Technology Development in Nigeria
Nweke Jerry Anayo
Department of Crop Production and Landscape Management
Ebonyi State University Abakaliki
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Technology development is generally regarded as a catalyst for national development, because it offers among other things, the necessary support for change in all the major sectors of the economy, most especially in agricultural and industrial sectors. Therefore, it is unarguably the prime source of change, that is, of innovations and adaptations required for improving production methods needed to propel growth and development.
Technology has a wide range of definitions; nevertheless, it is a term traceable to “techne” which means activities by which man seeks to (Olaoye 1990) adapt to his environment. It is defined by Hornby (2002) as a scientific knowledge, used in practical ways, especially in the designing of new machines, machineries and equipment.
According to Titanyi (1985), ‘science and technology represent power instruments of change which can assist in the economic, social, and cultural development of people’ such that the superiority of the rich countries in terms of their living standards, better health services and educational facilities is generally attributed to the breathtaking advances in science and technology which has taken place in the industrialized countries during the last two hundred years.
Olaoye (2008) interprets technology to mean the transformation of a theoretical idea to a practical skill in order to produce the objects of one’s need. Development, on the other hand, is the gradual growth of a skill to become more advanced or the process of producing a more advanced product (Hornby 2002). Consequently, technology development is the transformation of ideas to practical skills, which are concerned with the production and transformation of raw materials into finished goods. Onipede (2003) opined that technology development pertains to development witnessed through industrial activities; he went further to state that these activities involved the processing of manufacturing goods on a large scale using extensive plant and equipment which were all products of technology. With the above definitions in mind, therefore, technology development might be interpreted to mean the various transitional processes in the art and craft techniques and traditions, of blacksmithing, iron and wood carving, canoe building among several other indigenous ways by which people of different cultures have explored to control and maximize the use of their environment. Therefore, the traditional skills and techniques used in the production of arts and crafts, blacksmithing, and iron smelting, carding and weaving, brewery among others can be summed up as indigenous technology in Nigeria.
INDIGENOUS TECHNOLOGY IN PRE-COLONIAL NIGERIA
Technology development entails a process of mobilizing resources, socio-cultural and harmonious integration of modern and traditional technologies organized and fitted into feasible projects designed for specific purpose.
Hence, the process of textile weaving, spinning and dyeing, ginning carding had been a well-established occupation in pre-colonial Nigeria (Onimode 1982). Several studies have been done on the traditional skills of the pre-colonial Nigerian, with evidence regarding the positive contribution of indigenous skills and techniques, particularly to the development and growth of various Nigerian communities before colonialism. For example, the Iron technology of the Nok culture around Jos, Bauchi, Daima, Kano and Zaria is dated to about 500 B.C (Olaoye 1992). Archeologists have excavated iron spears and axes at Nok, and iron smelting furnaces had been discovered in Taruga, and it is believed to have contributed to the development of agriculture in the region, while there had been ample evidence regarding the use of iron around the Kanji Dam in the present Niger State of Nigeria, around 2nd century B.C. which had contributed to the building of canoe and other agricultural implements around that region (Obayemi 1980).
In Oyo, specialized iron mining villages were recorded in 1904 to have contained 100 to 120 people engaged in iron mining, smelting and smiting. Stride and Ifeka (1975) wrote of these industrial skills important in the growth of Old Oyo Empire. They argue that, ‘the growth of Oyo’s prosperity and power were the industrial skills of its people. Their early knowledge of iron working and the existence of iron ore locally meant early possessions of efficient tools and weapon their craftsmanship in weaving and dyeing in carving and decorative arts’. Nevertheless, these developments in iron works and craft were stultified with the advent of colonial government and the introduction of a capitalist economy which led to the monetization of the Nigeria economy arising from changes in the normal and traditional way of life of the people and the introduction of foreign products like cocoa, rubber among others, replacing the subsistence and communal system of production second to slave trade that had initially dispossessed Nigeria of her able bodied men, who would have formed the major work force as agents of industrial transformation.
