• Friday, June 21, 2024
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Nigeria’s long journey to food security not yet Uhuru

Nigeria’s long journey to food security not yet Uhuru

…2010-2024: Our history, our policies and our challenges!

Our history:

Archival records show that the Nigerian agricultural sector in the 1960s was viable, providing well over 80 percent of Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) and the major value of the country’s exports. This reality changed when the government shifted its attention to oil. A shift that has left the nation’s struggle for food security looks like a mirage. Ruth Tene Natsa writes on the past decade of government policies and where Nigeria stands in its food sufficiency struggle.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO, agriculture remains Nigeria’s largest economic sector, accounting for up to 35 percent of total employment in 2020. It further stated that agriculture remains the foundation of the Nigerian economy.

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The Global Organisation further states that Nigeria has a total agricultural area of 70.8 million hectares, of which 34 million hectares are arable land. 6.5 million hectares are used for permanent crops, and 30.3 million hectares are meadows and pastures.

In the words of Atani, Ebiere Lynsa of the Department of Political Science, Federal University Otuoke, in his paper titled Agricultural Transformation Strategy and Rural Development in Nigeria: The Jonathan’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) 2011–2014, “Agriculture is central to Nigeria’s socio-economic development because of its innate high potential for employment generation, food security, poverty reduction, and rural development. The agricultural sector in the 1960s provided the main source of employment, income, and foreign exchange earnings for Nigeria.

Our policies:

The first national policy on agriculture was adopted in 1988 and was expected to remain valid for about fifteen years, that is, up to the year 2000. The policy aimed at attaining self-sufficiency in basic food commodities, increasing the production of agricultural raw materials to meet the growth of an expanding industrial sector, increasing the production and processing of exportable commodities to increase their foreign exchange earning capacity, and further diversifying the country’s export base and sources of foreign exchange earnings, among others.

Subsequently, in 2011, the former President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, launched the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, driven by the then Minister, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, and focused on the development of agricultural value chains, including the provision and availability of improved inputs in the area of seeds and fertiliser (via a Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES), increased productivity and production, as well as the establishment of staple crop processing zones (SCPZ). ATA also aimed to ensure a reduction in post-harvest losses, improve linkages with industry concerning backward integration, and provide access to financial services and markets. The Agricultural Transformation Agenda targeted rural communities, particularly women, youth, and farmer associations, as well as improving rural institutions and infrastructure for the for the Agricultural Transformation Strategy and Rural Development in Nigeria.

Building on the ATA legacy of 2014, President Muhammadu Buhari, through Audu Ogbe, who took over as minister from Akinwumi Adesina in 2016, launched the Green Alternative Agricultural Promotion Policy 2016–2020. The policy aimed to grow the integrated agriculture sector at 1x to 2x the average Nigerian GDP for 2016–2020, to integrate agricultural commodity value chains into the broader Nigerian supply chain, to facilitate the government’s capacity to meet its obligations to Nigerians on food security, and to create a mechanism for improved governance of agriculture by the supervising institutions.

In 2019, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) unveiled a new 5-year strategic programming cycle to assist the Government of Nigeria (GoN) in developing the agriculture sector and ensuring efficient management of the country’s natural resources.

The Country Programming Framework for Nigeria (CPF) 2018–2022 outlines five priority areas to assist in the implementation of the nation’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). The priority areas include: strengthening national food and nutrition security through enhanced nutrition-sensitive and climate-smart food systems; Supporting appropriate and operationally effective agricultural policy and regulatory frameworks, Supporting Nigeria’s Economic Diversification Agenda and the promotion of decent employment for youth and women in the agriculture value chains, Improving the efficient and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems and Enhancing disaster risk reduction, resilience building, and emergency management towards strengthening the humanitarian-development nexus.

 “The agricultural sector in the 1960s provided the main source of employment, income, and foreign exchange earnings for Nigeria.”

Meanwhile, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration, through the ‘Renewed Hope Agenda’, has not come out with a clear agricultural policy plan to address the nation’s agricultural food challenge. The President has, however, through the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Sen. Abubakar Kyari, emphasised dry and wet season farming to address the nation’s food challenge.

