by governments handling the distribution of local and imported fertilizer to private organisations.
—-Some of the governments reserved lands could be leased out to farmers and young graduates .These lands are usually used for low cost housing estates which mostly are not affordable by the middle-level workers meant for because of the high prize tag on them
—-Also , the rubber plantation in the East,groundnut pyramid in the North and Cocoa plantation in the South-West should be REVIVED.to boost our local consumption and foreign reserves.
The government should stop playing politics with farming. Farmers in Nigeria are still poor and regarded as voiceless in the scheme of things,be it business, politics and what have you. This is not so in advanced countries such as Ceylon,USA,India, China etc.These countries are prosperous because they take farming and farmers seriously.
The country, Nigeria is suffering in the midst of plenty because of past governments lip service or lackadaisical attitude towards it because of cheap oil glut that has now back pedaled and snowballed us to square one.Nigeria should be able to achieve self sufficiency in such produce as: :yam,maize,cassava,beans,rice etc and even export surpluses within a reasonable period of time if some of these suggestions are taken seriously for implementation.