The Media, The Bank And Agriculture


Agriculture in Nigeria has been in crisis for about four decades and only the government has been excoriated the most. This is unfair.

According to research, about 64 percent of the African population lives in rural underdeveloped areas. In Nigeria, studies show that while over 80 million Nigerians live in villages and semi-urban areas, only 20 percent of the entire population benefits from the mass media, 99 percent of them in cities and towns.

Paradoxically, the rural population, which serves as the food basket of the country, is not given the attention it deserves in the media. As a result, problems relating to food production, conservation and transportation are most times not reported.

The reasons are not far-fetched. Most media houses are urban-based and focus their reporting more on urban challenges or political issues.

The few media houses that embark on agricultural reporting, most times do not involve the rural population in the collation and processing of the information.

The death of agricultural reporting is compounded by the lack of adequate finances by the banks to the agriculture sector.

The Central Bank of Nigeria recently disclosed that only 1.4 percent of investment made by the banks in Nigeria goes to agriculture development and research. This is grossly inadequate and can only have a negligible impact.

The problems of the farmers go beyond finances. Farmers daily face gargantuan challenges to boost food production, fight against pests, conserve crops, or transport them to the cities. These challenges have to receive constant highlight in the media.

Agriculture is a major sector of the economy in Nigeria, providing employment for 70 per cent of the population. Major crops include beans, sesame, cashew nuts, cassava, cocoa beans, groundnut, gum arabic, kolanut, maize (corn), melon, millet, palm kernel, palm oil, plantain, rice, rubber, sorghum, soybeans and yam.

In 1990, 82 million hectares out of Nigeria’s total land area of about 91 million hectares were found to be arable, although only 42 percent of the cultivable area was farmed. Much of this land was farmed under the bush fallow system, whereby land is left idle for a period of time to allow natural regeneration of soil fertility. Eighteen million hectares were classified as permanent pasture, but had the potential to support crops. Most of the 20 million hectares covered by forests and woodlands are believed to have agricultural potential.

Agricultural holdings are small and scattered, and farming is carried out with simple tools. Large-scale agriculture is not common. Agriculture contributed 32% to GDP in 2001.

The country’s agricultural produce falls into two main groups: food crops produced for home consumption and exports. Prior to the Nigerian civil war, the country was self-sufficient in food, but food production declined.

Bread made from American wheat replaced domestic crops as the cheapest staple food. The most important food crops are yams and manioc (cassava) in the south and sorghum and millet in the north.

Cocoa is the leading non-oil foreign exchange earner but the dominance of smallholders and lack of farm labour due to urbanisation hold back production.

Agriculture is too important to be neglected by the media and the banks. As the biggest employer of labour, we believe that adequate attention must be given to agriculture not only by the government for real development to take place in that vital sector of the economy, but also by the media.

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