The president, during his New Year speech to Nigerians, said his government will cultivate 500,000 hectares of farmland to grow major staple crops across the country amid ongoing efforts to ensure a stable food supply in the country.

“To ensure constant food supply, security, and affordability, we will step up our plan to cultivate 500,000 hectares of farmlands across the country to grow maize, rice, wheat, millet, and other staple crops, he said.

Our challenges:

Nigeria is a signatory to the Maputo Declaration of 2003, which the National Assembly ratified on December 16, 2004, which, amongst others, stipulates the allocation of 10 percent of federal budgets to the development of agriculture. It is vital to note that 21 years later, Nigeria is yet to implement the agreement; rather, we find the nation wavering between 1-05 percent annual allocations.

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While there is no doubt that the Nigerian government, over the past decade, has continued to claim to put agriculture at the top of its economic agenda, the budgetary funding has remained abysmal, making the promises by the government mere lip service.

A Handbook on the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) in Nigeria launched in Abuja in 2018 indicated that in the last seven years, Nigeria’s budgetary allocations to the agricultural sector have not exceeded 2 percent.

Presenting the Handbook on CAADP in Nigeria at the Non-State Actors Orientation workshop on CAADP/2014 Malabo Declaration, Joint Sector Reviews, and National Agricultural Investment Plans, Bar. Ken Ukaoha, the President of the National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS), said government investment and funding of the agricultural sector were very low as against the Maputo/Malabo commitments of at least 10 percent public investment into the sector.

A critical look at the document showed that the Nigerian government allocated 1.8 percent of its budget to agriculture in 2011, 1.6 percent in 2012, 1.7 percent in 2013, and 1.4 percent in 2014.

In 2015, budgetary allocation to agriculture was 0.9 percent, while in 2016, it rose to 1.3 percent, and in 2017, it was 1.7 percent.

Other records show the budgetary allocation to agriculture increased to about 2.0 percent in 2018, fell again to 1.56 percent in 2019, 1.34 percent in 2020, 1.37 percent in 2021, and 1.25 percent in 2022 and 2023, respectively, while in 2024, Nigeria is said to have recorded 0.39 percent.

With regards to access to agricultural funding, there was an improvement in the level of funding by the formal banking sector as the share of loans advanced to the agriculture sector by deposit money banks increased from 1.7 percent in 2010 to 3.3 percent in 2016.

Other challenges faced in the sector include a land tenure system that limits access to land, the country’s level of irrigation development, limited adoption of research findings and technologies, costs of farm inputs, the manners of fertiliser procurement and distribution, storage facility effectiveness, the amount of access to markets, and a high level of post-harvest losses.

Others include the growing infestation of pests and related diseases precipitated by climate change, a high dependence on rain-fed agriculture, and a high level of illiteracy amongst farmers.

Way-forward:

It was Akinwumi Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank, World Food Prize Winner, and former Nigerian Minister of Agriculture, while speaking at the Feed Africa Summit: Food Security and Resilience, who said, ‘Africa must feed itself’.

In his words, “It is time for Africa’s food security and resilience. While gains have been made in recent times, with agricultural growth in several countries, the continent remains overly dependent on food imports. Africa currently imports over 100 million metric tonnes of food, valued at $75 billion annually.”.

He stated that “Africa can and must feed itself, noting that with 65% of the uncultivated arable land left in the world being in Africa, what Africa does with agriculture will determine the future of food in the world”.

Meanwhile, responding to how Nigeria can achieve food security, Kabiru Adamu, the former managing director of the Bank of Agriculture (BOA, in his recommendations, called on the federal government to ensure that the annual budget funding for agriculture is done with all sincerity and purpose.

In his words, “Every year, the federal government budgets funding for various activities in agriculture aimed at increasing food production and ultimately achieving food security. Unfortunately, the application of the funds is not done with all sincerity of purpose.”

“It’s speculated, for example, that funds meant for agricultural machinery imports were used to import fairly used machinery that breaks down at the first use,” he alleged.

