Some days ago, I attended a seminar where an Israeli man lectured on mechanized irrigation systems.
“Israel is more or less a desert he said, but yet we are feeding Europe. How?”
“Israel can fit two and a half times into Taraba State (one in 36 States of Nigeria) but yet we’ve been able to maximize our land to yield millions of tons of harvest. How?”
On he went to explain, giving details and citing examples. Everyone was awed. His company had helped so many farmers in Africa, literally revolutionizing farming in Africa, farm by farm, farmer by farmer.
One question pricked my mind; how come someone from a place with no soil compared to that of Nigeria’s can come to teach Nigerians how to farm?
This question did not erupt out of ego, but out of commonsense. Where did Nigeria get it wrong?
Crude oil, that’s where. Prior to the advent of crude oil, Nigeria’s agriculture sector was booming, in fact, the country survived by revenues generated from exports of agricultural produce. Then oil came, and relaxation came. Nigerians suddenly stopped farming, because the country had found ‘black gold’.
Then oil prices began to fluctuate, and Nigeria hit recession. Prices of basic commodities skyrocketed. Food suddenly became a luxury because prices of basic foodstuffs hit the roof.
In a country of plentiful land, why should people starve?
The current government has come to the realization that the Nigerian economy must diversify, but still, progress is slow. Farmers seek funds from government programs, but in vain. The country is more theoretical on the issue of diversification. Leaders speak and speak and speak as though the words would form the reality.
There is something the Israeli man I spoke about said.
He said, “In Israel, we pay for water just the way Nigerians pay for light. So imagine my surprise when I visited Kogi State where two rivers (Niger and Benue) meet, and I was surprised to see plenty of land unused, just wasting. And I thought to myself, if only I can borrow these two rivers for only 24 hours I will solve Israel’s water problem.”
Is it a problem of Nigeria being too blessed with natural resources than we know what do with?
Crude oil has raked in so much money, but Nigerians are now thinking whether the cometh of crude oil was a blessing or a curse.