Agriculture Beyond Stomach Infrastructure

By Iyke Ozemena

At first encounter with the expression “stomach infrastructure” in the dailies one could not grasp the extent of its use so one's appetite to read columns with that expression became doused. Admitted as a colloquial yet I thought it could only come from unsophisticated mind of some motor park economists whose philosophy is, for obvious reasons, built around their daily stomach needs without minding about the future. If the expression was coined with more accepted phrases that have been with us for a long time like “food security”, “food politics” etc., no eye brow would have been raised, but alas the philosophy of “stomach infrastructure” is what Mr President transformed into agricultural revolution.

As an individual who have over the years invested in the pursuit and research of ideas for success and excellence, each time I read opinions regularly expressed by enlightened commentators I tend to subscribe to those ideas that the moral strength of leaders and their philosophical direction should not only reflect on the masses but actually influence them. If that strike you as a fact then the level of indiscipline today therefore due partially to negative democratic culture imbibed from past, and present leaders.

Although most Nigerians are pleasantly surprised at Mr President's relative progress at agricultural sector with continuing political commitment, considering his background as a zoologist and educational laurels, including thorough understanding of human nature and psychology, one should actually expect more success in that direction. Napoleon Bonaparte, that 18th century French military leader excelled because of his masterly appreciation of human instincts and sensibilities and that in turn earned him committed and unflinching followers. It is impossible for intellectually blind leaders to command such influence.

If food security is fully attained and quickly followed by housing simultaneously with security of lives and properties enshrined in the constitution, it therefore means that Nigerians would less and less demand that presidency should be produced from their political zone. Instead they would more and more demand that whoever that succeeds president Jonathan should be a candidate, who, apart from sustaining the momentum would exhibit qualities to surpass his in terms of performance.

As African Union (AU) declared and marked 2014 as a year of agriculture and food security, Mr president's experiments and agricultural sector achievements is actually replicating success stories from Eastern part of the continent that started the agro-revolution earlier than Nigeria. The remarkable outcome of the exercise appear to be the acknowledgement that Africa's problem: hunger, diseases, unemployment; lack of productivity and their vicious cycle can be solved. How? The main and smart prescriptions to invest more fund into agriculture to create millions of employment; provision of modern infrastructure; boosting of industrial base by the supply of raw materials rather than importing them and at the end of the chain, litter the markets with fresh and healthy foods. And as the competition in agro-revolution proliferates with all the countries aiming at exporting food the inescapable question become: exporting to who? Since every country would

have become food secured!
In my submission gleaned from my understanding of the economic and political policies deployed by Dr Julius Nyerere of Tanzania I want to believe that Ujamaa, (African socialism) was an honest attempt to elevate agriculture through investment but without sufficient capital (saved or borrowed) instead farmers and cooperatives across Tanzania were used as capital. That was a time Brettonwood did not see any economic potentials in the continent except raw material. It was a time no telecommunication, internet nor digital platforms that are now aiding agro-revolution. The worst was that the model was not fashioned along capitalist/market economies, so there was no support for the programme that was exactly what the Chinese did under Mao Tse Tung and succeeded. He was the Chinese leader that introduced agriculture at such scale (beyond stomach infrastructure) which led to and preceded industrial revolution. Today with increased funding agriculture in

market economy is producing the solutions the erstwhile Tanzanian leader envisaged with his agricultural policies.

The recent crash of petro-dollar at the world market brought home with it the reduction of price of PMS. Since then analysts have had a field day on the economic and political consequences. Without much ado I queue behind those who argue that the reduction will bring down transportation costs across the nation making movement of agricultural produce more cost-effective. The ultimate being that even as this administration battles with readjustments of budget bench-marks, on the domestic front the masses and farmers would feel the advantage of the fall in price of PMS, all things being equal.

On a negative note the outbreak of avian flu in three states has punctuated the positive ambiance surrounding agricultural sector under this administration but it is so skeletal that “Ebola combatants” will soon halt its spread. However, generally there is optimism in the horizon for Mr President's agricultural policies and achievements so far.

Iyke Ozemena
Corporate Attorneys/Consultants

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