Modernization And Its Threat To Agriculture
By Psalmuel Adekunle, Alice Ajakaye
The agricultural sector once contributed up to 70% to the GDP but the trend was dwindled by the emergence of petroleum in Nigeria. In recent years, the federal government has made conscious efforts through some aggressive agricultural reforms to assist farmers in getting loans and fertilizers to improve their farming methods.
Rural farmers were taught new methods on how to farm and develop agribusiness.
With the recent cut in the price of oil and austerity measures strategically put in place, the economy may suffer a huge setback if agriculture sector does not boom. Oil and gas constituting 15.9% of the economy may plummet in the next five years, according to economic experts.
There is a huge investment opportunity in Agriculture sector. However, factors like land ownership, credit acquisition, farm hands supply, fertilizers and so many more still limit many farmers.
For example, the urbanisation of rural Lagos is posing to be a major set-back for farmers in the state with constant struggle for land between companies and farmers.
According to the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture, the state possesses about 5,000 per km to pressure on land for non-agricultural purpose. It also states that the aggregate food supplied internally is less than 10% of total food consumption but the ministry is hoping for 25% increase in the next five years. This is still not enough to feed everybody in the state.
One of the strategic measures the ministry is putting in place is Agricultural land holdings and management to ensure genuine farmers get access to land.
Lagos state may love agriculture and have audacious plans to be self-sufficient in food production but land acquisition is still a major challenge for farmers.
Some farmers in Lagos recount how they have fared in land redistribution programme.
Mr Eugene Njoku, the chairman of Abundant Blessing Adiyan Co-operative Agricultural Multipurpose Society (ABACAMS), said, “one afternoon we just saw caterpillar coming, destroying and uprooting everything we have worked for from cash crops to food crops.’’
They were not given any notice, he said. ‘’We have been farming on this fallow land for over 25years and the officials of water corporation and the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture are all aware of our presence.”
“We have written letters to the Lagos state government, attorney-general, and ministry of agriculture but we have not been replied since 2012. These are some of the letters (flaunting the letters).”
Lagos State Water Corporation, Adiyan fallow ground, has been re-claimed by the corporation for construction of water projects to aid the industrialisation trend at expenses of agriculture.
Efforts made to speak with the construction company, SALINI, in charge of the project, was ridiculed by the security officials who said, “you can talk to me, or I walk you out.”
He said, ‘’this place used to be a farm land before but now the Lagos state government has decided to use the place for water project. You can’t meet anybody here until you go to the Lagos state government, nobody will answer you.’’
Meanwhile, Mr Njoku says the impact of the land reclaim has left many of his members devastated. Challenges like this not only crush practicing farmers but also scare young farmers and agriculture SME’s and stakeholders from going into agriculture, he said.
“Fallow lands may be called up by owners anytime thereby making agriculture in Lagos state a risk for farmers.”
Efforts to interview representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture proved abortive. One of them said over the phone, “You can go ahead with your story. We’ve tried all our best to help them [the farmers] but we can’t fight against ourselves. We are both government agencies.”
As at the time of this report, farmers under Abundant Blessings Adiyan Co-operative Agricultural Multipurpose Society who were affected have not been fully compensated. Their spokesperson has called for the government to assists them with loans to launch their agribusiness.