There have been calls from various quarters to improve farm mechanization in Nigeria.This post shall look at the History of Farm Mechanization in Nigeria.
The argument made for the improvement of farm mechanization in Nigeria is based on the idea that without the mechanization of agricultural activities, Nigeria will be unable to feed her citizens and also meet their other basic needs.
But before any meaningful progress can be made, it is necessary to know the history of farm mechanization in Nigeria.
Knowing how farm mechanization started in Nigeria, how it was adopted, its current level and the challenges militating against it will help policy makers and potential agricultural entrepreneurs to know what it takes to venture into agribusiness.
The history of farm mechanization will also guide stakeholders on how to provide solutions to the problems fighting against the progress of farm mechanization in the country.
In this article, we will look at farm mechanization during some eras which are the pre-colonial era, colonial era and the period after independence.
Farm Mechanization in Nigeria during the Pre-colonial Era (1861 and earlier)
You might be surprised that this heading even appeared in the first place. You have a good reason to be surprised. But the history of farm mechanization will be incomplete if this period is ignored.
Well, farm mechanization did not exist during this period. And if you are a good student of Nigeria history you will remember that also during this period, the country called “Nigeria” did not even exist.
Nigeria came into existence in the year 1914. Back to our discussion, there was no form of agricultural mechanization during this period.
Farming activities were carried out through the use of crude farm tools like the hoe, cutlass, axe and so on. Yet the notable thing about this period was that even though there was no mechanization of farming activities, farmers were able to feed themselves and also have surplus to trade with each other and the international community.
Farm Mechanization in Nigeria during the Colonial Era (1861-1960)
It might be surprising to learn that no real farm mechanization took place during the century long period of colonial rule of Nigeria by Britain.
It is true that there were some improvements in agriculture but no step was taken to even introduce farm mechanization into Nigeria.
The focus of the colonial masters was the increase in the production of cash crops like cocoa, oil palm, rubber, groundnut and other crops that were raw materials of their industries.
It is even shocking to know that no attempt was made to introduce farm mechanization into any of the activities involved in the cultivation of these cash crops.
The British only brought improvement into some sectors of agriculture mainly the ones that were concerned with the production of these cash crops which was very useful for their industries abroad.
The establishment of Forestry and Veterinary Department, Moor Plantation at Ibadan and Agricultural Department among others was done to satisfy the need to improve the farm yields that were raw materials of the British industry.
It is true that some experiments were conducted but from the records, there was no step taken to either import farm machinery into the country or train indigenes on how to employ engineering principles to solve problems on the farm.
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Farm Mechanization in Nigeria (Post Independence till Date)
The first step taken to introduce farm mechanization in Nigeria was taken by the Federal Government of Nigeria after independence.
The Federal Government of Nigeria saw the necessity of introducing agricultural mechanization into farming activities when the country at that time began to experience the problem of food scarcity and also deficit in its international trade.
Well, based on the different periods of the previous administrations of past governments, the subject of farm mechanization in the post-independence era will be discussed under the following headings:
Farm Mechanization in Nigeria (1960-1966)
It must be mentioned that the first administration to introduce or import the first set of tractors into the country was that of the first republic. Remember that Nigeria became a republic in 1963.
Then the Federal Government of Nigeria discovered that to meet up with the demand of the international market and also to tackle the menace of rising employment with the increasing number of graduates, it had to make agriculture very attractive to the youths of that time.
Youths then did not want to go into farming because of the drudgery and stress associated with it. So to make farming attractive and to encourage youths to take farming as a business, the government of the first republic decided to formulate some policies.
The policies involved the establishment of farm settlements and tractor hire units in the then Eastern and Western regions of the country.
To ensure the success of this project, the government imported tractors and some farm implements into the country. Also the government encouraged the mechanization of some farming activities such as irrigation and harvesting.
Farm Mechanization during the first Military Era (1966)
The Military assumed power through General Aguiyi Ironsi on the 15th January 1966. He ruled Nigeria for a very short period of six months before he was assassinated.
But according to records, his administration continued the policies of the previous administration. Agricultural mechanization was encouraged during period.
During the reign of Major General Aguiyi Ironsi, more farm machinery were purchased. But very little can be said of farm mechanization during this period as this administration ended in July of 1966.
