Nigeria is rich in arable land, tropical climate and territorial waters – critical variables for agricultural development.
There is an equally good quality of seedlings, livestock and plantation to maintain a self-sufficient supply of food. Nevertheless, Nigeria imports huge amounts of grains and dairies, while exporting large amount of nuts, spices and tubers. Last year's report indicates a whopping amount spent on wheat, sugar and rice, while we keep encouraging export of Cassava, nuts and spices, etc. causing an imbalance in sustainable food security.
Various national and international policies and strategic programs had tried to resolve the imbalance in the Nigerian agricultural ecosystem. As a matter of fact, the former minister of Agriculture, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, who later became the African Development Bank president made all effort to help Nigeria achieve sustainable agriculture. Myriads of reasons for the failure of such efforts remain elusive.
Agriculture can be rewarding, whether it be livestock, fishery, poultry, piggery, crop farming, or plantation farming. The whole nation depends on food before talking about any other human endeavour. And so, the economy is at the mercy of the farmer providing food crops and livestock to feed the nation, and of course, there is financial benefit in doing so.
In the recent crash of the oil and gas industry, which has been the primary source of national income, the government began to focus strongly on agriculture, and also began to offer incentives to people investing and going into agri-business. What that means is that the agro-allied sector has taken a new turn, so people willing to take the bull by the horn (literally) will reap the rewards.
But the farmer needs to be healthy and safe to enjoy the fruit of his labour.
How can Agropreneurs manage health and safety in their businesses to achieve sustainable business?
Recent industry report by the United States occupational safety and health administration (OSHA) confirmed that there is a high level of fatalities and injuries in the agriculture sector. Looking critically at this data, it became obvious that this trend may not be unconnected with the poor level of safety education and training available to workers and management in agric. In addition to that, the use of heavy equipment and contact with live animals bumps up the numbers.
Essentially, health and safety hazards in the agriculture sector might be classified into two broad categories.
- Biological hazard
- Tools and equipment
In controlling these, all farm management professionals across the value chain should have basic awareness of the hazards they are exposed to.
Closely related to tools and equipment is the use of pesticides and other agro-allied chemicals, some of which are known to contain toxic substances, yet inevitable in the agriculture sector. At that point, the concern will now be how to manage exposure.
The probability of being exposed to biological hazards in form of bacteria and other disease-causing pathogens are high. These can be controlled using various methods such as elimination, substitution, engineering control, administrative control, and as a last resort; Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Irrespective of the type of agriculture service, there is always a dimension of hazard identification and control necessary to reduce the risk involved, while also maintaining optimal productivity and profits.
It is equally important to note that there are psychosocial hazards associated with agriculture. It goes without saying that there is the need for work-life balance, as farmers are typically emotionally attached to their livestock and in some cases crops.
Conclusively, a comprehensive farm safety management system is essential to overall productivity and sustainability of agricultural enterprise, regardless of the type or scale of operations.
Are you a farmer? Get in touch for your farm safety management program.