Nigeria’s economy has not been in good shape for the past five years and first went into a recession in 2016.
In 2020, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it plunged into another recession – its worst in four decades. It recorded gross domestic product contraction of 3.62 per cent in the third quarter of 2020.
There’s been a lot of uncertainty, largely due to policy inconsistencies, about where people should invest. This cut across various economic sectors. The poor performance of different sectors of the economy, especially the agricultural sector, has created uncertainty and unemployment. The recurring farmer-herder crisis has had a negative impact on 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 providing employment to 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 in 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 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. If we embrace good agricultural practices, the production, processing and marketing of cassava can actually serve as a good tool to reduce the high rate of poverty and unemployment in the country.
It is also important to note that the largest portion of the population of Nigeria is the youth. The percentage of youth (age 15 – 35) among unemployed population is put at 55.4 per cent. So, with increased youth involvement in agriculture, the sector has the capacity to reduce the high rate of youth unemployment.
Agriculture, as the easiest and fastest route to empower the most vulnerable, especially the youth, must be improved at the micro and macroeconomics of the country.
It is very important to turn around the economic fortunes of Nigeria through agricultural revolution especially in the face of dwindling revenue to the governments due to global economic crisis aggravated by COVID-19 pandemic.
All the country needs to do is to sustain the present agricultural revolution tempo as well as bring about a social engineering that will inspire more young people and women to engage in mechanised farming.