Another sunny side of the Covid-19 is in Agriculture. Food is the third most important factor responsible for human survival after air and water. Lack or inadequacy of food in a society leads to food insecurity, the most deadly form of insecurity, which kills people slowly, steadily and continuously. Agriculture is the process of producing food, feed, fiber and many other desired products through crops and livestock productions. So, agriculture is a critical sector for both economic development and achievement of food security. In Nigeria, however, the agricultural sector has grossly been neglected over the years. For example, the budgetary allocation to agriculture as a percentage of the overall annual budget to all sectors were 1.25%, 1.82%, 2.23% and 1.56% in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. These budgetary allocations are completely different from the actual budget releases for implementation. On the average 60% of the budgetary allocations are implemented. Well, the budgetary allocations are far below the 10% of total annual budgetary allocation of the country as recommended by the Maputo declaration, an agreement signed by the African Heads of States in 2004. Maputo declaration was aimed at increasing government investment in Agriculture, which has high potential for massive employment.
In Nigeria, agriculture has the potential to provide employment to over 70% of the population. As a country, we are yet to cultivate 60% of our arable land due lack of infrastructure, low level of agricultural mechanization and poor extension delivery services. Can we overcome these three major factors militating against agricultural productivity? The answer is emphatically “yes”
COVID-19 Pandemic is providing us with a golden opportunity to revive agricultural sector. The Pandemic has presented a prospect to Nigeria to rethink deeply of excessive interdependence and overreliance on other nations for her economic prosperity, especially, in terms of supply of food, inputs, capital, technology, and knowledge. It further exposes Nigeria, to the dangers of maintaining a monoculture economy such as petrol and also echoes the urgent need for a holistic, disciplined and coordinated approach to production and income diversification through agriculture.
On the food security situation, over the years, Nigeria stabilizes its food demands through massive importation of food especially rice, sugar, tomato etc. According National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigerians spent a total of N334.3 billion to import prepared foodstuffs, beverages, spirits and vinegar and tobacco in the half-year (January – June) of 2019. Furthermore, between 2015 and 2019, foodstuffs, beverages, spirits and vinegar and tobacco imports into Nigeria was estimated at N2.25 trillion. Covid-19 is likely to change the sscenariocenario of massive importation of foods into the country. This is because the countries supplying Nigeria with food items are equally, if not devastatingly affected by the Covid-19 and may not have excess of food to export. So, Nigeria must produce enough food to meet the demands of her teeming population and avoid the looming food insecurity.
How can this be done?
With strategic thinking, adequate planning and commitment to implement the plan, Nigeria can feed all Nigerians with excess for massive exportation to other countries. The agricultural resources in Nigeria are enormous, the manpower, both skilled and unskilled are gargantuan but need to be galvanized to produce the desired results. Fortunately, we need not to invent the wheel as it was long invented. We can start green revolution in earnest by involving all the three tiers of governments; local, state and Federal and the diverse stakeholders in the Agriculture Sector. We can initiate this revolution today. The ball is in the court of the Federal Government to kick-start this initiation.