The Agricultural sector is Nigeria’s biggest employer of labour. In the 60s and early 70s, it was a major source of exportation and revenue generation. However, Agriculture in Nigeria today is faced with different constraints which hinder productivity.
Both large-scale and small-scale farming are affected by these constraints and this stagnates the growth of Agriculture in the nation. These problems stem from planting to harvesting and consumption/commercialization.
Agriculture in Nigeria contributes about 41% to the nation’s GDP and employs about 70% of Nigeria’s population. However, these numbers could face a decline due to the problems facing the sector. Here are some of the problems we’ve identified and the solutions proffered:
Lack of recent methods, ideas, and equipment in farming affects agricultural output in all stages of the farming business. The absence of mechanization limits the progress of farming activities and this stagnates development.
For instance, the absence of irrigation tools limits farming in Nigeria to rainy season and lack of modern planting and harvesting tools could lead to an overload on human labor.
Likewise, lack of modern storage tools lead to food wastage.
In 2018, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe mentioned that about 30% – 40% of the foods produced in Nigeria are ultimately wasted. Even after successful farming, poor storage equipment could still stand in the way of successful distribution of good, especially perishable goods.
For instance, a crop like okra is considered highly perishable and should be used within two days. What happens if it’s not sold in that period?
The traditional method of storage, although considered simple and effective, is not entirely adequate. It may still expose agricultural products to rodents and other factors. Also, some of these storage methods are not water-proof and may still expose produce to water damage.
Mechanization is also needed in weather prediction. The inability of farmers to predict weather conditions can take a toll on farming productivity. High weather temperature or low weather temperature can have an adverse effect on farming. There is paucity of farming equipment which can be used to measure the weather. This exposes plants to unfavorable weather which could ultimately lead to their destruction.
Solution: The usage of modern tools in farming will make agriculture easier and increase productivity. Proper utilization of modern farm tools will improve the current state of agriculture in Nigeria.
The Ministry of Agriculture can provide farmers with cooling devices for transportation vehicles should be provided. This will enable food products to remain fresh during transport and upon delivery.
Replacement of crude tools with modern equipment such as tractors will make farming easier and take a load off excessive human labor.
Farmers should make use of weather tracking websites or applications. This will help them take precautions against adverse weather conditions.
For instance, high or extremely sunny weather causes evaporation which reduces soil moisture. Weather apps could predict this for farmers and enable them make provision for irrigation to prevent plant from dryness.
2. Lack of Proper Information:
There is an information deficit in Nigeria’s agriculture sector but that needs to change if we must make progress. Modernization cannot thrive if farmers are not equipped with the knowledge required to utilize modern tools and ideas.
There is more to farming than just digging the soil and planting crops. Farmers need to know how to select the right seed variety to get optimum yield, the best time for planting, best on-farm practices to reduce crop loss and how to partner with the right off-takers to get the best price for their product.
Knowledge on marketing, funding options, or addition of value to farming practices is also important. Obtaining this information is limited to word of mouth or other traditional means which may not always be accurate or helpful.
The absence of proper information could also lead to unintentional results such as agricultural pollution. For instance, some of the fertilizers and manure used for the purpose of enhancing plant growth may be made of harmful chemicals. This could lead to the destruction of the environment, hereby causing a negative effect on the plants.
This information may not be made readily available by the manufacturers of these products and thus, the farmers may be oblivious of their harmful farm practices.
Inadequate information also makes it difficult for farm activities and information about the farm market to be tracked. Pertinent information such as market prices are therefore open to alteration due to lack of proper information storage systems.
Solution: Farmers should be open to learning new techniques to improve their crop yield. They should also actively seek and share knowledge with their farming communities.
Adequate training and seminars should be held for farmers and new technologies should be introduced. If possible, farmers should be monitored to ensure new knowledge gained is applied on their farms.
3. Agri-marketing challenges:
Marketing involves all the activities involved in the conveyance of agricultural produce to their ultimate users. This can be a challenging process when adequate techniques are not used. Farmers rely on traditional marketing procedures which may not lead to profitable outcomes for them.
The presence of many middle men in the agricultural business may cause a negative influence on agri-marketing. In cases where the goods pass through middlemen such as the wholesalers, retailers, the prices paid by the ultimate consumer may also have to pass through these intermediaries before getting to the farmer.
As a result, the farmer may not make much profit as all these intermediaries have to take their cuts. Some of these middle men also take advantage of farmers who do not understand how the farm market works.
The presence of middle men in the loan process may also hinder agri-business. A farmer may not have the prerequisite to obtain loans from financial institutions. This arises the need for a direct link between the farmers and their sponsors.
Agri-marketing also suffers due to poor food packaging. Staple food may not be attractive to the ultimate consumer due to poor packaging and this could decline sales.
Even in cases where cash crops are properly packaged, the farmers may not have the means to reach out to their target market, thus hindering sales.
For instance, Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cowpea, cassava, yam and Africa’s largest producer of ginger, sorghum, rice, and others. (Source: https://www.finelib.com/about/nigeria-cash-crops/7). However, we are not the largest seller of these produces and one of the factors affecting that is poor marketing.
Another factor that could lead to decline in sales could be competition, a concept that some farmers may not have a strong understanding of.
Agri-marketing is also affected by unstable prices in the market. These prices could lead to poor estimation of produce cost and influence agricultural production in Nigeria.
The internet is a good platform where farmers can have access to materials that will better their understanding of agri-marketing. Knowledge of demand and supply of agricultural products, and proper application of it is necessary for agri-marketing to thrive. Farmers are encouraged to visit sites and read books for better understanding of the subject.
In areas where the internet may not be readily available, trainings, seminars, and master classes can also be held for farmers on agri-marketing and business in Nigeria.
The internet is also a good platform for farmers to directly meet their consumers. Farming platforms such as https://community.agricsquare.com/ help farmers connect with their community and gather information about the market for their food crops.
The advent of online farming and crowdfunding has made it easier for farmers to obtain funds for farming. Platforms such as farmcrowdy now exist where a sponsor and a farmer can meet without unnecessary intermediaries.You can be a part of the solution by sponsoring our farm.
Despite having about 2 million farmers, American farms contribute about 136 billion dollars to their nation’s GDP. If 70% of Nigerians are farmers, we have the numbers to contribute more to the Nigerian economy. However, this can only be achieved when the problems of agriculture are tackled.