These developments, however, hindered the modernization of the indigenous technology in iron and crafts in the sub-region as a whole and Nigeria in particular, because rather than improve on the local skills of production, they were sanctimoniously replaced by foreign trade in articles like palm oil, ivory, guns and pepper, cocoa, coffee, groundnut and rubber, while the supposed work force had been carted away to Europe as slaves. More importantly, the introduction of colonial rule and by extension ‘imperialism’ laid the foundation for Nigeria’s industrial underdevelopment. Because by nature imperialism is fortuitous, transferring to the metropolitan states the wealth of the underdeveloped nations, thereby undermining them through capital and human exploitation, colonialism and contemporary neo-colonialism. Indeed, the historical and current technology underdevelopment of the country could not be explained without reference to imperialism and European economic domination. The imperialist domination of Nigeria and its underdevelopment is a total process involving all facets of national life. Onimode (1982) argues, ‘both processes have historically co-existed the transformation from communalist to a predominantly capitalist mode of production in Nigeria occurred under the struggle for national developments since independence has been taking place under neo-colonialism’. The implication is that various regions of Nigeria had at one time developed technologies that are suitable for their industrial development before colonialism, a development that was brought to an abrupt end as a result of her contact with the Europeans and the introduction of slave trade and at a later date, lucrative trade in African goods. This actually led to colonization, necessitated by the industrial revolution in Europe and the need for raw materials of which Africa is home, because of its richness in palm oil, cotton, indigo and other materials needed for the new industries in Europe. In fact, this has continued till date in Nigeria, through her reliance on foreign experts and partners in the handling of her economy. Meanwhile, colonialism lasted between 1900 and 1960 without adequate and proper planning for technological development of Nigeria. In fact, the colonial welfare plan introduced by the British colonial government in 1946 to 1955 never deemed it fit to address the technology and manufacturing sector of the Nigerian economy and not until Nigeria gained independence in 1960, that efforts were made to tackle major technological challenges of the country through the establishment of the Federal Ministry of Planning, saddled with planning for the development of all the sectors of the economy.
The influence of Widespread Adoption of New Technology in Agriculture
Technological change in agriculture began at least 10,000 years ago, when the first cultivators selected wild plants and experimented with different growing environments. From those early beginnings, the technical performance of agriculture in the great civilizations remained roughly equivalent for centuries until the middle of the nineteenth century, where, principally in Europe and North America, the introduction of new machinery and sources of power (Grigg, 1974), the rediscovery of Mendel’s experiments leading to the development of scientific plant breeding, and the development of artificial fertilisers, resulted in rapid increases in agriculture’s productivity. Rapid technological change – leading to marked productivity increases – has clearly occurred in parts of the developing world, primarily over the last half century. This was particularly apparent during the Green Revolution - a term originally applied to the spread of short-straw, fertiliser-efficient new varieties of rice and wheat, primarily, though not exclusively, in Asia. Throughout the developing world, average cereal yields increased by 2.7% per annum between 1966 and 1982 (IFAD, 2001). Performance in South Asia was especially impressive, where, between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s, wheat yields increased by 240% and those of rice by 160% (Kerr and Kolavalli, 1999). Gains from new technology have also occurred in other crops and regions, thanks in large measure to investments in agricultural research and extension. Since the mid 1980s progress in the rates of productivity increases achieved has slowed – the annual rate of increase in developing country cereal yields falling to an average of 1.7% (IFAD, 2001). While some commentators point to reductions in external assistance to developing country agriculture as a cause of this (Pinstrup- Andersen et al., 1997), a slow-down in productivity gains is almost certainly attributable – in part at least – to the Green Revolution ‘running out of steam,’ having achieved the easy gains under relatively favourable conditions in its early phases. The spread of new technologies has been impressive, particularly improved “modern varieties” (MVs) of grains. By 1990 MVs represented an estimated 74% of rice, 70% of wheat and 57% of the maize grown in the developing world (Byerlee, 1994). Although these figures reflected in part the Green Revolution package of seed, fertiliser and irrigation, a substantial proportion of these MVs are grown with low or no external inputs (Byerlee and Lopez-Pereira, 1994).
