If you had your primary school education in Nigeria, you must have come across story books or comprehension passages in which farmers were one of the characters. And how were these farmers described? Rich, famous, comfortable, fat? of course not. What you get are thin hardworking poor fellows whose only chance at getting rich is by discovering hidden bags of gold, silver or diamonds on their farmlands.
This perception of farmers is not only predominant in this country but as well in other parts of the world (maybe not to the same degree as in the stories). But then, what could be the source of this perception, which to some extent is true? Why are farmers not getting as much monetary rewards for their labour as they can?
With emphasis on small scale crop farmers, the reasons may include; banks taking interests on loans taken by the farmers, fertilizer suppliers exploiting them, the problem of pests and diseases and so on. Taking note of the fact that customers don’t necessarily care how much effort has gone into making a product but only want the best at the cheapest price, one would understand better the reason behind the inability of farmers to maximize profit.
One challenge deserving emphasis is the issue faced with middlemen. These people who act as intermediaries between the farmers and final buyers at times, eat away substantial portions of the farmers’ income. Many of them take advantage of the lack of farmers’ access to market information and particularly pricing information, having many farmers receiving less than 30% of the price of their produce. It is popularly known that, “raw material producers are not rewarded, whereas, industry marketing and advertisement managers and others make a lot.”
Another cogent reason is the loss incurred by farmers due to the invasion of pests and diseases. As we all know, all that pests such as locust, army worm, fruit flies and rodents do to crops is consume as much as they can and destroy many others. This obviously results in drastic reduction in the amount of produce, as diseases also do. These diseases can be caused by living organisms like; fungi, bacteria and viruses or non-living causes such as, herbicides, nutrient deficiency, and pollution.
In resolving these challenges, it is important that small scale farmers begin to see farming as a proper job-employment, capable of catering for the needs of all its employees. They also must be well aware of the true value of their produce and learn to approach farming as a business that must have equal expenditures and income.
One other vital resource they can optimize is Technology. With the aid of mobile applications like Plantheus, farmers can easily diagnose the diseases on their crops and take early measures to curb their spread. Also with the advent of modern equipment such as tractors, harvesters and drones to increase crop production and monitor growth, the use of inefficient methods that require much manual labour can be eliminated.
By implementing these suggestions, farmers will be able to make close enough to how much they can and won’t have to depend on hidden bags of gold in order to become rich afterall!