The impact of agriculture to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of any country cannot be overemphaised.
Reports revealed that agriculture, food, and related industries contributed $1.055 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020, a 5.0 per cent share. The output of America’s farms contributed $134.7 billion of this sum; about 0.6 per cent of GDP.
The agricultural sector in Nigeria remains a dominant economic force, contributing 25.2 per cent (N10. 50 trillion) to the nation’s GDP as at 2019.
It is acclaimed that agriculture is a key activity for Nigeria’s economy after oil. Nevertheless, agricultural activities provide livelihood for many Nigerians, whereas the wealth generated by oil reaches a restricted share of people.
Agricultural sector plays a strategic role in the process of economic development of a country.
In the light of the above, experts have said that IDPs are useful human resources that can be optimally engaged in this sector of the economy being that they were mostly farmers before their displacement.
A Labour expert who would not want his name in print noted that agriculture has already made a significant contribution to the economic prosperity of advanced countries and its role in the economic development of less developed countries is of vital importance.
He pointed out that most IDPs are farmers which should be an advantage to the economy, “hence, they should be effectively empowered to contribute their quota to the country through this means while also providing for their livelihood.
Corroborating, Enoch Yohawna, an IDP in Kosongoro camp in Abuja pointed out that already the IDPs have remained strategic in the nation’s food chain as 75 per cent of them are farmers.
He explained that boosting the food chain is a positive reflection on the GDP in addition to providing a source of living for themselves and this liberates them from the camp where they are purely dependent.
However, Yohawna said a major challenge has been paucity of funds to rent/buy farm lands and implements.
He said: “I’m a farmer; 75 per cent of us are farmers. We rent a farm from Nasarawa. Those that cannot use their money they borrow.
“If the farm gives bumper harvest the IDPs relocate there and get a community to stay. Once the farming favours them they’ll not return because they are originally farmers and they do that to reduce trauma because life in the camp introduces psychological, mental stress and others. So, they go and re-start their lives.
“Some collect 50 per cent interest while some will collect in kind- maybe you collect N100, 000, you’ll return 10 (100kg) bags of maize.”
According to Yohawna a lot of IDPs farm in Nazarawa State and the government is proud of the revenue they are generating for the State as people come from Lagos and Ibadan to Nazarawa to buy food stuff produced by IDPs. “We have built a big grain market there,” he said
“When we get the money we buy a piece of land that favours us and start building small, small, until it is enough for us to live in. With the vast land in Nazarawa we can do mechanised farming. Also the farming in Borno has gone a long way,” he said.
Besides funding to improve capacity, he pointed out the challenge of herdsmen in these farms which can be terrible at times.
His words: “The challenge here besides finance is farmer-herder clash because most communities there have Fulanis but with the experience of what happened to us we treat them like kings.
“We tell them we have come here to find something to eat. So they’ll show us the way their animals follow to go and graze so we protect our farms.
“However, the migrant Fulanis are a problem because they move at night and if you tell them that please this farming is my life they can even kill you.
“But the resident Fulanis have even joined us to farm. They’re not harmful, they can even come to your farm and give you cow meat.
“But there are others that are offensive; the major problem here is that about 90 per cent of them are into drugs and are at times under the influence of drugs especially the younger ones; at such times their animals can graze on your farms.
“But when we run to their elders at home the kind ones among them can pay you damages.”
Continuing, Yohawna said some IDPs when they go to farms they stay back more especially when they have bumper harvest “because you would have liberty as nobody will tell you what to do. You don’t have to wait until somebody donates before you eat.
“At times we bring foodstuff to the camp – 10 per cent of our proceeds; some bring cash, some raw food and we tithe some to the old ones in the camp that cannot farm.”
According to him the Nasarawa market is worth billions of naira and has removed thousands of IDPs from poverty.
“One bag of beans goes for N30, 000 to N35, 000, averagely N28, 000 to N30, 000. I’m still learning farming. I have a friend that together with his father they have 150 bags of beans and 10 bags of unprocessed rice; on the whole they have up to 200 bags of grains – beans, corn and unprocessed rice.
Calling on government’s support to increase food production by IDPs, he said Nazarawa State had not shown any form of intervention to their needs and challenges although some IDPs formed a committee to approach the government for loan.
“They have met with the Governor of Nazarawa because he’s aware of the beans/corn market and some politicians have also visited the market but nothing has come out of it,” Yohawna said.
He however, recalled that the New Ministry of Agriculture last year had given support for IDPs through training on ‘sack’ farming and they came with yam you can plant in the sack which some of them have tried “but we’re looking for a larger scale.”
He decried that “Uncle borrowing scheme for farmers has not been extended to us in the IDP camps.
“Even during the trader-money the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osibanjo, visited a camp in Abuja and only one person benefitted. So the government has turned its back on IDPs.”
Yohawna advocated that the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian and Disaster Management should have a special grant (federal government) for IDP farmers and other businesses.
In addition he urged the government to subsidise farm tools and chemicals for IDPs; “chemicals at low price that can be afforded by IDP farmers like the Uncle Borrowers scheme, tractors that can plough and also fertilizer because this has to do with the national interest.”
He also asked for a scheme that would help IDPs to have access to loans at low interest rates, saying that most of the IDPs cannot get money (loan) and for this reason remain poorer.
