Nigeria @ 60: Agriculture still sustained by small holder farmers – Investigation



History has it that Nigeria’s economy after independence was built on agriculture, yet 60 years after, the country is still being sustained by small holder farmers, JOHN OBA, writes.

The story of Nigeria agriculture is like that of a 60 year old man suffering from a chronic disease at its prime due to policy inconsistency and undue focus on oil.

Agriculture in the 60s to 90s

The story of palm oil, cocoa and groundnut pyramid as the bedrock of the country’s economy has now been confined into the primary school history text books as crude oil turned the attention of successive government from investing in the sector. It is ironical that in the era when agriculture was the back bone of the country’s economy, Nigeria currency was far stronger than or at par with dollar. Nigeria was able to export more than it was importing, generating more foreign exchange thereby strengthening it economy.  

70% of the population engages in agricultural production at a subsistence level. Its provided 41% of the country’s total gross domestic product (GDP) in 1999. According to reports, this percentage represented a normal decrease of 24.7% from its contribution of 65.7% to the GDP in 1957.

The country is known to farm cassava, yams, corn, coco-yams, cow-peas, beans, sweet potatoes, millet, plantains, bananas, rice, sorghum, and a variety of fruits and vegetables in commercial quantities. The leading cash crops and major exports crops were cocoa, citrus, cotton, groundnuts (peanuts), palm oil, palm kernel, Gum Arabic, benniseed, and rubber to countries like Britain, the United States, Canada, France, and Germany.

The country also had significant portion of cattle herding, fishing, poultry, and lumbering, which contributed more than 2% to the GDP in the 1980s. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization 1987 estimate, there were 12.2 million cattle, 13.2 million sheep, 26.0 million goats, 1.3 million pigs, 700,000 donkeys, 250,000 horses, and 18,000 camels, mostly in northern Nigeria, and owned mostly by rural dwellers rather than by commercial companies. Fisheries output ranged from 600,000 to 700,000 tons annually in the 1970s. However, report indicates that the output had fallen to 120,000 tons of fish per year by 1990 due to environmental degradation and water pollution in Ogoniland and the Delta region in general by the oil companies.

Though since the return to democratic governance, several efforts has been channeled toward the resuscitation of the sector with little gains to show for it. 

Various Policies

Nigeria agriculture has suffered as a result of inappropriate policies and policy inconsistency by the government.

Also this is because heavy handed and unpredictable government intervention programmes with appointment of non experts as ministers to mann the ministry which has led to short term investment decisions they has created dysfunctional and disconnected benefit to the poor masses. 

Clearly the persisted failures of agricultural programmes in Nigeria have revealed the basic weakness of agricultural  policies in Nigeria.

Policies in the sector have undergone changes especially in the postcolonial era. Most of these changes have been a mere reflection of changes in names as the content remain the same  for subsequent administration.

The sector continues to suffer from inertia associated with these policies and programmes that most time only serves political purposes.

Policies Such as National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP), an agricultural extension programme initiated in 1972 by the Federal Department of Agriculture during General Yakubu Gowon’s regime, Agricultural Development Projects (ADP); Operation Feed the Nation introduced by the then military Head of State Genera Olusegun Obasanjo between 1976 and 1979, River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs); the Green Revolution program of President Shehu Shagari in 1979, General Ibrahim Babangida’s Directorate for Food Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI); Better Life Programme (BLP) For Rural Women by Mrs Maryam Babangida; National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA); Family Support Programme (FSP)/ Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP); National Fadama Development Project (NFDP) under Babangida regime.

Also National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) initiated by Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999  National, Special Programme on Food Security (NSPFS) launched in January 2002 during the Olusegun Obasanjo; Root And Tuber Expansion Programme (RTEP) are few  of many agriculture Policies that Nigeria has.

