This is a detailed post on the problems and prospects of agricultural mechanization in Nigeria. Agricultural mechanization is the process of development and application of machines in the farming process. Agricultural mechanization may also be defined as the introduction of tools, implements, machines, equipment and technology in the cultivation of farm lands and processing of food.
In a nutshell, agricultural mechanization involves the substitution of crude farm implements and practices with advanced machines and systems of rearing plants and animals. And Improving the shelf life of such produce using modern processing techniques.
All these are done to reduce human energy exerted in the agricultural process. Ensure efficiency in agricultural operations. Improve agricultural productivity. Improve the shelf life of the produce. And ensure timely and regular supply of farm produce. And most importantly improve the welfare of the people. And enhance economic growth.
PROBLEMS OF AGRICULTURAL MECHANIZATION IN NIGERIA
The agricultural sector despite many decades of neglect remains the highest employer of labour in Nigeria.
The sector employs about 70 percent of the labour force in the country.
Despite this huge number of persons engaged in agriculture, the sector has been unable to meet the food demands of Nigerians.
This has led to massive importation of food into the country.
Conversely, in USA, only about 3 percent of the entire population are farmers. Yet, they are able to meet to a reasonable extent the food needs of the United States.
This massive production rate is made possible by use of sophisticated farming machines. And techniques. Which is totally lacking in the Nigerian farming system.
Majority of the farmers in Nigeria still make use of crude farming tools such as hoe, matchet, diggers and so on.
With only about 2 percent reported to engage in mechanized agricultural system. Thus, the Nigerian farmers are often referred to as hand-hoe farmers.
In fact, the mechanization rate in Nigeria is 0.27 hp/hectare. This is far below the FAO recommended rate of 1.5hp/hectare.
Thailand which is the major supplier of rice to Nigeria has a rate of 0.7hp/hectare.
While highly industrialized countries like Japan has mechanization rate of 7hp/hectare.
The mechanization of the Nigerian agricultural system is constrained by many factors. Some of which are:
• Land tenure system: The land tenure system in Nigeria to an extent discourage farmers from acquiring enough land for large scale farming.
This is due to the fact that the land ownership act encourages fragmentation of farm land.
This hinders agricultural mechanization. Because, it is only commercial agriculture that supports mechanization.
• Poverty and Inaccessibility of credit: Majority of the Nigerian farmers are poor. So, they lack the fund needed to purchase sophisticated farming machines.
The inaccessibility of commercial and federal government loans also worsens this problem.
• Scarcity of machinery: Even the few farmers that can afford these sophisticated farming machines suffer setback.
Because these equipment are not locally manufactured. And importing them from abroad attracts additional expenses. In the form of import duty.
• Poor infrastructure: The poor state of infrastructural facilities in Nigeria is also a factor hindering agricultural mechanization.
Mechanized agriculture encourages mass production for export and future supply.
However, this aim is often defeated by the poor state of infrastructures in the country.
For instance, poor road network, electricity and processing facilities leads to food waste.
• Illiteracy of the farmers: If estimate is anything to go by. we have it that about 60 percent of Nigerian farmers are illiterates.
This makes it difficult for them to adopt modern farming techniques. Or operate the machine even when it is available.
• Lack of maintenance technicians: Even when these sophisticated equipment are available, there are no technicians to take care f them. Or repair them when the need arises.
• Inconsistent government policies: For decades the government has continuously neglected the agricultural sector.
Funds were not provided for purchase of agricultural equipment. And even when such considerations are made, the political class embezzle the money for personal use.
SOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEM OF AGRICULTURAL MECHANIZATION IN NIGERIA
From the above explanations, we can deduce that low penetration rate of mechanization remains a major factor militating against the sector’s productivity.
Food is a basic necessity of Nigerians. And ways must be sort to improve agricultural productivity in Nigeria. So as to meet the food demands of the populace.
And one of the answer to this problem is AGRICULTURAL MECHANIZATION.
However, to achieve this goal, a lot of things must be put in place. These includes;
• Amendment of the land use decree: The 1978 land use decree should be amended by the government. This will decrease land fragmentation.
And enable farmers acquire enough land to support mechanized and commercial agriculture.
• Farmers education: The government should employ more agriculture extension workers to educate farmers on the use of modern equipment. And farming system. Farmers should also be thought to read. write. And keep keep simple accounting records.
This would enable them monitor their progress. And save up, to purchase machines they need.
• Training of maintenance technicians: Technicians should also be trained to maintain these sophisticated farm machines when and where ever they are available.
This would ensure the continuous operation of such machines. Engineers in the ministry of agriculture should also be sent abroad for special training.
Like training on tractor repair and maintenance, and so on.
• Encourage the local manufacture of farming machines: Local manufacturers should also be encouraged to start manufacturing these farming equipment.
Like tractors, harrows, ploughs, sprayers, planters and so on. This will increase the availability of such machines in Nigeria.
And reduce their price. Such companies could be encouraged through granting them loans or tax holidays.
• Improved access to credit: The major hindrance to agricultural mechanization remains poverty.
So, credit should be made accessible to farmers who wish to procure modern farming machines.
• Improved infrastructure: Government should improve in the provision of infrastructural facilities. Such as road network. Electricity supply. Irrigation facilities. Storage. And processing facilities.
All these would encourage commercial farming. And decrease food waste.
• Government policies: Government should make more policies directed towards improving the agricultural sector.
And see that such policies are implemented. Funds meant for the procurement of farming equipments should also be properly utilized.
BENEFITS OF AGRICULTURAL MECHANISATION IN NIGERIA
Agriculture remains the only means of ensuring food sufficiency in any country. To ensure food sufficiency in Nigeria, efforts must be made to improve the sector.
And the only way to achieve this is to encourage commercial farming through MECHANIZATION.
The benefits of agricultural mechanization includes:
• Food sufficiency: Agricultural Mechanisation will improve agricultural production in Nigeria. This will boost the availability of food. And decrease hunger in the country.
• Foreign exchange revenue: Mechanized farming system would improve the foreign exchange earning potential of the country.
Excess farm produce as a result of commercial farming would be exported to other countries.
• Increased participation: Agricultural mechanization increases the participation of the youth. And the educated in farming activities.
This is because it reduces the stress and drudgery involved in farming.
And also improves the profitability of farming ventures. This increases the interest of the masses in agriculture.
• Improved processing and packaging: Agricultural mechanization also improves the shelf life of farm produce.
It equally improves the processing and packaging of farm produce. These reduces food waste. And increases the prices of farm produce.
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