According to the recent report by Nigerian Population Commission (NPC) Nigeria's population has officially hit 198 million, with the majority (51%) living in the urban areas.
Is this supposed to be a blessing or a challenge for the agri-food sector? I would say it is both.
It is a challenge, because there are now more mouths to be fed by the rural-farming population, which is now 1% less than the urban-consuming population. What that means is there are more people competing for needed resources.
But the big question is; does the rural population which comprises predominantly smallholders have the capacity to meet this food demand? Can they produce enough to cater to the food needs of both the rural and the urban populations? I would say yes, if and only if something changes.
It is a blessing because the increase in population means increase demand, hence there is enough market for agri-food commodities. It's an opportunity for farmers and other stakeholders in the agri-food value chain to become richer. If there's any time to invest in Agriculture, it is now.
But how can Nigeria, as a nation, position herself to convert this to a blessing? Here are three strong recommendations:
Empower the smallholders in rural areas with the latest and relevant skills with which to improve productivity, optimize inputs and maximize resource use.
Build a strong transportation and logistics infrastructure to ease the supply of commodity from the rural to the urban areas where they are needed most.
Encourage urban-farming and make agriculture more attractive to the younger generation through incentives and awareness.
The place of public-private-people partnership cannot be overemphasized. The African agri-Food sector has the capacity to wake up to this challenge if a vibrant private sector can be stimulated to front it.
Private organizations like Ajaoko Agritech Limited committed to empowering farmers with the right skills, providing them seamless access to inputs, and connecting them directly to market and inputs. As well as opening young minds up to the opportunities in Agriculture through various forms of online and onsite training can help turn the challenge into an opportunity for growth.
If we must feed the Nigerian population and feed them well, all hands must be on deck. We can't afford to let this golden opportunity for economic growth become our greatest nightmare.