AKURE, Nigeria – Agriculture is widely seen as a way to combat poverty in developing nations, allowing their populations to be more self-sustaining by providing their own food and generating income. This is true in Nigeria, where growth in the agricultural sector is often linked with poverty reduction.
According to a study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), 9.5% annual growth in Nigerian’s agricultural sector would correspond to an 8% increase in GDP and a 30.8% reduction in the national poverty rate by 2017. This would more than halve the poverty rate in Nigeria, accomplishing the first of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. This study also emphasizes that agricultural growth is inelastic, meaning that at the current efficiency level, agricultural investments must grow by 23.8% annually to support a 9.5% increase in agricultural output. The authors note that, if spending efficiency were improved, investments would only need to grow by 13.6% each year. It is also important to consider that investments in other sectors of the economy indirectly benefit agricultural production. Therefore, simply diverting all investments to agriculture would be counterproductive.
Dr. Mary Ogunkoya, Provost of the Federal College of Agriculture (FECA) in Akure, Nigeria, believes the agriculture is the key to reducing Nigerian poverty. FECA works to train students for work in various positions in the agricultural sector, and to develop new agricultural technologies that increase efficiency. This helps enable unemployed youths to find work, and boost their country’s economy. The college is currently working to educate people about the production of bamboo, emphasizing its myriad uses that are often overlooked by Nigerians. Dr. Ogunkoya also stresses the importance of drawing youth into agriculture. Agriculture is often seen as a “poor man’s job” but she bristles at this concept. She argues that people must eat and earn a living, and agriculture is an excellent way to do both at once.
Some people, such as Dr. Andrew Onwuemele from the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER), have argued that Nigerian agriculture cannot effectively combat poverty. Dr. Onwuemele acknowledges the potential of the agriculture sector to draw people out of poverty, but points to challenges presented by climate change and concludes that only minimal effects can be achieved. He suggests that Nigeria modify its long-term plans to combat climate change. Meanwhile, in the short term, Nigeria should work to make its agricultural sector less vulnerable to climate change. He recommends pairing agricultural growth with other poverty fighting methods to end Nigerian poverty.
While fighting Nigerian poverty with agriculture alone is not the best approach, boosting the country’s agricultural sector will certainly help alleviate poverty there. It will provide income for farmers and boost Nigeria’s economy as a whole. Nigerians’ food security will improve significantly because they will be less reliant on other countries. These factors will undoubtedly help combat poverty in Nigeria, and could be a model for other countries to emulate.
– Katie Fullerton