But the story is not just confined to cereals, or to the development of yield maximizing varieties. New technologies have also been developed for non-cereals, and many MVs have been developed principally for their resistance to pests and diseases. For example, improved cassava varieties have spread rapidly in parts of West Africa (Nweke et al., 2002) and research undertaken in Nigeria in the 1970s was fundamental to the development of cassava resistant to mosaic virus in Uganda nearly two decades later (Otim-Nape et al., 2000). New disease-resistant bean varieties have been extensively adopted by most small-scale farmers in western Kenya (David et al., 2002). New varieties of potato, sweet potato, pearl millet, sorghum, groundnut, pigeon pea, soybean, chickpea, lentil, durum wheat and barley have also increased the yields, particularly of resource-poor farmers.
Advances in crop management technology have also occurred but these are often less visible and tend to be under-reported compared to the spread of new varieties, but these too have made significant contributions to increased agricultural productivity. For example, agroforestry research has led to the widespread adoption of improved fallows in eastern Zambia, making an important contribution to soil fertility and increased yields (Franzel et al., 2002). The adoption of reduced-tillage practices in Brazil has increased productivity on more than 500,000 hectares (Landers, 2001). Significant advances have also been made in the management of tillage, crop establishment and weed control in many areas of Asia (Hobbs et al., 2000).
Influences on the adoption of new technology by farmers
A range of factors appears to have been critical in determining the rate at which farmers have innovated new ideas and so been able to raise productivity for the benefit of growth and the pace of poverty reduction.
Secure output markets
Farmers will innovate to increase subsistence production, but as innovation generally implies some type of investment (in cash, labour or learning) the chances of farmers investing and innovating are greatly enhanced by the existence of secure markets. As the evidence shows, it is difficult to overestimate the importance of reliable output markets as an incentive to new technology adoption. Dorward et al. (2004) argue that a key feature of many successful early Green Revolution environments was government’s role in stabilising output prices, a function which has been progressively dismantled in Africa where innovation has been limited. Wiggins’ (2000) survey of African case studies found a number of success stories that contradict the general pessimism about African agriculture, but virtually everyone was associated with well functioning output markets. In Malawi, Orr and Orr (2002) argue that unreliable maize markets lock many farmers into inefficiently producing as much of their own grain needs as possible, rather than innovating with new crops in which they may well have a comparative advantage.
Effective input supply systems, including credit
While there is danger in relying too heavily on “technology on the shelf”, effective input supply systems are essential, particularly when technological change or advance depends on purchased inputs. Inadequate formal seed supply systems have been shown to dampen, or even preclude the diffusion of new crop varieties (Tripp, 2001). Increasing fertiliser use has long been plagued by difficulties in providing the right products in affordable pack sizes (Omamo and Mose, 2001). Establishing the systems to provide those inputs is, however, one of the major challenges for many technologies, and not merely the conventional seed-andchemical technologies. Delivery of tissue culture banana plantlets in Africa requires the development of a network of intermediary nurseries (Wambugu and Kiome, 2001). Nurseries are also crucial for the spread of many agroforestry technologies, and efforts at encouraging farmer groups to take on this role have largely failed (Bohringer and Ayuk, 2003). The delivery of veterinary technologies depends largely on the delivery role of the private sector (Leonard, 1993).
But an operational system of input provision is often ineffective in the absence of effective credit systems. Previous experiences with state-subsidised credit provision have received much justified criticism (Adams and Vogel, 1990) and new approaches are being considered, including linking input supply and output procurement (Dorward et al., 1998).
Supporting infrastructure – particularly irrigation
The presence of supporting infrastructure is fundamental to effective innovation on new technology and was a major factor in Asia’s successful Green Revolution. Roads are critical to supporting input and output marketing (Dorward et al., 2004), but the expansion of irrigation probably constituted the most important element of supportive investment. The expansion of irrigation in developing countries has been greatest where attaining increasing agricultural output through land expansion has been difficult and so gains are made by intensification. Thus, both South and East Asia have a much higher use of irrigated land use compared to Africa (Table 1). By 2030, it is projected that about 80% of future production gains will be made from intensification (in part dependent on irrigation) with a much smaller proportion through land expansion (de Haen et al., 2003).
