AGRICULTURE IS THE FUTURE Dr. Tony Wemton
Nigeria proudly turned 60 years this October. As an independent Nation, the Diamond celebration came with a powerful message inserted in the Logo bearing, “60 Years Together”. In actual sense of it, the country has been together, as an entity, despite political and ethnic centrifugal forces pulling her from different angles. But in the midst of all these challenges, we still see a silver lining that makes this great Nation hold sway. That is. Agriculture.
Agriculture has always played an important role in the economic growth of the country. It is the key area that, has also united the people of Nigeria, as they plant, harvest and trade together, even in the midst of all kinds of challenges.
Amidst the independent celebrations that came with mixed feelings due to the COVID-19 pandemic set-back, MOFI NEWS took a chance to have a chat with a renowned Lagos-based Agriculture Engineer, Dr. Tony Owatemi Wemton, Programme Director, Wemton Agricultural Development and Advisory Services(WADAS).
MOFINEWS: Sir, Nigeria has just celebrated its 60th Independence Anniversary and Nigerians were agog with diamond Celebration, even with the set-back from the Covid-19 attack that made the celebration very much a far cry from the kind of grand style celebration we had all looked forward
to, even though the federal government added some colour the celebration with mind blowing
message in the Logo; “60 years Together” How well do you think that agriculture fits into this message given the fact that agriculture plays major role in the economic growth and development of
DR. TONY WEMTON: Hmmm! It is definitely difficult for a nation to survive without agriculture activities. This is not just because agriculture is a source of food, but because it is connected to the production of all the basic human needs. It is agriculture that enables a nation’s production of export crops. For example, in the 1960s, agriculture was
the main foreign exchange earner for Nigeria, though export crops such as palm oil, cocoa, rubber, groundnut, to
mention but a few, have always played important roles. However, this status declined, as crude oil took over as the
nation’s main export. But nonetheless, agriculture is currently still thriving by producing export crops; the last quarter of 2018, the total value of exported agricultural produce was 85.9 billion. In the previous quarter, indicators
reveal that agriculture contributed 73.25 billion, so we saw that, there was a quarter growth of 17.3%. Also, looking at the important role agriculture places in boosting tourism in Nigeria, we consider that Agro Tourism development in Nigeria has had significant impact in the growth of this nation. Nigeria is blessed with Agro-Tourism locations that are increasingly boosting the nation’s economy, as well as promoting its ecosystem. Take a look at the beautiful sites
at the Yankari national Park, Obudu Mountain Resort, kainji National Park, Lekki Conservation Centre, Gurara
Waterfalls and many other breathetaking hotspots too numerous to mention. All these are blessings that have made Nigeria this great and they are still adding more value in the development of the nation. This has been helping the local people in these places to eke livelihoods from these spots and this of course, is a plus to Agriculture.
MOFI NEWS: Interestingly, too, the Federal Government, in order to give Nigerians a memorable 60th Anniversary launched the creative challenge to mark the Diamond Jubilee with the intention of using the opportunity to show the Nation’s strength as an indivisible Country: the challenge dwell on selecting the best photography that embodies the theme, “Together As One”. keying into this properly from the agricultural space, what strategies would you have Nigerians adopt as API, to boost the agriculture sector?
DR. TONY WEMTON: Oh! Yes, thank you very much for this question. I have already mentioned above that the
beautiful tourist sites we have all over the country, are indeed, a great blessing to Nigeria. The tourist destination
should be properly managed and sustained. If properly managed, they can be of immense benefit to the status And national economy. It is necessary for injecting cash into the agriculture sector, as a matter of priority. The resultant reward comes from the Tourists contribution to the sale, profits, tax and income of the States’ Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and the Country, through hotel lodging, feeding, and transportation, or other depending micro-businesses springing up. Aside from contributing to the economy, Agro-Tourism also leads to global recognition, creation of employment opportunities, preservation of local culture, promotion and sales of local products, both locally and internationally, thereby, attracting potential investors to the local markets and communities.
Job creation should not be over looked. Production, harvesting, transportation, processing, distributing, packaging and retail marketing activities need a raised. They all make up the agriculture value chain. You see! It is human labour that supervises all these stages to ensure a smooth flow and that is how agriculture creates job opportunities.
Agriculture sector is the largest sector in the Nigerian economy, employing about 2/3 of the nation’s labour force. About 70% of the Nigerian population engages in agriculture, at a subsistence level. Hence, state governments’ focus must be in this sector, bearing in mind that agriculture significantly increase their local IGR, if well organized and properly managed. Consider the pests and diseases infestations, post-harvest loss, poor road networks, and other challenges. The revenue generated from agriculture, remains the benefit of agriculture to these currently challenged sectors, if properly addressed, and shall in no doubt, return support and assistance needed for global competitiveness.
Source for raw materials for other industries. One of the most important benefits of agriculture is that, it serves as a pillar for many other industries. Agriculture supplies the major work- in progress, raw materials industries require to put their machineries in constant velocity. Without agriculture, they would not survive. This is because, agriculture products serve as raw materials for the products of many finished foods and goods items. There is also basic needs for human survival; food, shelter and clothing. All of these, are dependent on agriculture for their production. Raw materials such as crops for food, silk for cloth, and wood for shelter, all came from agriculture.
I can go on and on to list them. There are many opportunities for agriculture investments, such as, crop and animal production, to intangible ones such as, stocks, futures and bonds. Economic diversification cannot be overlooked. With the income from oil declining in Nigeria, the nation is seeking economic diversification and the agriculture sector is a mine substitute untapped to the fullest. So, we have to look at the different ways that agriculture aids economic diversification. And this is through production of export products.
Today, agriculture remains the leading non-oil sector of the nation’s economy providing nearly 70% nonpetroleum exports.
MOFINEWS: Early in the year, you were in Cross River State. Can you talk briefly on the visit, please?
DR. TONY WEMTON: Oh! Yes, I was in Calabar. My mission was simply to train women and youths who are involved in the Agro-processing productivity. The training was really very impactful. Digital Agric business
development is the in-thing now. Digital Agricultural platforms and e-commerce are also using variety of tools to improve the livelihood of small-scale farmers, helping to provide direct market access, and consumers, reducing
wastage, and post- harvest losses on many farmers. So is necessary to also prioritize this.
I commend the State Government for the good steps being taken to boost agriculture in the state, particularly as the Governor, has demonstrated through his agriculture policies. I personally, can’t wait for the Digital Governor to
establish e-commerce websites and other platforms for the benefit of farmers in the state.
“Agriculture sector is the largest sector in the Nigerian economy, employing about 2/3 of the nation’s labour force. About 70% of the Nigerian population engages in agriculture, at a subsistence level. Hence, state governments’ focus must be in this sector, bearing in mind that agriculture significantly increase their local IGR, if well organized and properly managed”.