”Unemployment, notably youth unemployment features strongly in our party’s manifesto. we intend to attack the problem frontally through the revival of agriculture, solid minerals, mining…”
This is an excerpt from the inaugural speech of President Buhari after winning the 2015 election. He had stated that his government will address the country’s unemployment problem through the revival of agriculture. Nigeria is a nation filled with natural resources, in the 1960s the largest industry in Nigeria was agriculture, with cocoa dominating in the west, palm oil in the east and the production of groundnut in the north. Nigeria was the world’s largest producer and exporter of the ever-common palm oil with a global share of over 40% in the 1960s. Today the share is less than 2%. In 1965, agriculture was responsible for 70% of employment, export cash crop while also contributing massively to the 62% of foreign exchange and 66% of GDP.
The agriculture industry in Nigeria is mainly occupied by the production and processing of the following produce: cocoa, peanuts, cotton, palm oil, corn, rice, sorghum, millet, cassava (manioc, tapioca), yams, rubber, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, timber, and fish.
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Agriculture’s decline in Nigeria came soon after the petroleum boom. The overvalued naira combined with the shift towards the new money-making machine that was petroleum meant agriculture was no longer a priority. According to the latest GDP figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), agriculture accounted for 29% of Nigeria’s real GDP in the third quarter of 2019. The government has had an eye on the agricultural sector for reasons which include Self-sufficiency through agriculture that directly impacts food insecurity, an important problem in a country where food poverty is a problem for the ever-rising population.
To boost agriculture and indeed the rest of the economy, The President has looked to restrict competing imports by closing the Nations Borders. Closing the borders is visually representative of protectionist policies that remain very attractive to the Nigerian government. The rationale is that restricting foreign competition will urge consumers to patronize local producers and nudge more local producers to invest given the higher chance of success without foreign competition. Campaigns like “Support Nigerian business” and “eat what we grow” are attempts to convince Nigerians to support their own.
From crop cultivation to livestock and aquaculture, we have a massive deficit in both the quantity and the quality of produce we churn out yearly. For example, Nigeria still imports more than 60% of the rice consumed yearly which amounts to over 3 million metric tons, making the provision of rice a 1 trillion-naira industry. It’s a similar story with tomatoes; we still import over 1 million tons of paste yearly (FAO, 2018). In order to stabilize the economy and have a backup plan for the eventual decrease in the use of crude oil Nigerian’s have to go into agriculture and decrease the dependency on petroleum as the economic foundation as Agriculture is the country best bet to economic development, job opportunities, and wealth creation.
Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, has restated the Federal Government’s commitment to boost agricultural production in Nigeria. The minister disclosed this during a 3-day Annual National Stakeholders Review and Planning Workshop in Zaria. Represented by Mr. Frank Satumari, Director of Extension of the ministry, Nanono said Nigeria was faced with the issue of aging in agricultural extension services. He noted that the young officers were not being trained to take over from the senior officers that were retiring.
Nanono called on and urged Nigerians to embrace the Govts proposition and work together to return agriculture to its glory days in Nigeria. In a bid to curb unemployment and increase farm produce to the marketplace, Nanono reiterated the FG’s plan to include youths in the agricultural sector. Similarly, Cellulant is poised to support the Federal Government of Nigeria’s ambitions in the Agric sector, the tech giant through its Agrikore platform is connecting thousands of youths to work in the Agric value chain across Nigeria. The Connect to work initiative kicked off in Kano on Thursday, January 30th. The event had the permanent secretary representing the commissioner for youth and sports, Mallam Ibrahim Ahmad Sagagi in attendance closure other dignitaries and thousands of teeming youths & participants.
Retail Marketplace manager, Jennifer Onyebuagu, said,” Cellulant is committed to raising skilled and employable youths, national builders and labor providers with the” connect to work” initiative. We are going to train you on stock keeping and stock managing, trade fulfillment managers, enumerators, marketers, and so many other opportunities many of you can plug into. Cellulant is not stopping with Kano, we are going to Bauchi, Nasarawa, Gombe, Sokoto because there are millions of youths that need our support and we are committed to providing them with the necessary skills, training and tools they seek, don’t lose your opportunity to work”. Connect to work is empowering youths in cities across Nigeria with the train having tremendous Impact in Jigawa, Ogun, Oyo, and Kwara State.
However, Agriculture remains an untapped goldmine in Nigeria. Nigerian youths (consisting mainly of Millennials and Gen X) are yet to experience and explore the numerous potentials in the Industry and how vital it can be for our economy. Leveraging on the youths connect to work initiative will afford all the opportunity to see how factors like financing, technology, Government policies, and programs come together in a coordinated manner to make agriculture work, which is what Agrikore is all about.
The agricultural industry in Nigeria has the potential to rake in billions of dollars for individuals, businesses and the government yearly, thereby improving the economy, drastically reducing the unemployment rate and alleviating the poverty issues in Nigeria while also making the country self-sufficient. With Agrikore the possibilities are endless.