Expert tasks government on mechanised farming to attract youths

• 2 % Of Federal Agriculture Budget Abysmal

Government at all levels have been advised to mechanise agriculture to take away the drudgery associated with it, so as to attract young people to the farms and change the economic narrative.
This was among the concerns of a university don, Prof. Charles L.A Asadu, when he recently delivered the 2017 University Press Plc’s Authors’ Forum lecture in Ibadan.While speaking on ‘Agricultural Policies, Programmes and Smallholder Farmers Systems vis-a-vis Food Security in Nigeria,’ Asadu, a professor of Soil Science at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, blamed frequent policy changes and poor budgetary allocations since the advent of oil boom in the 1970s, as reasons for Nigeria’s poor performance in the agricultural sector.

He also advised that the sector be made more attractive to prospective young farmers.Asadu also called on government to, first of all, map the country’s soil structure so that would-be farmers have knowledge of what to plant where and at what time of the year. By so doing, according to him, efforts would not be dissipated by farmers, who would rather maximise scarce resources to achieve desired good harvest.

He said Nigeria evidently does not have food security, as a result of certain factors that militate against farming. Most food producers in the country, he stated, reside in the rural areas and are small farmholders and do not have the capital to transit to large-scale, mechanised farming. He also blamed poor budgetary provision to the sector as responsible for this development, saying only 2.0 per cent of the yearly federal budget goes to agriculture.
“The vulnerable and food insecure in Nigeria include the poor, smallholder farmers, children, pregnant women, lactating mothers and the elderly,” Asadu stated. “It has been estimated that 60.8 per cent of Nigerians are malnourished… For example, Nigeria still imports about $22 billion worth of food annually, especially wheat, rice, fish and sundry items, including fresh fruits and, as result, Nigeria is not food secure…
“National Bureau of Statistics reported that 24 per cent of households in Nigeria have food inadequacy and that South-East topped the list with 61 per cent, while six per cent reported in North-West was the least. According to the report, more urban households (28 per cent) had food inadequacy than rural households.”
For Asadu, Nigeria’s food problem is not insurmountable if adequate attention is paid to the agricultural processes. First, he wants the drudgery associated with farming, through the use of crude implements, to be removed. According to him, farming techniques passed down from forefathers are not no longer tenable in a modern world and unless this was changed for mechanised farming, young people would continue to give farming cold shoulders. He noted that government has tended to go along with smallholders’ age-old farming techniques and has done nothing to revolutionise them to meet with modern demands.

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