Smallholder Agricultural Commercialization: The Best Approach To Rural Poverty Reduction. (By Olufemi AJAYI

Whether you are a President, a Governor or a Local Government Chairman, who is interested in job creation and poverty reduction, Smallholder Farmers Agricultural Commercialisation(SAC) is the answer.

Agriculture is a proven engine for poverty reduction. In countries like India, Malaysia, China etc,  GDP growth generated by agriculture is more effective in reducing poverty than growth in any other sector.

Our fathers, who were subsistence farmers did quite a lot in their time, to make food available for their immediate families by doing arable crops farming on one hand, and on the other hand producing cash crops to be able to earn money to maintain social status, send their children to school and also contribute to community or societal development.

Our fathers often married more wives, not because they were promiscuous, but to have many children that could help on their farms. More hands on the farm guaranteed more output, more food and more money. This was the practice until the oil boom of the early  70s that led to the influx of multinational companies and the  springing up of white-collar jobs in the cities, and  this development took away most of the fairly educated children to the cities, leading to the dwindling of hands available for farm work in the rural areas. The effect of the oil boom was a drastic reduction in both food and cash crops production.

Instead of the managers of our economy to respond by making farm machineries and farm equipment available to expand and improve farm outputs, they resorted to importation of Uncle Ben's rice, frozen chicken, panla (stock fish), semovita, groundnut oil etc. The fortunes from oil were squandered on importation of food and all other forms of wasteful spending like the Udoji awards and the likes, without any consideration for investment in Agriculture, Education, Technology etc. Nothing seems to have changed since then, except the recent initiatives on rice production that had brought significant reduction to rice importation.

It is unfortunate that most of the managers of the affairs of our various states are still paying lip service to agriculture as a business, and a veritable tool for job creation, poverty alleviation, foreign exchange earner and a means of raw material production for manufacturing industries.

Apart from Osun State and few other states from the North, the approach to Agricultural development programmes has been more of lips service. Any investment in agricultural improvement must be visible and measurable, and it must start with voluntary and land owner farmers. It is the obvious improvement in the lives of these ones, that will attract new generation of farmers.

For government at any level to eliminate extreme poverty and hunger, ensure that rural people live in dignity, have access to healthy and nutritious food, with a hopeful and prosperous future for the young ones, Smallholder Agricultural Commercialisation (SAC) is the immediate option. SAC is a virtuous cycle that enables rural farmers to expand the area of land cultivated through the use of modern farm operations equipment, improved inputs, training, access to the market etc, thereby increasing the farm output and income. It enables rural farmers to grow more and earn more.
More than half of the poorest people in the world live in the rural areas of developing countries. Most of them depend on agriculture for their livelihood.

The implication of government investment in agriculture is that it reduces poverty faster. So, any government that wants to be truly effective must take investment in agriculture seriously. Such government must therefore enhance farmers access to finance, markets, training, technology and timely information.

The approach of government to SAC must be strategic, and it must circulate. It is better planned to happen in almost all the villages and towns where farmers live. The State governments through their Ministries of Agriculture should rally the support of development organisations within and outside the country, private sector, banks, NGOs etc to achieve the following:
A). Land clearing and land preparation.
B). Input supplies
C). Training
D). Effective agronomic practices
E). Value addition, off-taking and market outcomes
F). Logistics etc.

The truth is that, there must be a deliberate and conscious efforts on the part of the managers of our affairs and resources, to terminate hunger   and reduce poverty in the rural areas. Our governments at all levels should be more consistent in formulating and implementing Agricultural policies that are inclusive. The target must be voluntary Farmers, youths and women.

Olufemi Ajayi, an agriculturist, writes from Ado Ekiti.


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