Anytime I travel to the countryside by road, I see farmers going to their farms on bicycle, each with a cutlass and hoe, a lot of other farmers who do not have the luxury of a bicycle, have to trek long distances to get to their farms. On my way back to Lagos, I stop by the roadside to buy green plantain, yam, oranges and assorted fresh vegetables. They are usually very cheap. As soon as I get to Lagos, I give out most of the fresh farm produce to my mother and a few friends that live nearby.
The reason why I am able to express the generosity is because the items were cheap.
Some questions keep coming to my mind, namely;
1. Did the farmer make enough profit to justify his labour cost?
2. What will happen to the unsold fresh vegetables?
3. What happens to the livestock without adequate grazing land?
4. If the farmer is not so literate, will he be able to educate his children?
5. If the production is rain-fed, what will farmers do during the dry season?
6. What happens when the rains arrive late or don’t fall long enough or the rains are too heavy?
7. How can productivity be increased so that the output/harvest will increase in quantity?
These questions and many more which are unsaid have been “answered” through government policies which have been formulated from over 100 years.
When government policies on production, research and development, agricultural finance, land use, import/export etc. are formulated, what happens to the implementation of the policy? Is government expecting too much from the farmer and the banks? Is there an enabling environment?
In all honesty, the Nigerian Government has tried where Agricultural Policy formulation is concerned but our problem lies in the proper implementation of the policies and compliance with policy guidelines.
In conclusion, the micro/small scale farmer is interested in how he can get more good seeds and cheap fertilizer before the onset of the planting season.
The medium and large scale commercial farmer is interested in how cheap funds can be accessed to develop and expand his farm and repay the loan over a long time.
In other words, these categories of farmers are interested in repaying their loan over a long time – say 5 to 7 years. Will the banks agree to lend long in view of the fact that they have short term funds?
Nigeria will surely get there.