According to some experts, Nigerians have the skills to make policies or initiate programmes and technological choices to achieve the sustainable development in agriculture but the continued absence of progress in these policies and programmes in agriculture is the consequence of non-interaction between the government and the various stakeholders within a particular programme as well as lack of opportunities for decision making and policy dialogue with other stakeholders.

The president Abuja Farmers Association, Mr Omobola Obaje, said the sector has not had it good for many years because of the neglect by successive administration. He however commended President Muhamadu Buhari’s administration for it’s efforts to revive and revamp the sector, saying he has good intention for the sector with the level of implementation of the Green Alternative policy and the level of fund being channeled into the sector. 

Adding that the government’s efforts has help to lift millions of farmers out of poverty. Saying “most Policies in the sector are good on paper but implementation has always been the challenge. The Anchor Borrowers programmes is one that should have been implemented to cultivate millions of hectares instead of this one hectares per penson that is currently going on.  The programme is properly designed but the implementation is the problem. 

He further praised the diversification efforts of the administration saying if thing continue the it is now, soon the country will have alternative to crude oil.  

He however urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to concentrate more on SMEs across the value chains saying this will enable farmers to establish curtage Mills that could process the farm produces for local and international patronage.

Challenges

The challenges faced by the sector include non-compliance to the 10% national annual budget for agriculture as provided for in the Maputo/Malabo Declaration; inadequate and untimely release of budgeted funds for agricultural development.

According to the 2019 BR report, Nigeria like many other countries in Africa are not on track as they did not make the targeted benchmark. However, there was progress and improvement towards achieving the Malabo Declaration goals since 2019 BR.

Quality data and data systems are central to tracking progress against the Malabo commitments, and the current BR report reveals critical data gaps. The country and development partners need to improve the systems to provide high quality and regular agricultural data to inform decision-making.

The widespread insecurity and farmers and herders clashes is hampering Nigeria’s food sufficiency and food security. Inadequate participation of smallholder farmers who are who are producers of over 70% of the food consumed in Nigeria, in the agriculture budgeting processes as there is no formal strategy for their involvement resulting in untapped potential of the farmers and the attendant low productivity.

Smallholder women farmers were already faced with low and difficult access to credit, essential inputs, improved seeds and seedlings, organic and non-organic fertilizers. 

According to the 2019 BR report, Nigeria like many other countries in Africa are not on track as they did not make the targeted benchmark. However, there was progress and improvement towards achieving the Malabo Declaration goals since 2019 BR.

Quality data and data systems are central to tracking progress against the Malabo commitments, and the current BR report reveals critical data gaps. The country and development partners need to improve the systems to provide high quality and regular agricultural data to inform decision-making.

The widespread insecurity and farmers and herders clashes is hampering Nigeria’s food sufficiency and food security.  Inadequate participation of smallholder farmers who are who are producers of over 70% of the food consumed in Nigeria, in the agriculture budgeting processes as there is no formal strategy for their involvement resulting in untapped potential of the farmers and the attendant low productivity.

Inadequate awareness and knowledge on the CAADP/ Malabo performance indicators by stakeholders (Ministries, Departments and Agencies, State Ministries, Farmer Organizations, CSOs, Private Sector, etc.).

A lot of the capital projects in the agriculture sector fail due to poor monitoring by sector MDAs, Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, and relevant Committees of the National Assembly; and poor coordination of the Monitoring & Evaluation system between sectors and tiers of government.

The gender responsiveness of the agriculture budget is insufficient as some budget line items for women farmers are lumped with that of youth and this limits the application of funds to issues faced by them, thereby making tracking of such line items very challenging.

There is huge investment in procurement of heavy expensive machines which are not always appropriate to the needs of the users and unsuitable for the topography and size of land cultivated by smallholder farmers especially women. These technologies are also hard to maintain and usually gets dumped when faults develop, leading to wastage.

National Centre For Agricultural Mechanization (NCAM) that is established for the purpose of adaptive research leading to design and development of efficient agricultural machines and technologies in order to reduce drudgery and improve the quality of agricultural production is not adequately funded.

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