by Olansile Ajetunmobi Umar (OAU)
“Economic growth without social progress lets the great majority of people remain in poverty, while a privileged few reap the benefits of rising abundance-“John F. Kennedy.
In 2013, I went to a typical village in Ikeji-Arakeji, Osun State. When I say a typical village, I am talking about a setting where the residents are just about 200. A setting where their women delivered almost all their babies at home. A setting where their children go to school only twice a week because of transportation. Before one could even get to the village of just less than ten buildings, one must walk for about twenty minutes from the main road(which was equally far from the inner town). One beautiful thing about this village is that it is home of fresh and green agricultural plantations. Of recent, a similar thing was encountered in Aba Afaa in Ibadan, Oyo State. These two villages are just a small percentage of the Nigerian villages where agriculture smiles radiantly at farmers who do cultivate their arable lands, but getting the outcome of their sweats reachable to the cities is like an Agama Iizard that refuses to bow down its red-laden small head in a scorching sun. Transportation is one of the major wheels within the wheels of farmers in the rural areas, no doubt. And before these practical farmers can be as effective as we expect, their major wheels must be taken care of as and when due.
Before the Nigerian government can expect any meaningful output from the local farmers, roads that link their villages to the cities must be motorable and devoid of immediate damage. Aside the fact that there are many reasons for this, it is not hidden that the largest percentage of real farmers in Nigeria are from rural areas. One of the reasons why the roads that lead to the villages must be motorable is to reduce the economic burden of the farmers on transportation. It’s always been the habit of most vehicle owners and drivers to overcharge their clients whenever the drivers want to ply bad roads with their vehicles. Instead of charging them #50,000 for instance, they will charge them #90,000 or so. Their argument has always been that they will repair their vehicles after the journey, even when the vehicles develop no fault. Logically, are they not right? Now imagine a farmer who is charged such an amount and sells his produce for #100,000 or #120,000, what should be his gain? Won’t he deduct all what he expended on pre-planting and planting? What should such a farmer do if all what remains as his profit afterwards is just #5,000. Will he even try planting on a commercial basis during the next farming season, let alone selling out his produce to city people?
Another reason why the roads linking the villages to urban cities should be more pliable is with a view to facilitating food security and sufficiency. Have you ever heard a situation where people in the villages complain of food? They might be poor; they might be uneducated, but they eat good food – they scarcely complain of food. If their roads are motorable, any individual interested in farming business in the city can easily contact the farmers in the rural areas on the need to transport their goods to ‘town.’ This will not only improve the living standard of the farmers, but also improve our food security as a country. Instead of eating smuggled, chemically processed and imported foods, fresh foods will always shake hands with us on our dining tables.
In addition, having a motorable road in rural areas will surely encourage youths to go into farming. Gone were the days of jobs availability. Although, jobs are still available, it is either the jobs are for replacement of sacred cows or the jobs are under-employment. Some youths have even come to the reality of their initially-held belief that farmers were illiterate folks. They have opened their eyes from searching and crying for white collar jobs to ‘green collar’ jobs (agriculture). When one goes into agriculture, one enjoys freedom, economic independence, management, control and confidence. You will be the manager of your time, wealth and resources! Though, farming is not easy at all, with patience, commitment, enthusiasm and sincerity of purpose, one’s life will go green through agriculture. So, for all these things to be achieved, our governments and representatives at all levels must see the need to care for the dwellers of rural areas by making their roads motorable or more motorable. Enough of unnecessary projects that cannot solve the problems of these people. Most dwellers of rural areas will prefer good roads to boreholes, in as much as they have a running stream that caters for their needs. That’s what scholars of development communication refer to as development – give the people what they need, not what you want!
At this juncture, if truly the Nigerian government wants to make Nigeria a green nation, it’s hightime it stopped being deceptive and unencouraging in matters that affect people of the rural areas. The nation can only become a producing nation through the convergence, loyalty, commitment and assistance of these people we have been neglecting for donkey years. If they refuse to plant, are we not knocking at the door of Mr Famine? Have we forgotten so soon what happened when the northern farmers refused to plant tomatoes sometimes ago? Haaa! Ordinary tomatoes!! Nawa for us oooo!!! What I am clamouring for is : LET’S TAKE CARE OF THE RURAL FARMERS BEFORE WE CAN EXPECT ANY PRODUCTIVITY FROM THEM – MAKE THEIR ROADS MOTORABLE ; THEY ARE READY TO FARM.