Agriculture Problems and Solutions
Agriculture may be defined as the production of animals, fishes, crops and forest resources for the consumption and other benefits of man. Agriculture is the dominant occupatnon, employing about 50-60 per cent of the total population of West Africa.
Although subsistence agriculture is practised in this part of the world, it will not be an over-statement to say that it is the live-wire of the economies of West African countries.
Problems of Agriculture
The problems facing agriculture in many countries generally include:
- Inadequate finance and credit facilities constitute a major problem to farmers. Most of the farmers have no access to loans from commercial banks because they have no collateral security.
- Low level of farmers’ education affects their productivity. They cannot adopt the modem production system and they cannot benefit from the services of the extension service workers.
- Transportation facilities are poor. Farm-market roads are either not available or are in very bad condition.
- Inadequate irrigation system leaves large but potentially arable land uncultivated because of drought.
- Most farmers have no access to important farm inputs such as fertilizers. In some cases when fertilizers are available they are wrongly applied. The price may even be too high for the farmer.
- Agriculture suffers tremendously from the attack of insects such as locusts, tsetse flies and tinder pests which destroy crops.
- Land tenure system imposes limitations on the use of agricultural land. Land is owned by the extended family. It can neither be sold nor used as security for bank and other loans.
- The agricultural production system is primitive. Farming is still in the hands of the peasant farmers. To these farmers, modem agricultural techniques are new and foreign.
- Extension officers are in short supply. These would have assisted the illiterate farmers to adopt new crops and new methods.
- Poor and fluctuating weather conditions adversely affect agricultural development. Too much rain resulting in floods in one season and drought at another season are examples of bad weather conditions.
- Instability of prices of agricultural products result in low and irregular incomes to farmers. This tends to discourage many farmers.
- Instability of government agricultural policies tends to adversely affect agricultural development. Lack of consistency in policies has discouraged large scale investment in agriculture.
- Corruption and mismanagement in the institutions charged with the responsibility of promoting agricultural development has frustrated development efforts.
Short-run Agricultural Farm Problem
The short-run agricultural problem is the extraordinary instability both of farm prices and of farm incomes. The basic economic factors of this problem are:
- The very low price elasticity of demand for most agricultural products.
- The large and unpredictable fluctuations of agricultural market supply.
- The very low price elasticity of supply for most agricultural products in any given growing season.
- The large and unpredictable fluctuations of foreign demand for some key agricultural products.
Long-run Agricultural Farm Problem
The long-run farm problem is the relatively low incomes received by much of the farm population.
The basic economic factors of this problem are:
- Low price elasticity of demand for agricultural goods.
- Rapid and sizeable improvement of agricultural productivity (most especially in developed economies).
- Relatively little reduction of land under cultivation.
Problems of Agriculture in West African Countries
In spite of the fact that more than 50% of the total population of West Africa is involved in agriculture, small scale farming still exists and their productivity is low compared with some advanced nations where less than 20% of their population engage in agriculture and produce enough food for the rest of the people.
This can be attributed to the following reasons:
- The Use of Crude Implements: Farmers in West Africa still use the traditional crude implements like hoes and cutlasses because agriculture has not been mechanized in West Africa.
- Poverty: As a result of this, the farmers cannot afford to embark on large scale farming, buy good implements and hire more labour that can increase their productivity.
- Illiteracy And Ignorance: As a result of these, farmers in West Africa cannot adapt to the modern methods of farming, neither do they use implements like tractors, harvesters, the application of insecticides and pesticides, etc., which increase agricultural productivity.
- Lack of Medical Facilities: This results in poor health of the farmers which miiitates against their efforts.
- Conservatism: Many farmers follow the footsteps of their parents and as a result find it inconvenient to change the system of farming they were brought up with.
- Lack of Credit Facilities: Credit facilities like loans, seeds, insecticides, pesticides, etc. do not go to the real farmers but to emergency ones who are businessmen, who use the loans for their businesses and resell the seeds, etc.
- Lack of Storage Facilities: This forces farmers to embark on low productivity and practice small scale farming since they do not have storage facilities where they can store the excess products if they produce more crops.
- Poor Transportation: This prevents the farmers from carrying their crops to areas where they can attract higher prices and are therefore, forced to sell them within their vicinity where they attract low prices because, almost everybody is a farmer.
- Problem of Land Tenure System: It does not encourage large scale farming since land is owned communaily, and as a result does not make provision for outsiders who have the capital and willingness to embark on large scale farming.
- Poor Marketing System: Agricultural products in West Africa are not put in good conditions before they are marketed; for instance, they are not graded and packaged in order to attract higher prices.
- Natural Disasters: They include drought. erosion, etc. which play major role in causing low productivity in West Africa.
- Unfavourable Climate: The climate of some areas in West Africa, is not clement for large scale farming.
- Pests And Diseases: They reduce the quality and quantity of agricultural products and the poor condition of farmers put them in a pitiable situation where they cannot afford to purchase insecticides and pesticides to reduce insects and pests menace.
- Absence of Research: Farmers, because of their low level of education, do not carry out research on how to improve their productivity.
- Absence of Able-bodied Youths: Farm work is left to the aged men and women in West Africa.
- Inadequate Research And Extension Services: This is common especially In the tropical areas and the available services are on export crops. Furthermore the avaitabie extension services have not reached many of the farmers in the rural areas especially the subsistence farmers.