Risk and vulnerability
The relationship between risk and technology use is a perennial theme. It can work in two directions. First, the adoption of agricultural technology can make a limited contribution to reducing the vulnerability of the poorest. Examples include the adoption of drought resistant varieties that reduce the risk of crop failure because of drought. The use of irrigation can enable double cropping and lengthen the growing season, thereby smoothing production and consumption, and mitigating against the impact of price volatility. Second, there can be tradeoffs between growth through agricultural technologies and risk since taking up new agricultural technology is, in itself, risky. Whilst improved productivity through agricultural technology can lead to increased incomes, adoption is associated with capital and transactions costs that poor people may not be able to afford. Furthermore, poor farmers struggle to control production uncertainties. Whilst there are some instances of very poor people investing in quite risky technology (e.g. cotton farming in much of South India), on the whole, because poor people are risk averse, they tend to benefit less than others from agricultural technologies and stick with low risk, low return activities.
The benefits of agricultural technology in Nigeria
A number of factors influence the extent to which the poor benefit from changes in agricultural productivity through the adoption of new technology. These are discussed below, beginning with the two most important factors – impacts on employment and food prices.
The impact on employment
Employment on the farms of others is of critical importance to the livelihoods of the poor. This is not just true for the classically landless, employment is also a vitally important way for many farmers to supplement their incomes. The impact of new technology on labour markets – specifically its impact on the demand for labour and wage rates – is of great importance to the poor. Most evidence on this issue comes from the Asian Green Revolution experience and, while often technology-specific, a number of general principles emerge with respect to the impact of new technology on the demand for labour and wage rates.
In terms of the impact on the demand for labour:
- the adoption of high yielding rice and wheat varieties generally increased demand for labour due to the higher harvesting and threshing requirements associated with their greater yields
- The majority of additional labour used was hired rather than family labour (Lipton and Longhurst, 1989). This is particularly important for the poorest
- increased labour demand was greatest when new varieties were introduced into high potential areas and often associated with an increase in cropping intensity. The impact was less pronounced when in low potential areas. (David and Otsuka,1994; Lipton and Longhurst, 1989). The impact on wage rates is more difficult to determine because there are numerous causal, and on occasion counteracting, factors. Some conclusions can be drawn though, including that:
- Generally wages appear to have increased (IFPRI, 2002)
- labour saving technology has probably dampened the rate of wage increases, although this does not means that wages have fallen because of the adoption of new technology. Lipton and Longhurst (1989), show that while a doubling of yields increased wages by 40% early in the Green Revolution, a similar yield increase 20 years later resulted in only a 10-15% increase in wages due to mechanisation. Bautista (1997) describes disappointing increases in the demand for agricultural labour in the Philippines, explained in part by subsidised farm mechanisation
- in some cases, e.g. herbicide adoption in rice systems (Naylor, 1994), the introduction of labour-saving technology has been a response to rising rural wage rates caused by growth in non-farm wage rates
- even where wage increases have been modest, the adoption of new technology has frequently increased the number of employment days, and on occasion, facilitated the introduction of contracts for casual labourers (Leaf, 1983).
For the poor, the price of food is critically important given the relatively larger proportion of their income generally spent on it. A relative lowering of food prices – particularly of staples – allows the poor to eat more and possibly better which has a positive impact on nutrition, health and food security. But cheaper food also releases income which can be spent on other goods and services with immediate positive benefits to the poor such as improved shelter or access to key services such as health and education. This release of income also creates demand for goods and services which can have a powerful multiplier effect on the wider economy.
In many developing countries – and for the developing world as a whole – increases in the production of staple foods have comfortably outstripped population growth since the mid-1960s when the Green Revolution began to be adopted widely. Only in Sub- Saharan Africa have food supplies grown slower than population during the last thirty years. Given this significant increase in per capita supply, and the relatively low elasticity of demand for basic foods, the real world market prices of the major traded grains have steadily fallen since the early 1950s. At the individual country level, increased production of food grains can have a dramatic effect on prices. This is of great benefit to the poor, both in urban and rural areas, where many people buy, as well as grow their own food. (De Janvry and Sadoulet, 2002; Jayne et al., 1999).
