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sustainable agriculture in Nigeria
The country of Nigeria is located on the Gulf of Guinea on the western side of Africa. Two major rivers run through the country. The Benue River is located on the east and it flows into the western river, the Niger River. With two large rivers flowing through their sub-Sharan climate, one might presume that agriculture would be a major source of income for the country. However, this is yet not the case.

Agriculture in Nigeria

Agriculture and, more recently, sustainable agriculture in Nigeria is an industry that employs most of the country’s population. The number of people employed in this sector is around 70 percent. However, it only makes up 22 percent of the nation’s GDP. This is indicated mostly through Nigeria’s unemployment rate that sits at 70 percent. Things may change soon. Various initiatives, speeches, articles and organizations in Nigeria all point to a bright future for sustainable agriculture in Nigeria and especially the future for the younger generations working for it.

Ade Adefeko’s Speech

In 2018, Ade Adefeko gave a speech to the Franco-Nigerian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an economic body set-up to aid business relations between ex-French colonies and France. Adefeko, who is currently Head of Corporate and Government Relations at OLAM Nigeria, outlined many important factors that hinder the growth of sustainable agriculture in Nigeria. He pointed especially to a lack of government funding. The funding has lowered down to just 1 percent of the total budget in 2018 from previously recorded 5 percent in 2008.

He also blames the lack of mechanization and techniques. Techniques are especially important for sustainable agriculture. Access to irrigation system is very hard for small farmers in Nigeria. This is rather odd having in mind that there is plenty of water from Nigeria’s rivers. To simplify his solution for the problem in two parts, Ade Adefeko would like to see a streamlined approach of land and water distribution from the government.

OLAM’s Role in Sustainable Agriculture in Nigeria

He would also like to see his employer OLAM, an international agricultural organization that supports sustainable agriculture in Nigeria and all around the globe, take even more active role in aiding Nigeria’s government and people. He would like to see OLAM continue to help the government store any excess crop yield. The other part of his suggestion is educating farmers so that they are more productive and can sell their crops more efficiently. Ade Adefeko and OLAM are not the only ones who see education of the population as the best way to understand the importance of sustainable agriculture in Nigeria and to provide solutions for this issue.

YISA and its Mission

The Youth Initiative for Sustainable Agriculture (YISA) Nigeria is taking a very active role in helping men, women, children and senior citizens to become better acquainted with sustainable agriculture. YISA’s mission is to take sustainable agriculture to the next step and to make it profitable. The organization’s goal is to make students of agriculture in Nigeria business savvy. They also want to rebrand agriculture and make it a popular and productive vocation. YISA runs five major programs that push this agenda in Nigeria. These programmes are designed to educate, corrects, encourage, inspire and motivate young people.

The push for sustainable Agriculture in Nigeria may eventually find itself at the precipice of an important decision. Should the people use the new found power for the country, keeping it home and small, or do they give it completely to large agriculture firms? Both of these choices have positives and negatives. The important thing is that sustainable agriculture in Nigeria can become so successful that it can make that choice for itself one day.

– Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

Two Current Programs for Sustainable Agriculture in Nigeria
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, the seventh largest in the world, and is growing faster than any other nation in the top fifteen of that list. When policy makers address the issue of a growing world and necessary advances in food technology, Nigeria must be a key part of that solution. Below are snapshots of two current programs working to improve sustainable agriculture in Nigeria.

A New Variety of Cassava

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is working with farmers in Nigeria to improve sustainable production of cassava. Cassava is a staple crop in tropical countries worldwide and has a number of advantages that make it a reliable crop in food-stressed areas. The plant is drought-resistant, can grow in marginal soils and has year-round availability.

CRS recently began a four-year project in Nigeria called Sustainable Cassava Seed Systems. The project delivers improved strains of cassava to the participants, along with education on maintaining and marketing the improved crops. According to one local farmer, the variety delivered by the CRS program produces more than three times the harvest compared to local varieties of cassava. This result is turning subsistence farmers in Nigeria into agricultural entrepreneurs, and ones who can return investments to their communities.

Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava, and the crop provides more calories per acre than any other tropical staple. As a key item in feeding a growing world population, increasing the sustainability and efficiency of growing cassava can have an inordinate impact in the elimination of global poverty.

Youth Initiative for Sustainable Agriculture

Besides being one of the largest and fastest growing countries in the world, Nigeria is also one of the youngest. Having such a large proportion of youth in a country can severely impact tax education and other infrastructure, but youth is not always a burden — in Nigeria, the youth are a formidable political presence, and youth organizations often play a major part in other social realms as well.

YISA, the Youth Initiative for Sustainable Agriculture, was founded in 2012 in Abjua and has a cooperative group of young people from 15-40 years old that run several programs to support and encourage sustainable agriculture in Nigeria.

Among YISA’s current programs are the Environmental Sustainability Project, the Youth Agricultural Reorientation Program and the Market Linkage Program. These programs promote education in the realm of environmentally responsible agriculture, introduce urban and unemployed youth to farming skills and productive agricultural pursuits and develop commercial outlets for sustainable agricultural products in Nigerian Markets.

While sustainable agriculture in Nigeria stagnated somewhat in the late twentieth century (in large part because of the nation’s enthusiasm for oil revenues), the Nigerian government and international organizations have returned to focus on Nigeria’s impressive agricultural potential. In a nation of over 180 million people, it comes as no surprise that the programs highlighted here merely scratch the surface of current activity. As these and other projects mature and develop, Nigeria will become an ever-larger presence in sustainable food production in the 21st century.

– Paul Robertson

Photo: Flickr