We’ll love to thank everyone for following up on our series for the past 2 weeks; for your likes, shares, and comments. We do hope you are learning something new, and would love to have feedback of not just commendation, but how you think we can improve on what we are doing.
This week, I’ll like to make my first point on why I think everyone should be a farmer. But before then, I’ll like to repeat a caveat I gave last week that when I say everyone should be a farmer, I am not implying that our entire population should be in the fields growing food. Yes, many of us must return to the fields as crop or livestock managers, veterinarians/ scientists, engineers, technicians, project managers, and the likes, while others would do it only as a hobby, in the backside of their homes or offices. Some would need to invest in agricultural ventures, others would purchase stocks in agro-allied businesses whilst others still will work in the agro-media space, giving reports on food production and nutrition. Some are involved in government or non-governmental agencies as extension officers while a few others would find themselves in parliament where laws are needed to force the government to invest heavily in infrastructures that enhance food production and storage, and so the list is endless. In the end however, everyone plays a role or two in the food value chain, farming directly or indirectly.
HUNGER AND FOOD SHORTAGES: We are 1.2 billion people in Africa with nearly 400 million people living in extreme hunger and food shortage according to world hunger reports. That is almost a third of our population. Nigeria, being the population giant of Africa accounts for a significant number out of that. Poverty, environmental challenges and humanitarian crises are key reasons for hunger and food shortages. The North East of Nigeria alone accounts for 8.5 million people who are hungry and in dire need of food and other supplies. That is about the combined population of the European countries of Norway and Georgia. It is a depressing fact that 100 million Nigerians live on less than $60 (N22,000) monthly, yet we have vast areas of arable land not yet cultivated. I travel a lot by road, and I am bothered by hundreds of thousands of hectares of arable land that can be put to use, at least to produce food for people to eat that is lying fallow. Many people are not aware of the potential of agriculture to lift people out of hunger and poverty. Let’s take the N22,000 naira I mentioned earlier. Any person who earns below that monthly is regarded as extremely poor. That money can grow maize in an Acre of farmland with a minimum harvest of 2 tons of maize per cycle (An acre of land is six plots. In most rural areas, it can be rented for between N1,500 – N2,000 annually). Currently, a ton of maize is selling at between N87,000 – N90,000( It is not always so. It sells around N70,000 – N75,000 during the raining season). You can plant at least two cycles annually, early and late maize. The hybrid maize available in recent times is a 75-days maturing (i.e 2 and half months). With irrigation and proper planning, modern farmers are doing 3 – 4 cycles of planting annually. Other post-harvest costs will include shelling, bagging, and transportation. Do you see what this adds up to? But can I shock you? We still import almost 35% of our maize demand presently, mostly for neighboring Benin Republic. In a particular year, it was reported that we produced 2 million metric tonnes of maize when the demand was 3.5 million tonnes.
So essentially, we are not producing enough even to feed ourselves. It is the same with others like soybeans, cassava, rice, wheat, vegetables, beef, fish, milk and virtually every farm produce. In January this year, I bought some coconuts in a food market in Port Harcourt, Rivers State of Nigeria. They were imported from Ghana!!! If this doesn’t give you a headache, I wonder what else would! We can choose to be farmers, or die in hunger and abject poverty. See you next week.