But increasing production can also be a double-edged sword if it reduces prices to the extent that producer incomes fall. However, where productivity increases due to technology match or even outpace the corresponding fall in prices, both net consumers and net producers can benefit. Bangladesh provides an excellent example of this. Between 1980 and 2000, production of rice and wheat increased from below 15 to over 25.7 million tonnes, increasing per capita availability over the same period from 425 to 510 grams per day, despite population increasing over the same period from 90 to 191 million people. Real wholesale prices in Dhaka markets of rice and wheat have consequently fallen dramatically, with the price of rice falling from just over Taka 20 to around Taka 11 per kg in two decades. But despite declining market prices, farmers have successfully increased their production, yields and incomes – rice yields have risen from an average of 2 tonnes to over 3.4 tonnes per hectare by the early 2000s – through the use of new varieties, fertiliser and, above all an expansion of irrigation. These improvements have allowed farmers to cut their unit costs of production and so offset the impact of falling prices on their incomes. It also appears that smaller farmers have not been excluded from this technology.
Nutrition and food utilisation
There are numerous examples of how agricultural technology has benefited the nutritional status of poor households. These include:
- Improved varieties with increased vitamin content that contribute to the reduction of human disease;
- Post-harvest fortification of crops to reduce vitamin deficiencies;
- Longer cropping seasons to regulate food supply and reduce the number of months that households go hungry; and
- improved storage and processing to extend the shelf-life of food and reduce waste.
Access to land and other resources
The extent to which agricultural technology can benefit poor people clearly relates to existing inequalities in land and access to other resources. There are various explanations of why poor people stay poor that are couched in terms of the allocation of land and other resources. There is concern that technologies may exasperate inequality in access to productive resources. One major criticism of the early Green Revolution was the fact that early adopters tended to be larger (richer) farmers. (Indeed, a large proportion of subsidies for Indian farmers continue to go to richer farmers (Gulati & Narayanan, 2003)). These farmers were able to take greater risks and gain economies of scale from applying new technologies to larger land holdings. Evidence suggests that, subsequently, smaller farmers caught up and, in some cases, took better advantage of the new technology (Lanjouw and Stern, 1998; Hazell and Ramasamy, 1991). Nevertheless, it is widely accepted that, initially at least, technology is an unlikely way to overcome major inequalities in access to basic resources, especially land.
3.6 Sustainability issues
Whilst new technologies are important for poverty reduction, if not carefully managed, they can create additional demand on resources which may simply not be sustainable in the future. The most obvious example of this is water, for example the lowering of water tables and loss of aquifer water, but other resources, including biodiversity and chemicals, are also discussed here.
Irrigation and water resources
The area of irrigated farmland has tripled since 1950 (Smil, 2000). As Table 1 shows (above), the expansion has not be evenly distributed, with much greater increases in irrigation in South and East Asia. Irrigation has, undoubtedly, been a central component in poverty-reducing agricultural growth. But poorly managed irrigation has led to falling water tables, salinisation and other problems. Salinisation Rosegrant et al. (2002) review evidence of salinisation. They argue that on a global scale there are about 20-30 million hectares of irrigated land that are severely affected by salinity. Furthermore, an additional 60-80 million hectares are affected to some extent by waterlogging and salinity. Some salinisation would have happened even without new technology but some has been encouraged by unsustainable subsidisation of irrigation.
The indiscriminate use of chemicals has also caused problems; Rola and Pingali
(1993) showed that pesticide use on rice in the Philippines results in negative economic benefits if human health costs are included in the analysis.
Technological advance is often blamed for the loss of biodiversity, but the issues here are complex. Agricultural expansion generally has caused habitat destruction and, at the local level, productivity increases can attract new farmers to the agricultural frontier by making farming more profitable. But yield increases achieved through new technology have curbed deforestation and the cultivation of marginal lands. If world crop yields had remained at their 1960 levels, another 800 million hectares of land (equivalent to the Amazon River basin) would have had to be brought into cultivation to meet current demand (Ausbel, 1996). Modern crop varieties have frequently displaced many local varieties. But the relationship of these changes to overall genetic diversity is difficult to unravel. Recent work shows that the uptake of wheat MVs has not lowered genetic diversity (Smale, 1997) as farmers often adopt a new crop variety and grow it alongside their traditional varieties.
Improving the Livelihoods of Farmers and their Families by Producing More and Higher Quality Crops for a Growing Population
Closing the current gap in agricultural productivity will require a significant increase in agricultural yields around the world. This will require seeds that enable crops to withstand environmental and biological stresses, crop protection solutions, modern irrigation practices, mobile technology, fertilizer, and mechanization.
