By Emmanuel Tobiloba
The agriculture sector constitutes a myriad of financial potential many Nigerians, especially those in the urban areas, are yet to maximise. I was entrenched with this reality during my experience as an agriculturist managing a farm project in Kwara State.
Prior to this, I had done some research on the financial opportunities in agriculture but didn’t really take the data and statistics seriously until my experience in Kaiama, a village in Kwara State in search of soybeans to meet the demands of the teeming off-takers who made orders far beyond what was produced on the farm I managed.
To my surprise, I noted that hotels in the area were filled up and the road was buzzing with merchants in search of soybeans while the local farmers kept increasing the price of soybeans daily. The evening I arrived, the price for a bag of soybean was around N18,000 and was pegged at N23,000 the following morning.
Beyond the price hike, I witnessed the excitement of merchants from various localities as they struggled to buy agricultural produce and also experienced a similar scenario at a cassava market in Oyo State. My experiences in both markets (soybean and cassava) made me come to terms that the agricultural sector is a gold mine we are yet to tap into its full potential.
While it is not everyone that may be interested in growing crops or breeding livestock, there are many other opportunities in the value chain that can be leveraged. One of such opportunities is the buying of produce for resale. With access to a database of local farmers, one can buy from them, store and resell at a relatively good price to a needy market or an agro-allied company. Formulating and milling livestock feed is one other way to leverage the opportunity in the sector.
Another area of opportunity is solving agricultural problems with a tech-based approach. No doubt, technology is making our lives and work easier and this is not an exception in agriculture. Some of the strategic production based enablers where technology serves as an indispensable tool include;
Precision Farming—A satellite farming concept based on observing, measuring and responding to inter and intra-field variability in crops.
II. Smart Farming System—an approach of using modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to increase the quantity and quality of products while optimising the human labour required. It involves the use of sensors to monitor soil, water, light, humidity, temperature management (with an arduino and a simple code, a sensor can be built). It also includes the use of IoT (Internet of things), robotics, connectivity (cellular) etc.
III. With the prevailing problem of climate change, another key enabler is Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA)—an integrated approach to managing landscapes,cropland, livestock, forests and fisheries. It addresses the interlinked challenges of food security and accelerating climate change with the view to; increase productivity, reduce the problem of emission and enhance resilience.
With the agric-tech space set to be worth $22.5 billion in 2025, it is a notable space Nigeria needs to explore, and the government, as well as private organisations/industries need to actively participate in such investments.
These and many more are the possibilities in the agricultural sector that many Nigerians, particularly the educated and tech-savvy youths, can tap into. Young people can build competence around this as it also has the potential to bridge the unemployment gap.
Of course, there are hindrances that have discouraged many from considering the agricultural sector; such as lack of funds, increase in the price of farm input, insecurity, climate change, poor infrastructural facilities or lack of basic amenities and, to some extent, lack of access to agricultural extension programmes.
While these are bottlenecks to the sector, intervention schemes such as the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing system for Agricultural Lending (iNIRSAL) incorporated in 2013 by the Central Bank Nigeria as a dynamic, holistic $500 million public-private initiative to catalyze the flow of finance and investments into fixed agricultural value chains, the SterlingBank SWAY AG single digit loan facility for smallholder farmers, and other intervention programmes targeted at supporting the agriculture sector needs, have helped cushion these challenges. In furtherance, these programmes need to be extended on a national scale and organised with utmost transparency targeted at raising the bar in Nigeria’s agricultural output.
To assuage the rise in farm input price, the government should continually make inputs such as fertilizers and seeds available for smallholder farmers at a subsidised rate. Moreso, data-driven approaches in allocating agricultural interventions should be encouraged to promote evidence-based policies and programmes in the agricultural sector.
With the world population expected to rise to 9.7 billion by 2050 (United Nations projection), it means there will be more people to feed in the future, further elevating agriculture’s status as one of the most profitable human ventures.
Though it is imperative to note that agriculture is not a “get rich quick” scheme as it requires nurturing and is time consuming, but with tolerance, patience and proper implementation of farm practices, the financial reward will definitely make one laugh all the way to the bank.
• Emmanuel Tobiloba is the founder of Afthanos Farms and programme manager at Farm Kwara, an initiative of the Kwara State government. He is certified by the Agriculture and Rural Management Training Institute (ARMTI) in the knowledge of exploring technological possibilities in agriculture and has a keen interest in exploring technology in agriculture. He can be reached via Emmanueltobilola@gmail.com
Frontpage September 13, 2017