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He further called for grants and development partners’ support, noting that in most cases, the attraction of this funding is based on perceived personal benefit by those shouldered with the responsibility to bring it.

“Therefore, in most cases, these opportunities are lost due to a lack of interest and proper understanding. Probably that may be the reason that development partners prefer to get involved in direct project execution in Nigeria.”.

He further noted that commercial and development banks’ support is lost because financing is granted mostly to’smallholder farmers’ who are not active in agricultural endeavours. “The anchor borrower programmeme is a beautiful process to increase food production through smallholder farmers, but issues around risk management threaten the impact that the programmeme would have achieved,” he stressed.

Kabiru further stressed the lack of guarantees and insurance to secure the bank’s financing, thus limiting the ability of the banks to fund agriculture.

Also speaking, Sunday Edibo, former ATA regional director north central and former director of land and climate change at the at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, was emphatic that Nigeria can achieve food security if it invests in input subsidies, invests in modern agricultural technology, and also ensures the protection and security of farms and farmers.

In his words, “FFor us to attain food sufficiency, we as a nation must ramp up production and productivity in all the key crops in the in the value chain, such as cassava, yam, rice, guinea corn, maize, millet, cowpea, and sesame.

He noted that Nigeria had yet to meet the national requirement in terms of production of any of the key staple crops, even though it is the world’s leading producer of cassava and yams.

“Our productivity (yield) is low compared to the developing nations. Indeed, we have to deliberately intervene by assisting the smallholder farmer, SHF, who produces the bulk of what we eat. The assistance should be in the form of subsidised inputs such as seeds and seedlings, fertilisers, agrochemicals, land cleaning, and tillage services. Everywhere in the world, agriculture is subsidised one way or another; we should not shy away from it.

He urged that smallholder farmers be encouraged to make farming a business with assistance from the government so that they can expand their landholding and improve productivity. “In addition, smallholder farmers should have access to funds to purchase input in preparation for the cropping season, and since our agriculture is mainly dependent on rainfall, inputs must be in place as early as January to March across the nation.”.

The farmer further urged that research institutes should be well funded to come up with new technologies such as high-yielding, flood-tolerant, drought-tolerant, and pest-resistant crop varieties that must meet the exigencies of climate change.

“Nigeria must move away from hoes and cutlasses to modern agricultural machinery that aids production and processing across the gamut of the agricultural value chain. The government should subsidise the machinery at the initial stages to promote aid adoption.”

Edibo further stressed the need for a “young farming population to emerge that is literate and can easily adopt new farming techniques with little assistance from extension agents.

He further stressed the need for a secure environment, equipment for agro-rangers, and proper funding from the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA), which is involved in clearing and consolidating land for smallholder farmers in various communities. He also noted that it is easier to protect farmers working together on one large expanse of land by the relevant agencies.

Also speaking, Nkiruka Stella Okonkwo, a farmer and CEO/Founder of the Fresh & Young Brains Development Initiative (FBIN) in Abuja, said Nigeria can achieve food security if it’s able to adopt a strategy to address the following gaps: poor involvement of farmers in decision-making in the agric sector, which can be addressed through farmers’ empowerment and inclusion in policy, planning, and actions towards food security.

Poor investments in small-scale agriculture, where women, youth, and persons with disabilities are actively involved, indicate a need to establish and implement a joint donor basket fund for small agriculture to support agribusinesses, projects, or initiatives geared towards enhancing small-scale agriculture to contribute to the agricultural revolution across the country.

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The farmer stated that the public-private partnership (PPP) model is necessary in addressing emerging trends of insecurity and climate change to enable farmers, agropreneurs, and other agricultural stakeholders to feel secure and empowered to undertake their agricultural activities without fear of kidnapping, flooding, etc.

She further stressed that more attention should be given to addressing the bottlenecks that farmers face in accessing agricultural insurance and security coverage. Capacity building should be done for farmers on agroecology, community-based early warning, and conflict management approaches.

No doubt, it is not yet Uhuru for Nigeria in terms of food security, food efficiency, and food sovereignty, but there is a window of hope if the government at all levels decides to implement some of the policies and advice given.