The Federal Ministry of Agriculture, yesterday sounded what seem to be a warning alarm bell to the country. This seemed to come as a surprise, as Nigerians did not expect it. The Ministry, through its Minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has warned that if Nigerians do not return to the farm and take the business of agriculture serious, severe famine, which may result in death may hit the nation by 2050.
Nigerians, especially those leaving in the rural areas are pre-dominantly farmers, but this, according to the Minister will not be enough to cater for the needs of the country, owing to the rate of growth of the population, which will rise to about 509 million by 2050.
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The Federal Minister who made this assertion while defending his Ministry’s 2016 budget proposal before the Budget committee in the National Assembly said the country and indeed all major stakeholders needs to do more towards strengthening and improving mechanized farming, if the current situation were to be averted.
“We have written to state governments to encourage them to develop dams and canals so that agriculture becomes an all year round activity and it is not confined to the rainy season alone. Besides, by 2050, Nigeria population will be very close to 500 million at the current rate of growth. This is just 34 years from now. If we carry on at the current rate of one crop per year, with very low mechanization, Nigerians run the risk of starving to death.
“We intend to intensity and consolidate on the local staples, the yams, the cassava, the beans, especially rice and wheat. Both of which consume $11 million per day in import. The figure is going down a bit. We can’t afford that in the long run because we don’t even have the resources. The ministry has put necessary machinery in motion to stop the constant bloody clashes between herdsmen and farmers. We have decided we are going to develop massive paddocks across the country.
“What the cows are looking for is grass and water. We have the capacity to grow the grass we want not just any kind of grass but highly nutritive grass for the cows to eat. If it can be done in Kenya, Saudi Arabia, there is no reason why we can’t do it here. There is sizable provision for grassing at hinterland, by developing water, drilling of boreholes and small dams to irrigate those areas already mapped out. In the process we hope that the cattle herdsmen would have a more stable life.”
This is a statement that should spur the country into agro-production if the fall in oil prices didn’t do the job properly. Nigeria has for long relied heavily on oil and abandoned all other aspects of its trade, even agriculture, which was the mainstay of its economy in the times past. The discovery of oil, led to heavy importation of almost everything the country used to produce.
But a U-turn is not late and remains the fastest way to revive the Nigerian economy.