“One hectare of land is N30, 000 and you use about 12 in one carton which cost N1, 800 last year but this year it’s N4, 500.
“Individuals give loans to some of the poor people in the camp at 50 per cent rate which is too high; like interest of N5, 000 for a loan of N10, 000 and if there is no harvest you lose.
“Some of these people giving these loans are wicked; they come almost every Monday with two trucks containing 40 foot containers (20 of them) and they even want you to worship them.
“They usually come to the camp to wait for you to empty what you have harvested and they can collect all and you go back to square one,” Yohawna lamented.
He further called on the government to intervene on the health of some IDPs especially those with large children as it is very difficult for them to cope, adding that poor mental health affects some IDPs from farming.
On the advantages of equipping IDPs to enhance the food chain he said this would ensure food security and boost the nation’s GDP while the IDPs themselves will gain freedom, earn a living and no longer be a liability to the country, among other benefits.
Also lamenting, another IDP, Miss. Sarah Daniel, from Gurku camp in Abuja said the real problem is that where she farms in Ankoma in Abuja is far. “I take ‘okada’ to and fro; I pay N600 to and fro farm.
She sought government’s help for funds to secure an accommodation near the farm and also buy crops as this would enhance her productivity.
In her words: “I want the government to help me; I need money to pay for a room to stay there. My brother gave me money to buy the farm but I need a loan for farm crops and accommodation.
“I plant corn and beans and I sell them to some people; some come to the farm to buy and sometimes I carry it to the market with ‘okada’ to sell in some markets.
“The farming is not giving me plenty of money but if I have plenty of money I’ll expand and make big money. Even some people in this camp want to farm but have no money to start; a farm land is N15, 000 to buy.”
On his part, another IDP, Ali Musa, from New Kutugoro camp in Abuja, said his farm is in Nasarawa and it takes a toll on him on transport fare.
According to him, his challenge has been inability to secure a loan for land and buy chemicals to dry the grass before planting.
He said: “My farm is Nasawara, I use a taxi to get to Maraba and then take a bike to the farm. I need money for a farm . That is the hindrance to my contributing more to the food chain.
“I need to get a farm land and buy chemicals to dry grass because of this I hustle (like doing labourer job – bricklayer, carrying block for building for three to four days to raise money which I then use to buy chemicals.
“I’ll get like N5000 for those three days and I use it to pay for the farm and buy seeds.
“I plant corn and beans, sell them to any small market, the markets are far away so I use a bike or taxi. In our own case people don’t come to our farm to buy until we carry the products there.
“A bag of beans goes for N15, 000 to N20, 000 and we use it to solve our problems or wait until next season you go and hustle.
“We are in the camp because of Boko Haram; we’ve been in the camp for nine years with our parents – not doing anything. Our parents are already old so we need government and even individuals’ support through low interest loans and grants,” he appealed.
Commenting, an economist and CEO, Centre for Financial Journalism, Mr. Ray Echebiri, pointed out that when it comes to any society growth is by what the individuals in that society do; their productive capacity.
He noted that in Economics there are two major factors of production; labour and capital, stressing that labour is more important than the capital because it is the human being (labour) that generates the capital.
Echebiri explained that invariably human beings contribute immensely to the society and GDP of the country but that in the case of IDPs locked up in a camp the reverse is the case, rather they are dependent.
He said: “So human beings contribute immensely to society. That is why human beings are considered a huge asset because you contribute to yourself and to the society you are in.
“Now look at the IDPs, they are locked up in a camp. Many camps do not allow them to go out and so they live off the government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – feed them, clothe them, etc.
“So you see that this human being that is supposed to work for himself now depends on the society so he has become a liability to the society.
“He cannot make much progress, and now lives on charity. You can’t get what you want. So that is a loss; loss to the IDP and the society. So it’s a very bad and pathetic case. The only way for the IDPs to be free is to go to their homes, get what they need and take care of themselves.
“The IDPs make the societal chain weak. That society where you have so many IDPs cannot grow, cannot witness growth. But the only thing is that they do not have a choice and the government does not either because they are there for the sake of their safety.
“Also the children in the camps will not have access to education and even if they do it won’t be at the right age. With what they are facing their future is also bleak. So they won’t have that ability because they are not well educated. So, it’s a big problem to the economy and the society.”
However, Echebiri said it is possible for the government to empower them especially in the area of farming since most of them are farmers and if their camps are close to farm land it becomes easier.
“The government can help them by securing farm land for them, securing farm input and implements they can use in farming.
“Government can organise them in a way they can go in groves till the land, work and come back.
“Like that they are productive generating income and that income they can use it to take care of themselves, their children and also pay back for the facilities (loans) given to them,” he posited.
He pointed out an idle man is the devil’s workshop and emphasi#sed the need for the government to empower the IDPs to go into agriculture and even skill acquisition to earn a living and contribute to the economy.
“Yes, it is good that the government empowers them to go into agriculture; even those that can go into tailoring and other skills; the government can help them to acquire skills. It is not good for them to remain idle; an idle man is the devil’s workshop.
So they need the government’s help through skill acquisition, farming, and all manner of trade they can do. Then with this, they can help themselves in the camp like a cycle.”