Historically, before most African societies made contact with the western and European countries, most African societies were simple societies; some with central government and others with decentralized government. The ancient Nigerian civilization thrived on Agriculture. Farming in this era was basically for feeding and exchange. It was also subsistent. People practiced mixed planting and mixed farming on a small scale for consumption.
However, with the industrial revolution in Europe and rise of capitalism, European countries in search for market for their products and for their resources came to Africa and found both Human and Natural resources in abundance. The discovery of this market led to colonialism. Nigeria during the colonial era witnessed huge movement of agricultural products from our native land to foreign countries and in exchange, finished products from Europe were traded in Nigeria. During the colonial era, Nigeria experienced boom in Agriculture and the focus was on research and extension services. Notable development in this era includes establishment of the Department of Agriculture in the North in 1912, Development of botanical research in 1893 and Central development of Agriculture was established in 1921. The focus of this era was production of cash crops for export to European market which was booming with industries. Crops such as groundnut, maize, soya beans and so on. This boom led to the development of the Niger Agricultural project in 1949. Northern region majored in cocoa and the eastern region majored in the production of oil palm. During the post colonial era, between 1962 to 1969, Nigeria achieved a major shift from manual agricultural practice to mechanical forms of agriculture. Mechanization of the agricultural system in Nigeria greatly expanded the sector. Some notable programs within this era includes River Basin and Rural Development Authorities 1976, Operation feed the Nation 1976, Green Resolution 1980, Agricultural Development projects; a program funded by the world bank.
Prior to the discovery of oil (petroleum) in Nigeria around the 1970, agriculture was contributing over 60% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). With the discovery of oil in Nigeria, there was a significant decline in our agricultural production. Production of cash crops almost came to a halt as focus shifted to oil exploration. Agricultural sector witnessed a scary nose drive of about 25%. This decline led Nigeria into importation of Agricultural products to meet the local food demands. Between 1969-1945, over 110 million Naira was spent annually on importing food items and the statistics stands even higher as the Nigerian Minister of Agriculture stated in one of the National Dailies of 27/8/2018 that Nigeria spends over $ 22 billion every year on food importation.
With the dwindling price of oil in the international market with benchmark of below $50 per barrel in the international market, it has become imperative for Nigeria to focus on other areas other than oil.
Nigeria is rich in human resources with over 180 million people and Nigeria is blessed with 923,768 square kilometres landmark. About 60% of Nigerians live in rural areas and majority of the people are directly employed by agriculture. Most of these farmers farm on small scale for feeding and little sales. With much investment in the agricultural sector through research, provision of high breed seedlings, provision of machineries and provision of loan for farmers will boost agricultural productivity in Nigeria. Nigerian government also needs to establish industries to process raw materials into finished products in other to match foreign competition and reduce waste.
With the current ban in rice importation, there is an improvement in local rice production and consumption. The efforts made so far by the government are commendable however; much still needs to be done. According to reports Nigeria imported 3 million metric tonnes of rice in 2018 which is about 400,000 metric tonnes more than the quantity imported in 2017. Nigeria is listed amongst the biggest rice consumption market in the world, an investment in this sector will yield returns in $ billions.
Sadly, Nigeria today has a high unemployment rate index. According to the National Bureau of statistics, unemployment rate rose from 18.8 percent in 2017 to 23.1 percent in 2018. About 20.9m Nigerians are jobless. It is believed that over 60% of the Nigerian population live in rural areas and engage in agriculture for survival. Investing in the agriculture can reduce the unemployment ratio. Government should develop farm reserves and employ youths to work in these farms. The government should encourage production of export crops like rice, soya beans, cocoa, maize, oil palm e.t.c. This will not only reduce unemployment; but will contribute greatly to the Gross Domestic Production (GDP) of Nigeria. The call for investment in the agriculture should not just be left for the government. The private sector should be encouraged to invest in the agricultural sector. Government should make policies; provide lands and farm machines at subsidized rate to encourage those with low capital to also invest in this sector.