Plant breeding, the science of optimizing a plant’s genetic makeup to produce desired characteristics, can be accomplished through a number of techniques, including hybridization and more complex molecular techniques. Through plant breeding techniques, we can produce higher yielding crops that are better in quality, tolerant to environmental pressures, resistant to pests and diseases, and tolerant to insecticides and herbicides.
Hybridization is a tool that farmers have used to develop high-yielding seeds since the early 1900s. Hybridization involves crossing two or more crop lines to produce hybrid crops with more favorable traits, resulting from combining genes from the selected parents. Compared to open-pollinated varieties, hybrid seeds, when combined with plant breeding techniques, can increase some crop yields by as much as 50 to 100 percent, and provide more tolerance to diseases, pests, and environmental stresses.
Since the introduction of hybrid corn in the U.S., farmers around the world have increasingly planted hybrid seeds, including corn, sorghum, canola, sunflower, and rice, because of its ability to produce higher yielding, stronger crops. Today, approximately 95 percent of all corn grown in the U.S. is from hybrid seed and hybrid seeds are sold in nearly 70 countries around the world.
Molecular Marker-Assisted Selection
Molecular markers are small sequence differences between various lines in a plant breeding population that can be used, when physically linked to traits, as a surrogate for the presence or absence of a desired trait without having to field test for the attributes of that trait. Molecular markers are detected through DNA sequencing methods using DNA derived from plant samples. The practice of molecular marker-assisted selection enables plant breeders to combine desirable plant traits rapidly and in large numbers. Through this technique, breeders can reduce the time it takes to develop some new crop varieties. Additionally, it increases the efficiency of plant breeding by enabling breeders to genetically pre-screen multitudes of potential varieties with high precision prior to selecting lines or hybrids with the highest genetic potential for costly field evaluation. Consequently, this technique is an increasingly common breeding technique in crops where marker systems have been developed and marker-trait associations have been established. Genetic markers are also being used to monitor and increase genetic diversity in breeding programs. Diversified crop varieties protect farmers, including smallholders in food insecure countries, from being vulnerable to widespread disease and environmental stresses that impact certain varieties.
Plant breeders use agricultural biotechnology as another source of genetic variation to produce superior crops with improved yields, while requiring fewer inputs. The products of this technology have been widely used by farmers for over a decade in varieties of corn, cotton, soybeans, and canola. Biotechnology expands the genes available for crop improvement beyond those present in the breeding populations and uses the tools of genetic transformation to bring specific genes to the genetic makeup of the plant. To date, this method has been used to enable crops to tolerate insects, viral diseases, certain herbicides, produce grain with improved nutritional quality, and resist stresses caused by extreme weather. These desired characteristics result in significant productivity gains. During 2011, over 16 million farmers in 29 countries chose to plant 160 million hectares of biotechnology crops. Ninety percent, or 15 million of those farmers, were small resource-poor farmers in developing countries. And, in 2010 alone, the economic benefits from biotechnology crops for developing countries reached $7.7 billion in U.S. dollars. Despite the promise of this technology, European governments and some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been less open to embracing biotechnology’s benefits. While this sentiment is diminishing due in part to input from European scientists, it has had a broader influence on the developing world. While embraced in much of Latin America, other countries in the developing world have been less willing to adopt these technologies, impacting the ability of farmers, particularly smallholders, to access the tools needed to increase yields and improve their livelihoods.
Crop Protection Solutions
Advances in crop protection have been a powerful tool in combating the pests, diseases, and weeds that can be devastating to crop yields. In total, food crops compete with tens of thousands of species of weeds, nematodes, and plant-eating insects. As a result, even with crop protection products, 20 to 40 percent of food crops are lost each year to pests. These losses occur not only in the fields, but during storage and in the home. Through the use of crop protection products, which include chemical (e.g., insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides) and non-chemical tools (e.g., biological pest control and barrier based approaches), farmers have significantly curbed these losses and increased their productivity yields. These tools enable farmers to produce more crops with less land, making them critical to ensuring a reliable food supply.
