Agriculture alone cannot redeem Nigeria; we do not live to eat, we eat to live, love, create and be happy

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Agriculture

Five Onitsha kids were asked what they would do if they grow and become wealthy. Their answers hovered around getting fully-furnished homes, cars, private-jets, industries, companies and luxuries for themselves and their relatives. Nobody mentioned food, probably because food was not seen as achievement, instead a source of physical energy for life achievements. Though necessary, food is considered lowest among modern requirements for achievements like technical skills, scientific, social and emotional intelligence. This raises questions about the hype and prescription of agriculture as the main solution to unemployment and poverty in Nigeria.

 

Several Nigerian governments and economic experts have presented agriculture as the main hope of economic revival in Nigeria and Africa. In this drive for agriculture, they create few schemes for everybody to return to agriculture against “white-collar-jobs”. Hence, all Nigerians including graduates of geology, computer-science, English, engineering, petrochemical, banking and finance are redirected to face agriculture. Yet, many local farmers in Nigeria are unable to send their children to good schools nor earn decent incomes. The few Nigerians succeeding in agriculture require a lot capital to obtain modern agricultural supports like:

 

  • Chemicals for weeds (imported)
  • Fertilizers for the plants (imported)
  • Treatment for seeds to plant (imported)
  • Agricultural Consultancy (partly imported)
  • Equipment for irrigating drylands (imported)
  • Machinery (tractor, etc) for farming (imported)
  • Machinery for harvesting and security (imported)
  • Fuel for powering agricultural machinery (imported)
  • Vehicle to transport the harvested products (imported)
  • Equipment for processing harvested products (imported)
  • Communication gadgets for marketing products (imported)
  • Bandwidth to communicate and market products (imported)
  • Insurance scheme against disaster and accident (local support)
  • Money for labour – paper and ink to produce money (imported)

 

Unfortunately, Nigeria depends on foreigners for most or all these facilities, and pays heavily from selling mineral resources. Only few Nigerians can obtain capital for importing these set of agricultural facilitators, while others use hoes and crude tools. Often the cost for acquiring these farm equipment outweighs the total earnings of 4years farming. Also, the agricultural grade intended for Nigerians is basic agriculture for planting and harvesting crops for immediate consumption or export. While other nations industrially refine the agricultural products for processed foods and other advanced industrial products like pharmaceuticals and beverages.

 

Can Agriculture lift Nigeria out of poverty?

Each of Apple or Amazon companies with $1trillion net-worth[1][2] can fund Nigeria’s $22billion[3] average annual budget for 45years. These companies lifted themselves to such heights using technical skills in modern computing for production, instead of basic agriculture. The next twenty companies following these two, and whose individual net-worth can fund Nigeria’s budget for at least 20years are not based on agriculture.[4] Instead they are based on electricity, electronics, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, oil and gas, automobiles, retail, construction and manufacturing.

 

“Time-na-money” means we develop things by spending time on them, or we grow things in which we invest our time. By spending time to use, work or talk about things, we either grow them for ourselves or for somebody else freely or on commission. If we produce what people spend more time upon, we earn from them and become rich. A functional person spends less than 40minutes on eating daily, and the other time on human encounter, electronics (phones, computers), vehicles and machines. Even the time spent on food is shared with other things like air-conditioner, music, television, house, furniture and electricity. The gas, cooker, pot, spoons, plates, tumblers and other food-preparation equipment are not agricultural products, but industrial products.

 

Since Nigerians and other people around the world dedicate less time to food, agriculture may not rescue Nigeria from poverty. Due to local inability to produce technological support-system, Nigeria’s agricultural production is insufficient to feed Nigerians before exporting for foreign-exchange. Instead, Nigerians depend on imported rice, tea, wine, juice, chocolates, milk, groundnut-oil, frozen chicken, fish, turkey, canned-foods, corn-flakes, oats, corn-meals, brewery-malts, barley and others. Hence, government’s restriction of productivity to agriculture for Nigerians without adequate technological support is either ill-conceived or simply wicked. Though we need food to stay alive, we don’t stay alive just to eat, but to creatively impact our world.

 

Why is Nigerian government limiting Nigerians to agriculture?

After the industrial revolution, European industrialists came to Africa in search of raw materials to exploit for their industrial production. Using violence, they imposed discordant national boundaries and militarized governance on different unconsented peoples as partitions for resource-exploitation. Before leaving at independence, colonialists replaced themselves with Europe-trained loyalist-indigenes to continue supplying raw materials (agricultural and mineral) in exchange for finished goods. Europe continued demanding Africa’s cheap agricultural products for expensive industrial processing, until the technological progress of the late-20th century shifted their attention to crude oil. Hence, Nigerian government increased efforts to seize and auction the different peoples’ mineral resources (especially crude oil) for easy money. So other countries (Asians) industrialized, mechanized their agriculture and overtook Nigeria who relaxed its manpower agriculture for free oil money.

 

To justify seizing people’s resources, Nigerian government created states and local governments for sharing imported goods and services. Since Nigerians do not work to earn crude-oil-money, Nigerian government prefers auctioning crude resources to industrialized countries for consumer goods. Yet, the insufficiency of imported goods for 180million people and the disorganized political system keeps many people in poverty. When people are denied both access to their resources for industrial production and access to sufficient imported goods, they revolt. Hence, government uses agriculture to divert the people’s attention from demanding access to their resources for industrial production.

 

The hope that harvesting and exporting agricultural products will earn us enough foreign exchange to import technological items is deceptive. The price of 16-20 full maize in Ibadan (N700) can only buy one 500gram-pack of imported corn flakes. The price of 14 trucks of raw maize in Ilora, Oyo state can only buy one iPhone7 (N400,000). The price of 50baskets of tomato at N250 each in Gboko, Benue state, can only buy a (N12,000)bottle of Hennessey in GQ lounge. And the price of 100baskets may only pay for one semester tuition fee (N29,650) in University of Ibadan.

 

Without proper industrialization, eventual mechanized farming and industrial processing, agriculture in Nigeria may remain a distraction from real production. It remains a political excuse for blaming youths as lazy, while seizing and auctioning the mineral resources for industrial production.

[1] Mark Gurman, “Apple becomes first U.S. company to hit $1 trillion value” in Bloomberg 2nd August, 2018. Retrieved 7th September, 2018

[2] Sara Salinas, “Amazon reaches $I trillion market cap for the first time” in CNBC 4th September. Retrieved 7th September, 2018.

[3] Nigeria’s budget between 2016 and 2018 ranges between 6trillion and 8trillion naira, with naira exchanging for 360 to 1 dollar. www.dailypost.ng/2017/11/08/breakdown-2018-budget-estimates/

[4] Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/pictures/edjl45efeik/the-worlds-top-25-companies/ retrieved 7th September, 2018