Farm Mechanization in Nigeria (1966-1975)
The next administration continued from where General Aguiyi Ironsi stopped. The period one is referring to is that of General Yakubu Gowon. More tractors were purchased by the Federal Government during this period.
It is on record that between 1972 and 1974, a total of 462 tractors were imported by the Federal Government. The total cost of purchasing the tractors was estimated to be 16 million naira.
Also during this period, some companies involved in the supply and distribution of farm machines and equipment in the world came to establish their branches in Nigeria.
An example of this is C.Woermann Nigeria Limited which started its operation in Nigeria in 1968. The process of encouraging farm mechanization by the government of Nigeria continued until the period of the oil boom which started in the early 1970s.
The oil boom experienced by Nigeria changed the attitude of people towards farming as a whole. To avoid confusion, it is worth noting that the oil boom era was also during this period. It seems that the oil boom started in 1971.
When the nation began to experience the oil boom, attention was gradually moving away from agriculture to the exploration of crude oil.
A negative attitude towards agriculture was gradually developing as a result. With this bad feeling setting in, less emphasis was made on the mechanization of farming activities that is there was a shift in focus from farm mechanization to oil exploration.
Farm Mechanization in Nigeria (1975 till the time of this writing)
Although towards the end of the last section, it was stated that there was a negative attitude developed towards the adoption of farm mechanization, some attempts were made by the Federal Government to encourage the mechanization of farming activities.
The administration of the then military head of state General Olusegun Obasanjo took some steps to encourage the Nigerian populace to go back into farming.
One of the attempts of this administration was the formulation of the Operation Feed the Nation program (OFN). To ensure the success of this program, the government encouraged the importation of more tractors. A total amount of 22050 was imported between 1975 and 1983.
Also the Federal Government encouraged some foreign companies to come to Nigeria to establish a supply and distribution chain that provided tractors and other farm machinery.
Also the government sought to create an enabling environment for the creation and establishment of local agribusinesses who are involved in the importation and distribution of farm machines and equipment.
Even up till the time of this writing, the government at the Federal and State levels have formulated some policies to encourage farm mechanization.
Some of the practical steps taken by the government at these levels have been the provision of loans and subsidies, establishment of financial institutions whose task is to provide financial aids to farmers and also the importation of more tractors and farm machinery. But in spite of all these efforts, the country is yet to see an improvement in the yield of farm products.
The Problems Facing Farm Mechanization in Nigeria
With the attempts made by previous and the current administration to adopt mechanization into farming activities in Nigeria, farm mechanization is facing some tough challenges. These challenges are:
- The non-suitability of the imported machines to the environment of most farms in Nigeria.
- The high cost of purchasing these farm machines.
- Frequent breakdown of tractors and other farm machinery
Possible Solutions to the Problems Militating against Farm Mechanization in Nigeria
One suggested solution to the problems of agricultural mechanization in Nigeria is that stakeholders should be carried along when formulating policies that involve farm mechanization in the country.
The stakeholders involved are the peasant farmers themselves, the private sector and financial institutions. Their opinions, suggestions and even objections will go a long way to shape an effective farm mechanization policy.
Again expert advice should be sought before the importation and purchase of farm machinery. This will reduce wastage of funds used to procure farm machinery.
Also maintenance programs should be organized by the government at all levels to prevent frequent breakdowns of farm machinery.
Maintenance personnel who would be involved in the repairs and maintenance should be trained to ensure the long use of tractors and farm machines.
Contrary to popular opinion, from all the explanations given in this article, it is obvious that the first real step towards mechanizing farm activities in Nigeria was taken by the Nigerian government after independence.
Yes it is true that the British during the colonial introduced some improved modern farming methods. But their activities were geared towards improving their own economy.
The lesson here is that the solution to the problems of farm mechanization lies in the hands of the citizens of Nigeria.
Nigerians should not think that another country in the world would proffer a solution to the problems of agricultural mechanization. We must solve our own problems.
Therefore from the government to the private sector and the financial institutions, all hands should be on deck to ensure that farm mechanization in Nigeria moves to the next level.IMPORTANT!: Follow us on Instagram @InfoGuideNigeria
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