As the oil price continues to plunge, it goes without saying that over reliance on oil wealth is no longer sustainable for the development of Nigeria, it was against this backdrop that experts in Agriculture development studies: researchers and scientists, gathered at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Ogbomosho, to chart way for sustainable management of the nation’s dwindling economy.
The theme of the national conference, ‘Food Security, Sustainable Livelihoods and Rural Revitalisation in a challenging Economy,’ perfectly fits the present economic situation in Nigeria, which is affected by sinking oil prices. The conference which is the third in a series was organised by Sustainable Livelihoods and Development Network for Africa (SLIDEN Africa).
Speaking at the conference, the Project Director of the Cassava: Adding Value for Africa Project, (CAVA II) said that for Nigeria to insulate itself against the falling oil price and respond effectively to the development demands placed on it, there is a need for the nation to find sustainable resources.
“Sustainability is vital; unless resource use is sustainable, no economy can respond effectively to the ongoing demands placed on it. At a time when the realisation that continued over-reliance on oil wealth in Nigeria is not sustainable for its development, it is apt that revitalisation and unlocking of the potentials of the nation’s rural power- houses is the subject of the academic and development discourse,” Prof Adebayo said.
Making emphasis on food security as it affects the economy and rural development, the Vice-chancellor of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Ogbomosho, Prof A. S Gbadegesin explained that Nigeria’s population growth rate stood at 2.8 percent per annum, while food production growth rate stood at 2.5 percent per annum, an indication that food demand in Nigeria has grown faster than food production, thereby leading to food importation to augment the short fall in food production. A situation which has persisted with the attendant draining of Nigeria’s foreign reserve.
“Although, the rural places, as much they are important to human societies, can also be economically, socially and culturally vulnerable. The economies and identities of rural communities often develop around single resources, which is an indication that they can be threatened by volatile resource markets. Therefore, in order to sustain rural vitality, the need to understand how rural communities can revitalise from this period of economic meltdown in Nigeria and build local resilience against further exogenous shocks is highly imperative,” Prof Gbadegesin said.
The World Bank identified three pillars underpinning food security which are food availability, food accessibility and food utilisation. This means a nation whose production level is unable to satisfy these three criteria is said to be food insecured. Nigeria belongs in this category.
How can Nigeria sustain food security, livelihoods and rural development in the face of the drop in oil price? Dr Olufemi Oladunni proffered, “Any effort to reduce poverty will lead to food security. In the developing countries, agriculture is a major source of livelihood and it is practiced in the rural areas. Development of rural areas that targets infrastructural development will promote food production, food stability and food utilisation.”
He however added, “Food security, sustainable livelihoods and rural revitalization are germane to the economy. It is said ‘’food is a weapon of war’’. Any country that cannot feed her citizens is weak and may be towing the path of ‘second colonialism’ this may be a second slavery. For any country to achieve food security, they must promote sustainable livelihoods. That is, income of the citizens must be guaranteed to reduce poverty. Rural areas must be developed to attract youth and be conducive for agribusiness.”
Bringing solutions from livestock perspective, Prof Job Olutimehin Atteh, from the Department of Animal Production, University of Ilorin, explained that livestock has the potential to contribute to food security, sustainable livelihoods and rural revitalisation adding that both rural and urban dwellers and the Nigerian economy stands to gain from increased livestock production.
“Agriculture contributes to about 40 percent of the nation’s GDP against 13 percent for oil. Crop production accounts for 85 percent of this GDP, livestock 10 percent, fisheries 4 percent and forestry one percent. Agriculture employs about two-thirds of the total labour force and provides livelihood for about 90 percent of the rural population.”
He however advised that for these benefits to be unlocked, challenges which face the livestock subsector which include: poor genetic stock, infrastructure, high cost of feed, diseases and a relatively low attention by government agricultural policies must be addressed.