Beyond improved seeds and crop protection tools, other technologies enable farmers to increase their productivity, such as modern irrigation practices, mobile technology, fertilizer, and mechanization. Over the years, irrigated land has proven to be twice as productive as rainfed farmland. This will be particularly important in the coming decades given that an estimated 1.8 billion people will live in water scarce regions by 2025. Similarly, mobile technology can enable farmers to increase their yields by connecting them through text messages and help lines to agricultural market information, best practices, and extension services designed to meet their localized needs.20 Fertilizers have also contributed to doubling and tripling crop yields, supplying crops with the essential nutrients missing from soil, as well as facilitating the more efficient use of land and water. And, with advances in mechanization, farmers can more efficiently tend to their crops and produce more with less manpower. Today, farmers are even using precision farming solutions, such as global positioning system (GPS) technology, to increase yields while using fewer inputs, leading to estimated productivity gains of 10 percent and an average input savings of 15 percent.
Prospect of technological change in Nigerian Agriculture
The focus of technology development will, at its most fundamental level, need to be guided by an understanding of the future direction of agriculture in the developing world and an appreciation of the (changing) ways in which it will contribute to growth and poverty reduction. While small-farm agriculture focusing on increasing yields of basic grains provided the script for technology development in the Green Revolution, this may not remain the case in the future. In order to set the general direction for coherent and inevitably long-term investments in research and technology for agricultural development, we need a vision of where agriculture will be in twenty years time. Is there agreement on where agriculture is heading or should head? The answer is probably no, and the debate about the future shape of agriculture and the ways in which it will impact upon the poor remain contested (Ashley and Maxwell, 2001). What is clear, however, is that many factors will influence and combine (possibly with counteracting effects) to “shape” agriculture in the future, and with it the demands and opportunities for technology development. Key amongst these includes issues relating to:
- The future viability of smallholder agriculture as a means of generating growth and reducing poverty
- The implications of changes in diets – particularly the increased consumption of animal products in many large developing countries
- Changes in international agricultural trade regimes which may have a major role in determining what parts of agriculture are profitable
- Changes in the non-farm rural economy. Hypothesising such a complex future is difficult. But can it be done? And will the results be worth having? Probably only time will tell, but one attempt (Hazell and Haddad, 2001) provides a matrix illustrating how different types of technology might be targeted to different regions, depending on: whether the country is middle or low income; has liberalised markets; has scarce or surplus labour; good or poor infrastructure, and high or low agricultural potential. Similarly, the World Bank has proposed an International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) to explore future technology needs. Given the broad range of perspectives on agricultural trajectories, it will be a significant challenge to establish a common view on research and technology priorities.
As with any crisis of our time, world hunger and malnutrition will require the efforts of all stakeholders. Through increased collaboration and partnerships, we can leverage the resources, expertise, and tools of the collective whole. The Green Revolution demonstrated the potential for science to bring countries from famine to a surplus of food. The world must again embrace collective innovation to achieve global food and nutrition security. We will need to support the full array of innovative solutions that are available to farmers, including agricultural biotechnology, to meet global food demand. Adoption of appropriate technology for commercial farming in Nigeria will no doubt lubricate the wheels of economic activities of the country. This is because technology constitutes the engine for economic growth. It is absolutely necessary if the economy of Nigeria is to be revitalized. It must be emphasized that without appropriate knowledge, engineers and technologists can do very little. Hence, considerable attention has to be paid to the training of engineers, technologists extension agents, end users and allied personnel involved in every aspect of commercial farming in Nigeria. The roles of the government, financial institutions, the research institutes, the private sector and other interest groups must be carefully and effectively carried out if the dream of developing sustainable commercial arable farming in Nigeria is to be realized. The crucial challenges facing commercial farming in Nigeria are the understanding and learning from the past, becoming informed of a fast changing Nigerian society, improving the ways of conducting research and environmental studies as well as designing, constructing and manufacturing technologies as closed-loop and integrated ecosystems to the extent possible.
However, technology must lead the way to better resources management, innovative industrial processes, modified transportation system, infrastructure, better environmental management and restoration, and in commercial farming enterprise development. To break the cycle of poverty in Nigeria, the right attitudes to work must be developed and sustained. Adoption of appropriate technology offers the developing nations the means to achieve these aims so as to build an efficient and prosperous economy. However, to achieve these, technology must be indigenous or home-grown and integrated into the national life and continuously promoted and upgraded to ensure sustainability.
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