Afe for Vanguard

March 20, 2024

Short-term and long-term solutions to hunger and violence, by Afe Babalola

Afe Babalola

LAST week, I examined how the abandonment of agriculture by successive Nigerian governments has continued to bring untold hardships and other unpalatable consequences on Nigeria.

The unpleasant consequences include, but are not limited to unpaid salaries, pensions and other emoluments, spiral unemployment, different shades and shapes of violence, armed robbery, grinding and debasing poverty, grossly underfunded institutions, poor infrastructure, including deplorable road network, insecurity at home, on the road and on the farms as well as killings for different motives. 

This week, I will continue my examination of how hunger and violence can be eliminated or reduced drastically in our country.

Immediate payment of all outstanding salary, pension, and gratuity: 

It is a notorious fact that most companies and employers of labour, including the Federal Government, state governments and local governments are in arrears in the payment of salaries, pension and gratuity.

The immediate payment of all these outstanding arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities will no doubt have a direct and immediate effect on the nation’s economy. Many employees will be able to offset their debts, including payment of outstanding school fees where necessary.

Besides, the payment of all these outstanding arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities will boost the country’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP, as against the current trend of distributing food items and other tokenisms to the citizens. 

Naira and exchange rate:

Time it was when Nigeria’s Naira was stronger than the Dollar and One Naira was equivalent to One Pound. Regrettably, Naira has depreciated so much that One Dollar exchanges for about N1,600 and One British Pounds Sterling exchanges for about N2,000. The economic standing of any country is viewed from the point of view of the exchange rate vis-à-vis the currency of other countries. In view of the exchange rate, very few foreign companies, if any, will choose Nigeria as its destination for investment. 

The stabilisation of Naira will be a reasonable consequence of the payment of salaries, gratuity and pension arrears.

Incentives to farmers:

As I stated last week, hunger is the mother of violence. Before independence, hunger was unknown in Nigeria and indeed in Africa. It is not enough for government to advise people to engage in farming. The citizens must be given necessary incentives as it was the practice in the First Republic. Government may provide seedlings to farmers such as cocoa, palm tree, cassava and yam seedlings. Government should encourage farmers to come together and form cooperative societies. This will enable them to apply for soft loans.

Provision of conducive environment for economic development:

Governments at all levels should, where available, dam rivers for irrigation. Government should provide electricity through solar or Independent Power Plants, IPPs. 

Concentration of electricity generation on Kainji Hydroelectric Dam which was built in 1968; Jebba Hydroelectric Dam, built in 1985; and Shiroro Hydroelectric Dam, built in 1990 does not and cannot satisfy the needs of Nigeria of today. 

Farm settlements:

Government should revisit the Chief Obafemi Awolowo farm settlements policy. It is my suggestion that all states in the country should establish farm settlements. The government should use all or part of the government reserves established by the colonial government for farm settlements. The added advantage of this is that criminals who hide in government reserves will have no where to hide anymore.

Marketing Boards:

The Federal Government should impress it on each state government to set up its own Marketing Board just like the inimitable Chief Obafemi Awolowo did in the Old Western Region. The State Marketing Boards will buy surplus farm produce off the farmers after harvesting, which they would store and export at the appropriate time to make money, thereby shoring up the economy of each state  

Cattle rearing:

 The old order changeth yielding place to new, otherwise the old order would corrupt the new. Rearing of animal (cattle) is almost as old as man. However, the practice is obsolete and outdated. In civilized countries, cattle rearing across the country is forbidden. It has been replaced with modern ranching system. However, in Nigeria, the practice continues thereby causing friction between the farmers and the cattle rearers. 

In my previous articles, I had suggested that our country should emulate other countries, particularly Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Botswana, encourage and establish modern ranching system. 

Large scale farming

A way to go would be to put in place policies for the development of large scale farming. The US has led the world in large-scale farming, pioneering the use of intensive livestock rearing in hog farms, cattle sheds and sheep pens. There are now more than 50,000 facilities in the US classified as concentrated animal feeding operations, CAFOs, with another quarter of a million industrial-scale facilities below that threshold. Around the world, developing countries in particular were quick to catch up.

Intensive farming of livestock offers many advantages over traditional open ranges, not least economies of cost and scale, more efficient healthcare for the herds and flocks, and ultimately cheaper food. According to the UN, globally CAFOs account for 72% of poultry, 42% of egg, and 55% of pork production. Instead of the present itinerant method of grazing, attempts could be made to increase the production of animal feed, thereby making access to land, for the purpose of grazing, less of a factor in cattle rearing. 

However, rather than directly foot the bill for development of such large scale farming, all that government should do is put in place policies which will make loans available to farmers. A newspaper editorial was quite detailed in pointing out that “as the Federal Government did with the Anchor Borrowers Programme for rice, it should facilitate such loans for cattle farmers. Such loans would be used to buy land in their states of choice.

In Brazil, which is the second largest beef exporter in the world, the government aides the cattle trade. Nigeria can imbibe such a practice. Brazil has grown to become a major player in the meat business.

In Spain, livestock farming is intensive, with animals living on farms and consuming fodder, and this practice became further entrenched following the country’s admission into the European Union; it had to change some of its agricultural practices. The country received significant economic assistance from the EU to modernise the sector, increase productivity and improve the quality of its products.

In Argentina, the practice is not any different. Livestock framing as a form of agriculture is aimed with increased productivity and modernity at the base of its practice. The role of government differs slightly from country to country but it is poignant to note government’s intervention is limited to the essence of making available assistance in terms of roving loans at low interest rate and regulated policies and not by undertaking financial burdens as has been suggested in Nigeria.

In Botswana, the country’s beef and cattle farming has grown exponentially from a few hundred thousand cattle in 1950 to close to three million today. The growth is traceable to deliberate government’s policies aimed at encouraging farmers to engage in modern system of livestock farming.

Cattle farming are private owned businesses, the responsibility for which should be borne by the owners and not the other way round. Borrowing from all that, government in Nigeria should encourage herders to acquire lands and modernise their practice in conformity with global best practices.

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