By George Onmonya Daniel
Solidaridad‘s two day workshop on their efforts to revive oil palm production in Nigeria and place Nigeria among the top oil palm production on the globe opened my eyes to the reality of the wonder the Agriculture sector can do to Nigeria in the revival of Nigeria’s economy.
In September I was watching KADIFEST live on Channels Television when someone asked one of the guest, Mr. Sunusi Lamido Sunusi, the former Emir of Kano and governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, if Malaysia actually came to Nigeria to get palm kernel in the 60s and today are the top producers of oil palm in the globe. Mr. Lamido answered in the affirmative, “YES.” Then Nigeria was the top oil palm producing country in the world.
With the discovery of petroleum, the Nigerian government forgot the agricultural sector. Due to complete neglect because of oil money and oil boom, the people at the top echelon of government and their friends became very rich, but the rural economy gradually declined and rural area became poorer and poorer. Over the above six decades of our independence rural economy continued to suffer.
So, given the fact that palm oil is present in nearly every facet of our lives, which countries are responsible for producing it? According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture, nearly 85% of palm oil is produced in just two countries – Indonesia and Malaysia. In 2019, Indonesia produced 42.5 million tons, 58% of global production, while 19 million tons came from Malaysia – 26% of the global supply. Other major palm oil producers include Thailand, Colombia and Nigeria, though all three produced less than 3 million tons in 2018, says Forbes.
Due to its versatility and resilience, palm oil has become a key ingredient in a whole host of diverse products we use daily such as detergent, lipstick, shampoo, chocolate, bread, ice cream and bio diesel. Along with the fact that it has a high melting point and doesn’t spoil easily, palm oil also became enormously popular because it is relatively cheap, costing significantly less than other vegetable oils. Over the past 50 years, demand for the product has risen sharply with annual production quadrupling between 1995 and 2015 and it is expected to quadruple yet again by 2050.
What Solidaridad does is to help farmers produce more using the same hectare of land and educate them on how to improve yields. Palm oil production and trade is dominated by large enterprises, yet a substantial portion of worldwide production (40%) is carried out by small farmers. As large companies are increasingly moving towards sustainability certification to meet consumer demand, smallholders run the risk of being excluded from the certification process.
Today Solidaridad is helping in the palm oil revival in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Enugu and Kogi State, thanks to the Kingdom of Netherlands who are helping in financing the projects. They have on their own part presented a bill to the senate committee on agriculture pertaining the revival of palm oil production in Nigeria. 25 states out of 36 of our states have been identified to be viable of producing palm oil. Solidaridad seeks partnership with government and private sector investor to work on this noble project in the help in reviving the agricultural sector in Nigeria. With 50 years experience and projects all across the globe, the remarkable job they have done in Akwa Ibom State and Cross River State speaks for itself.
In providing these services they take into cognisance Best Management Practices. Dr. Sam Ogallah of Solidaridad explained that they do not encourage deforestation or any practice that is against International practices like child labour but use modern best agricultural practices to increase yield through providing best seedings and educating farmers and stakeholders in how to improve their yields.
Dr. Ogallah said the Oil Palm sector can get thousands of youth, women and farmers out of poverty as Solidaridad encourages all participation and is aware of culture and gender problems in societies they work with. Solidaridad also help farmers in ways of forming cooperatives and assessing the loans and other facilities from government.