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From Black Gold to Green Gold: A Prudent Policy

Year:1991 Issue:1

Column: AFRICA

Author: XU DEWEN

Release Date:1991-01-20

Page: 21,22

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Mi first impression of Lagos was of a beautiful and prosperous city; the three bridges that link the continent to the three islands spread out like huge dragons and tall buildings line up the shores. One peculiar thing caught my attention right away though, the great number of secondhand cars in the streets.

“During the oil boom, there were few secondhand cars around. If today there are so many, it is because of the fall of oil prices and the lack of foreign currency,” explained my Nigerian host.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Nigeria was considered a “giant oil tanker” because of the steady increase of oil revenues. For example, in 1980, oil exports brought in US $25 billion. With these oil dollars, the country created 200 big enterprises and built more than 9,500 km of roads (including stretches of highways), new ports and airports.

Though the oil era brought wealth to the country, it also destroyed the agricultural sector. The strong exodus of rural people to the cities meant that Nigeria, who used to export cereals, peanuts, palm oil and cotton, now had to import these goods. “The black gold killed the green gold.” With the fall of oil prices, the Nigerian economy deteriorated, reaching an all low in 1986 with a drop of foreign revenue, financial deficit, industrial crisis, unemployment, rising inflation, shortage of cereals...

Nigerians at once understood that to base the economy solely on oil exports was to build it on sand, and that the economic prosperity depended on the agriculture’s recovery, as the country has 100 million inhabitants to feed.

“Ask the earth for bread!” became the slogan of farmers from Jos. Since the government prohibited the importation of wheat in 1986 because of low reserves of foreign currency, farmers from Jos decided to grow it themselves. This was a first in Nigeria and many Nigerian and foreign experts thought that the climate was unfavourable to wheat culture. But the attempts proved successful and today many farms in the region grow wheat and harvest two crops a year. When I visited, I noticed the wheat was growing very well. I talked to Nigerian friends who humbly told me: “China who produces so much wheat is very experienced in this field. We would like to go to China to learn from our Chinese friends and hope that one day they will come to our country for some joint project.”

Following the ban on wheat imports, Nigerian scientists substituted corn and sorgho with wheat in food production. Nigerians have adapted well to these products, both high in quality and low in price.

“Industry must serve agriculture!” This government slogan was aimed at setting back the agriculture on its track. In response, many industrial enterprises adjusted their production to help the development of agriculture. A chemical fertilizer plant located in the sub-Saharan region now produces 1.000 tons of ammoniacal fertilizer, 1,500 tons of urea and 1.000 tons of nitrate, phosphated and potassic fertilizers daily. During my visit, the plant director told me that expansion was under way to provide farmers with more chemical fertilizers.

These last years have shown that the use of agriculture as a basis for the development of the national economy is a prudent policy. Consequently, the economic situation in Nigeria has improved, though there are still many problems, such as lack of capital to fund big agricultural projects. Nigerian economists believe that in the near future this policy will enable the Nigerian economy to get out from the rut in which it had fallen.

Tanzania’s Floating Restaurants
Tanzania is a very hot country. Because of the climate, many restaurant owners have come up with an innovative idea to attract more travellers: floating restaurants. These restaurants are virtually built on rivers, under the trees flanking the shores. The most flourishing restaurant of this kind is located in Pemba. Built on a wooden raft, it can accommodate 20 to 30 people at once; The small tables and stools are securely fastened to the wood base, and the restaurant is enclosed by a wood fence.
The biggest restaurant in Pemba is made up of 21 rafts and can accommodate up to 500 customers. Besides providing meals during the day, the restaurant also puts up travellers for the night. The cool and quiet setting, as well as reasonable prices, have made it an instant hit.
The main attraction of these restaurants is not so much the food as cooler temperatures and the absence of mosquitoes, snakes or insects. —Luyou
5 chegongzhuang Xilu, P.O.Box 399-T, Beijing, China, 100048
Tel: +86 10 68413030
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