Nigeria’s Village Farmers Awakens: One of The Great Food Basket Of the World

Nigerian-rice farmers are changing the way we see modern agriculture. They are retracing ancient farming roots

There is an ancient network of ethnic tribesmen working along rural lines that are transforming how we see modern agriculture in Nigeria. Farming is in their blood. With East African countries like Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania leading the way in agriculture on the continent, Nigerian farmers are staging a comeback at the world stage.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country. It is home to over 250 ethnic languages. Its large young population remain unmatched on the continent.

Ancient farm tradition a farmer-carries-a-bunch-of-cassava-roots-in-Nigeria. Photocredit:

There was a time Nigeria’s village farms led the food movement on the continent.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Nigeria was one of the world’s top exporters of rubber, rice, corn, cotton, cocoa, sorghum, yam and millet among others. This was a country on a remarkable journey, well positioned to becoming one of the great food baskets of the world.

But somewhere down the line excess crude oil money gave way to uncontrolled spending and run away corruption. Government forgot its farming investments. But ethnic planting tradition held sway.

This remaining vestige of an ancient farming movement dating back thousands of years has steadily gained footing and now receive international interests.

In a country plagued with dwindling oil revenue, village farming frontiersmen stand out as beacon of hope and represent what is possible in remote Africa if you truly believe.

A businessman, Emeka Ogochukwu, from one of Nigeria’s southern state, Ebonyi, captured the mood, ‘Rice harvest in my home town and state area is bringing enormous wealth. But it can barely meet demand. We are in for a surprise and our people a waking up to the economic power it presents. Our rice farmers are making it big time. My father managed large rice farms in the 1980s and 1990s. Farming is a family thing. We are beginning to raise our head like rich people more and more.’

The race is on.

Anaam-people-of-southeast-Nigerian state Anambra-are-known-for-their-ancient-yam-cultivation-tradition. Photocredit:

It is becoming less attractive and profitable to import food products from Asia. With the economic trend and uneasy foreign exchange rates, Nigeria’s vast population have turned to village farmers for salvation. Its a journey of rediscovering.

Its nothing new.

When Nigerian businessmen import food stuffs from Asia, the comparative advantage of cheap import has been steadily  eroded by the harsh foreign exchange market. Nigeria’s currency naira has fallen well behind global trading currencies like dollar, euro, pound and Yuan.

It is becoming somewhat bad for business to import food to Nigeria nowadays.

So the unsung rural farming communities have taken the burden to feed Africa’s most populous country. But it reveals a striking truth.

In Africa, there are ancient bloodlines that have preserved a uniquely African farming tradition handed down from father-to-son. They form the backbone of Africa’s grassroots economic drive.

They may be unknown, uneducated and somewhat detached from western markets but they have got guts, adaptive imagination and good vision.

By believing in what they have got – ancestral farms, family network, large local market and a critical mass of young farmers over 50 million strong – Nigeria’s agribusiness is positioned to feed the world in time to come. Something is happening.

Nigeria’s march towards self-sufficiency in food production signals a unique shift in Africa’s rising narrative.Vast stretch of fertile lands grace Nigeria’s countryside, in the northern and southern regions.

It is Nigeria’s natural advantage in keeping with ancient farming communities – together with modern agriculture, manufacturing and young population– that will give rise to a unique wave of economic freedom.

Groundnut-pyramid helped define-what-we-know-today-as-northern-Nigeria. One of the-pride-of-the-Hausa-speaking-people. Its is staging a comeback and millions of dollars in revenue. Photocredit:

It will lead Africa to enjoy some of the most sustained prosperity in the world’s history. We are beginning to see the impending food miracle to come.

Many Nigerian families are retracing their roots. Just about every Nigerian family understand their forefathers had food production in their blood. Modern comforts will only inspire a highly educated village farmers. They will develop a uniquely African large-scale farming method.

One of Nigeria’s national newsprint, Punch, reported the amazing food program of a southern rice-producing state in 2016, ‘The Ebonyi state government says it will launch an agricultural programme tagged, ‘one-man-one hectare’ in August to enable its citizens participate actively in its agricultural revolution.’

Nigeria’s regional governments now see agribusiness as one of the most viable tickets out of poverty. They have got an ancient farming tradition to build upon.

By expanding the land available for one man to cultivate from few hundred square meters to a hectare they can transform their destiny. Some are begin to care less about the risky crude oil investments.

Nigeria is the world’s top export of cassava. But rice, corn, bean, groundnut, tomato, cocoa, fruit and vegetable farming are gathering steam.

Cocoa-farming-gave-yoruba-speaking people in Nigeria’s southwest-region-great recognition. Photocredit:

Home-grown manufacturing, high import costs and adaptive village farmers are driving Nigeria’s agricultural breakthrough. Intensive farming remains an important trigger that will jump-starts the growth of labor intensive industrial plants and mega enterprises.

The cumulative effect of millions of village farm-holders, modern farm cooperatives and high-tech food producers across Nigeria’s northern and southern regions cannot be fully understood. But it is coming.

Cocoa and rubber are the largest source of export revenue for Nigeria after crude oil.

Going forward, imagine what will happen in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, when virtually every family with a rich farming history is aggressively retracing its farming roots. For many Nigerians, farming is their ancestral pride.

But as they aggressively combine the ancient with the modern, food production will explode. They are positioning themselves to feed a nation, a continent and beyond. Nigerian farmers are beginning to realize they are competing at the world stage.

Today, village farming has been steadily influenced by modern planting branches, including industrial farming plants and high-tech food processing enterprises.

Nigeria’s south south and south east regions are deeply populated. They have been called Oil River Wealth because they were once a key source of palm oil from the 1800s through 1960s. However we associate these two regions with crude oil revenue only in the last 50 years.

But times are changing.

Palm oil farmers are waking up to the enormous downstream economic value of the cash crop. It will reshape the wealth architecture of Nigeria’s southern farmers. The sheer application of palm oil as a baseline ingredient for food and other domestic and industrial products has been felt worldwide.

Today, many packaged foods on display in grocery shops across the world constitute palm oil material. The palm oil industry including plantations and grinding mills will trigger food companies producing chocolate, butter and local African packaged foods. It is all about timing.

It is Nigeria’s comparative advantage in growing cash crops and food crops along tribal line – together with the modern 50 million strong farmers and counting that will rebuild the continent. It points to where modern Africa is headed. And you should take notice.











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