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South must reposition for agriculture

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STATES in the South have not been proactive in terms of food production, which is evident in their collective neglect of agriculture.

This was one of the fallouts of our general dependence on the monthly federal allocations from Abuja since the rise of our crude oil-dependent economy.

While Northern states continued to strengthen their commitment to agriculture and increasingly became the food basket of the entire nation, states in the former Eastern, Western and Mid-Western Regions shut down their once prosperous farm settlements and massive agricultural projects which fed their respective economic prosperity before the civil war.

The educated, youthful population migrated to the urban centres in search of white collar jobs while the less-educated ones also pursued blue-collar jobs. The result was a total abandonment of agriculture and the rural areas and further impoverishment of the grassroots.

The South increasingly depended on the North for the bulk of its food supplies such as rice, onions, groundnuts, tomatoes, pepper, yams, livestock and poultry products.

At a point it became a political leverage whereby some Northern groups often threatened to “starve” the South over some contentious political issues.

The ideal situation which obtained in the country before the civil war should be resuscitated.

The North and South should equally embrace massive investment in agriculture. There is no such thing as “too much agriculture”. Farming will endure till the end of time because humanity will always need food. It is myopic, insensible and self-defeatist to abandon agriculture.

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There is absolutely no logic for the abandonment of agriculture by the South. All the plant and animal products farmed in the North have their Southern varieties, and the nation’s economic and food security system will be the richer for it if they are adequately harnessed for local consumption and export.

There is a great abundance of land and water for year-round farming in the South. All it requires is for people to go back to the land.

The imperative of recharging the agricultural machinery of the South is even more pressing now that insecurity is threatening to envelope many parts of the North, the nation’s food basket.

The massacre of rice farmers in the North East could frighten farmers off the fields. Also, kidnappings and killings by bandits in the North West and parts of North Central have rendered many farmers refugees.

No end seems to be in sight, going by the recent utterances of the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, about the alleged “complexity” of his assignment.

The Southern farm settlements should be revived. Massive, secured corporate investments must be directed at the agricultural sector.

It will draw the youth back to the rural areas and help keep the marauding armed herdsmen seeking to settle forcefully on people’s lands at bay.

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