By Kunle Oguntegbe
Renowned Development Economist, Arthur Lewis once said, ‘if Agriculture remains stagnant, industries cannot grow’. For an agrarian economy with a total population of 183 Million, 70 percent of which are youth, isn’t it amazing to know that only 23 percent of the youth are involved in Agriculture? What an irony!
Prior to the discovery of oil in the 1950s, Nigeria used to be a top exporter of food and agro-allied products. However, due to the economic mismanagement, laziness on the part of the youth, relative neglect of agricultural resources as well as population upsurge amongst others, the country has lost her top position among agro-food exporting countries in the universe.
Agriculture has subsequently been relegated to the back seat amongst the productive sectors in the Nigerian economy. In this 21st century especially, it is more convenient for a Nigerian youth to roam the streets of Lagos for 30 days in search of unavailable jobs than to till the soil and make few ridges for maize production. Yet, everyone prays for abundant food. A spy into the future of Agriculture in this nation will make one to shake head in pity. A biblical Joseph might be needed to prevent Malthusian trap in this country as food production seems to be dwindling while population keeps growing geometrically like green algae in a culture medium.
In Nigeria, youths’ involvement in agriculture is nothing to write home about. The sector appears deserted by the younger generation who prefer to enjoy urban lifestyle leaving the old folks on the farm, thus reducing productivity. Attempts by previous administrations to get the youth back into Agriculture have proved futile. Several campaigns, promotions and even incentives have been employed to ‘lure’ the youths into farming profession. Slogans like ‘back to soil’, ‘green revolution’, ‘Agroprenuers’ amongst which were popular in the 90s are now going into extinction.
One cannot but wonder where Nigeria has got it wrong. Is the Country suffering from ‘Dutch disease’? Why are the younger generations no longer interested in farming? Has the Agricultural sector become a forbidden kingdom for Nigerian youths? These are questions begging for answers.