Rural youth face many hurdles in trying to earn a livelihood. Pressure on arable land is high in many parts of the world, making it difficult to start a farm. Youth often also lack access to credit, and many other productive resources necessary for agriculture. Provision of adequate food supply to satisfy the needs of the whole population has always been one the pressing need of every country’s government, including Nigeria.
PROBLEM- LAND DEGRADATION
For the past ten years, seven states in the north- Sokoto, Kebbi, Jigawa, Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna and Kano has been experiencing loss of arable land for farming. It was estimated to about 20-30km annually. Gully erosion is particularly severe in Abia, Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Ondo, Edo, Ebonyi, Kogi, Adamawa, Delta, Jigawa and Gombe States. Anambra and Enugu States alone have over 50 active gully complexes, with some extending over 100 metres long, 20 meters wide and 15 meters deep (Nigeria Country Profile, 1997). Coastal and marine erosion and subsidence occur particularly in the coastal areas of Ogun, Ondo, Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States.
Population pressure, over grazing and the continuous exploitation of marginal lands have aggravated desertification and drought which has resulted in severe loss of farm land. Nigeria is presently losing about 351,000 square kilometers of its land mass to the desert which is advancing southward at the rate of 0.6 kilometers per year. According to a recent survey by the Centre for Arid Zones Studies in Nigeria, desertification is by far the most pressing environmental problem in the northern states along the Niger Republic border. The outward and visible sign of the desertification process is the gradual shift in vegetation from grasses, bushes and occasional trees, to grass and bush and in the final stages, extensive areas of desert-like sand. Entire villages and major access roads have been buried under sand dunes in the northern portions of Katsina, Sokoto, Jigawa and Borno States. With about 55 percent of its land under siege from desert encroachment, Borno State which suffered from a protracted fifteen-year drought in 1972-1978, is one of the most threatened land areas of Nigeria. Perhaps more spectacular, and of grave consequence are the persistent droughts which, a number of times, have resulted in famine in the northern part of the country. During the drought of 1972-1973 for instance, about 300,000 animals died and farm yields dropped by up to 60%.
The Nigeria government has tried many ways, initiated lots of policy and programs which is aimed at restoring the country’s agricultural sector to its pride (Adama J.I. et al, 2016). The Nigeria agricultural sector used to be one of the pillars of the country’s economy and this was achieved in a sustainable way. The different ways, policies and programs put in place to promote investment and diversification in the agricultural sector have not been able to yield good or desired results. The huge potential of investment and export diversification in order to get the Nigeria agricultural sector to add to the economy as it does in the before (1960s) have remain locked and untapped, because of a number of constrained and factor that must be addressed (Oni T.O, 2013).
The idea sustainable farming started last century and has become more popular in our present days. This popularity is due to the governments and companies trying to reduce the damage done to our ecosystem in the name of farming and also to produce a better and healthier food. Sustainable farming has been going on for many years done in a numbers of ways and have been described with different names. Sustainable farming is the farming system that is closest to natural process, minimizes waste, does less damage to the environment and yet it’s still profitable. When a farm system is sustainable, the product of the farm will be nutritious, and not contaminated by substance that maybe unsafe for humans to consume. Sustainable farming includes being sustainable in agricultural production, sustainable in rural economy and society and being sustainable in environmental and ecological agricultural system.
Hydroponics is one of the sustainable ways of farming- It is basically the practice of growing plants in solutions that include special nutrients, in contrast to conventional gardening where no soil is involved. Under a hydroponic system, plants can grow in such unconventional soilless medium e.g Coco coir. Hydroponics plants also grow faster than their soil grown counterparts and they also offer a larger harvest.
There has been an explosion of interest in Hydroponics system of farming, as many people have taken up this important environmentally and sustainable method of farming. Sustainable because they can recycle water and this is especially important as shortage of fresh water seem likely in years to come. Other areas of its sustainability includes, Low transport- because they can be set up in urban centers, thus substantially reducing the need for transport. Low energy use is also a factor as high production in less space is achievable.
There are many advantages in adopting this special type of farming system, Hydroponics take up to 50% less land to grow the same amount of crops, leaving more land for other uses such as wildlife reserves, and saving trees which would have been cleared for agricultural purposes. There is less water usage, in fact less than 10% the amount that would be required for growing in the soil. The only water lost with hydroponics is through evaporation, or occasional changes to the feeding solution. Less fertilizer is required in Hydroponics system because the growing solution circulates through the plant roots, the roots absorb what they need and none is loss through settling in the soil. Low pesticide use as the enclosed environment makes it easier to keep insect pest out and Integrated Pest Management Techniques are not only available but widely practiced and pesticides are always available as the last resort as opposed to field grown produce where the first line of defense is pesticide.
Although, there are a numbers of Agro based companies practicing this method of farming they include- BIC Concepts, BioCrops and Angel Adelaja, etc; achieving a true transformation of food systems requires an holistic approach- one engaging all stakeholders and developing a wide array of actions such as improved policy, increased investment, expanded infrastructure, farmer capacity building, consumer behavior change, and improved resource management. Technology innovations, combined with other inventions can play an important role in running innovative farming. Every stakeholder should play a role in realizing this potential.
The fact is that Nigeria as a country has inherited natural, human, and capital resources. But sadly, the effective use of these resources in the development of the agricultural sector has been hampered by misplaced priority, loss of focus and lack of support and encouragement to key players. Nevertheless there are opportunities at the disposer for Nigeria to rejuvenate its agricultural sector and make it the key player of the economy. To achieve this, the issue mention above like land degradation will have to be dealt with. If the above recommendation is carried out effectively, the Nigeria agricultural sector will get quick win which includes increase in investment and increase in the contribution to the GDP of the country. This will thus create a means of increase in income, revenue source diversification, generation of employment and therefore reduction of poverty
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