Mar 18, 2014

REPORT: RICE PRODUCTION IN NIGERIA: HOW IT CAN IMPROVE TRADE, EMPOWER YOUTH & REDUCE UNEMPLOYMENT


Nigeria is the world’s, and therefore also inherently, Africa’s most populous black nation with a population of over 175 million people.  As a result, it should come as no surprise that the demand for rice in Nigeria is extremely high. However, Nigeria does not produce enough rice to meet the high demand that is present.


Economics dictates that when demand for a particular good in a domestic economy is higher that the supply, the country will import from the world market. This is exactly what Nigeria has been doing in order to satisfy the gap between the domestic supply and domestic demand. At the moment, Nigeria is importing rice from countries such as China. One of the biggest issues that have been raised about this is the poor quality of the rice that is being imported.


 There are several problems that arise as a result of this. For example, there is the issue of local producers losing the motivation to produce.  When a country introduces goods from the world market, that inherently means that the price at which the foreign goods will be sold at are going to be lower than the price at which local producers would be selling the goods at. This may seem beneficial for the consumer, however, on a larger scale, this is extremely detrimental to the economy of the country as a whole.  

The Central Bank of Nigeria has put a large emphasis on agriculture because they are aware of the potential that agriculture has within the country. With oil at number one, agriculture is Nigeria’s second largest source of income; so as a result, the Nigerian Government has invested a lot in it. Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man has invested $300 million in agriculture. This emphasises the effect the agriculture has in Nigeria. Dangote successfully manages a conglomerate that has essentially monopolised sugar and cement in Nigeria. For him to invest such a large amount in agriculture may be the boost that Nigeria needs to try and veer away from oil that it has relied on so heavily over the past decades. 


According to Index Mundi, 63.1 percent of Nigerians are under the age of 25. Also bearing in mind Nigeria’s incredibly large population, this is approximately 110 million people all under the age of 25.  The World Bank shows that 50 percent of Nigeria’s population lives outside of cities in the rural parts of the country. Although statistics are just statistics, it seems fair to assume that there is plenty of opportunity to farm. With almost 40 percent of people above the age of 15 that cannot read, it is fair to assume that these 70 million people must make a living somehow. The information shown above is evidence that shows a large opportunity for people in Nigeria to farm. The use of the metaphor “killing two birds with one stone” is very applicable here. There is large population that needs to make a living through menial manners and there is also a large demand for rice in the country. 

I believe that rice production can liberate youths in rural Nigeria as it is a task that doesn’t necessarily need any form of formal education. Over a period of five years, I envision Nigeria’s unemployment rates amongst the youth plummeting from 54% in 2012 to below 10 percent by 2020. People may argue that in doing so, Nigeria would not be actually helping itself but providing an incentive to not be educated. Although I understand how this is a valid criticism, it overlooks the fact that there are approximately 80 million youths in Nigeria that are not in any form of education. There are methods to improve Nigeria’s education system in place, however we are making the assumption that these people out of education want to be educated. Education is not for all people and some of these youths may choose not to be in education. With this in mind, we cannot simply leave them by the wayside; we must provide them with vocational tasks such as farming. 
 
What I therefore propose is that the Nigerian government provides workshops in the rural parts of Nigeria where they teach entrepreneurship in farming. If the government is able to educate the youths that have dropped out of school in vocational jobs such as farming, this would greatly impact the youths of Nigeria and Nigeria as a whole. At the same time, these people are uneducated youths and therefore are clearly susceptible to being manipulated by others around them. This is the reason why I believe that the government should have entrepreneurship workshops that allow the youths to learn how to manage their finances and increase their crop growth. 

It is essential that the youth farmers are aware of how to manage their finances properly. However, many farmers are financially excluded and are not utilising their assets properly. The Nigerian government could set up miniature farmer’s business classes as part of the entrepreneurship workshops that teach farmers more agronomic methods on how to grow their crops. The cost needed to train someone on how to manage their finances and how to harvest in the most efficient manner is a mere N3000 per person. Alternatively, the Nigerian government could host an outreach programme in which they have several teams that accumulate youths outside of education in the local areas and run workshops and hold lectures on how to farm in the most efficient way possible.

In conclusion, I believe that producing rice is a method by which youths in Nigeria that are not in formal education, can easily maintain a sustainable lifestyle for the future. I believe that if Nigeria were to utilise the millions of youths that are available to farm to their fullest potential, Nigeria would be able to reduce its imports and actually increase its exports.

By: Peter Akindele 
Akindele is a 16 year-old student at African Leadership Academy. He recently won the Sylvia Trott Prize for Languages for his achievements in foreign languages, gaining A*A*A*A in Japanese, French, Spanish and Mandarin respectively.  He has been nominated to receive the Lord Lexden Academic Achievement Award at the House of Lords in March 2014.
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