By Abdullahi Adamu
Nigeria’s economy has not been in good shape for the past five years and first went into recession in 2016. Then, in 2020, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it plunged into another recession – its worst in four decades. As a result, it recorded a gross domestic product contraction of 3.62 per cent in the third quarter of 2020.
There’s been a lot of uncertainty about where people should invest, mainly due to policy inconsistencies. This cut across various economic sectors. The poor performance of different sectors of the economy, especially the agricultural sector, has created uncertainty and unemployment. In addition, the recurring farmer-herder crisis has hurt agriculture in the country.
However, can agriculture be used to reduce the high rate of poverty and unemployment in Nigeria? Absolutely! Agriculture has the potential to reduce the high rate of poverty and unemployment in the country by employing millions of Nigerians across the agriculture value chain.
Take cassava processing as an example. Nigeria is the largest cassava producer in the world. There is much to gain from knowing the value chain of cassava, starting from production to processing and then marketing. Cassava, just like yam, is a root and tuber crop.
However, unlike yam, it can grow in relatively poor soil and low rainfall areas. Cassava and its by-products have various uses. It can be processed into starch: the cassava starch used for making paper and textiles. It can be processed into flour to make cakes, bread and biscuits. It can be processed into chips usable for animal feed. It can be processed into ethanol, which is used as bio-fuel when combined with additives. Cassava is also processed into fructose, used in the industry for sweetening fizzy drinks.
In Nigeria, we produce over 50 million tons of cassava every year, and over 26 states out of the 36 states in Nigeria produce the crop. Therefore, if we embrace good agricultural practices, the production, processing, and marketing of cassava can serve as a good tool to reduce the country’s high rate of poverty and unemployment.
It is also important to note that the most considerable portion of the population of Nigeria is the youth. The percentage of youth (age 15 – 35) among the unemployed population is 55.4 per cent. So, with increased youth involvement in agriculture, the sector can reduce youth unemployment.
Agriculture is the easiest and fastest route to empower the most vulnerable, especially the youth. However, it also needs improvement in the micro and macroeconomics of the country.
It is imperative to turn around the economic fortunes of Nigeria through the agricultural revolution, especially in the face of dwindling revenue to the governments due to the global financial crisis aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The country needs to sustain the present agricultural revolution tempo and bring about social engineering that will inspire more young people and women to engage in mechanised farming.
Abdullahi Adamu wrote via firstname.lastname@example.org.