Nigeria has currently ranked the country with the highest number of extremely poor people. It is estimated that 87 million out of the estimated 180 million population of Nigeria, which represents 45 per cent of Nigerians, are currently living in extreme poverty.
According to the country’s poverty statistics, the poverty rate in Nigeria’s South-west is 19.3 per cent; South-south, 25.2 per cent; South-east is about 27.4 per cent; North-central, 42.6 per cent; North-east, 76.8 percent while the poverty level in the North-west of Nigeria is 81.1 per cent.
The weak growth in the formal economy (0.8% in 2017) suggests that employment in this space will be relatively inadequate to reduce poverty. Also, the unstructured nature of the informal sector of the economy, coupled with harsh conditions, poor power supply and inadequate government interventions make the whole outlook bleak.
Nevertheless, agriculture can be used as an effective tool to fight poverty and combat unemployment. One way of achieving this is by making it attractive to young people. To achieve this, the practical aspect of agriculture in the school’s curriculum should be given equal attention as the theory. One way of doing this is by establishing viable school farms in both our private and public primary and secondary schools across the country. The idea behind this is to make agriculture an integral part of the school culture, so the pupils and students are well positioned to appreciate farming, and make it a lifestyle, even when they do not intend to specialise in it. The knowledge obtained from practical sessions on the school farm helps not only to re-enforce what is taught in the classrooms, it also equips the pupils/students with first-hand knowledge of how to run agribusinesses, which is very important in cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit in them.
Economic empowerment, as it relates to agriculture, refers to the ability to improve one’s standard of living through the income generated from the sales of agricultural produce. This means that practicing agriculture enables farmers to do many things to improve their own lives and to make them happy.
Apart from the benefits to farmers, agriculture also supports the manufacturing industries. Agriculture provides raw materials for manufacturing industries without which the industries cannot produce.
There are certainly many important benefits that agriculture can bring to the economy.
Daniel Ighakpe, Lagos.