Don urges FG to make agriculture Nigeria’s economic mainstay
For Nigeria to experience industrial revolution and be able to measure up with other industrialised economies of the world, agriculture must be made the mainstay of the nation.
This was the submission of the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Kolawole Salako during an interview with the media team from the Ministry of Information and Strategy, Ogun State, led by Mrs. Adeyinka Musa-Richards, the Deputy Director, Information (DDI).
Sharing his views on the Federal Government’s decision to revert to agriculture, the Vice-Chancellor said this resolution should not to have been derailed from before and after the country’s independence.
According to him, “the issue about agriculture is that it forms the basis of industrial revolution and if you check anywhere in the world and in the advanced countries, agriculture will definitely be first before industrial revolution”
Buttressing his point, the university don said, “Agriculture should have been the main ingredient for the development of industries; unfortunately for us in Africa; we produced raw agricultural materials in the past and sold them into industries in Europe and of course, the United States of America. Africans were producing the raw materials and we ended up developing the industries in Europe.
“So, the issue of going back to agriculture, when it comes to Nigeria, honestly we are not really going back, the policies have been there all along but somewhere, we didn’t implement them. The farm settlements were there immediately after independence and they performed excellently well in terms of livestock, cash crop production and food crops.
“After all and in the past, we had 79 percent exports, contributing to about 70 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). But in about 20 to 30 years later, we started having a situation where importation was accounting for more than 50 percent of the food we eat.
“Something went wrong after independence and so the Federal Government should come back to agriculture if we really want industries to develop”.
On the challenges facing the country in the areas of importation and storage, Prof. Salako noted that there is the need for reorientation of traders that believe that anything imported is superior in quality to locally-grown crops, adding that the government has a germane role to play in providing quality leadership that assures of food security.
According to him, “If we are talking about nation building, what it means is that the government too has a lot of role to play. The government must provide leadership; they must protect citizens and must build patriotism in the citizens.
“If that role is relegated, there can’t be nation building. On the issue of storage, it comes back to nation building. There are basic things that the government must provide, one of them is power or what we call electricity; the other one is water; housing too must be affordable; transportation and rural roads must be well developed and connected.
“We are not yet there in terms of storage and we would not be there in terms of storage if we don’t have accessible roads to get to where the storage facility is. We are not going to be there as long as we don’t plan for value adding. Most of the rice that we eat here are imported, it must have been in storage for years and what is the quality?
“Importation goes with the national psyche of wanting to import virtually everything. Food importation is accounting for 50 percent of importation into this country and the mentality that everything imported is good. Now, we import virtually everything. For the farmers who are producing, if we go ahead and do not protect them, they will be discouraged”.
While calling for the participation of more Nigerians and professionals in agriculture, the Vice-Chancellor said with the aid of information technology, almost everyone can now participate in agriculture such that “You can sit down in a place and manage your farm. I can sit down here and attach a device to the cow and I will be able to know when the animal is distressed.
“I can sit down here to check if my crops need irrigation water. Technology has got to that level. And there are so many apps now that will tell you the amount of fertilizer that should be applied to the farm or crop.
“There is rapid digital equipment that you can use to do tests. All these things provide opportunities for engineers and computer scientists to work together with agronomists to understand how to apply their knowledge”.
Shedding light on value chain addition, the Vice-Chancellor said it involves virtually every profession including those in the management sciences or logistics, stressing further the need to make agriculture the development tool for the country.
He disclosed that on the part of value addition to product, the University has the odourless ‘fufu’ flour, cassava bread, honey, bottled palm-wine, red oil and cashew nuts, among other products.
“Don’t forget that I started by saying that agricultural development will always aid industrial development. Now look at Nestlé Foods, they use cocoa and the rest of them to make things.
“But you know the funny thing? They concentrate on other African countries more than us and most of their laboratories are outside the country.
“It would have been so good if their laboratory was in a University like this because if you go to the United States of America and in some agricultural universities, you can have one department that will just focus on only one commodity because the donor would have established this department for them.
“The value chain in it is so wide that you can have virtually every professional including people in humanities, who can help us with the dissemination of information”, he added.