• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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Nigeria’s Agricultural imperative: The case for a 10-Year master plan

Of 40 million agricultural households and a nation in hunger

Last week’s piece, “Nigeria: The Agricultural Imperative,” concluded with a call for a strategic repositioning of agriculture as a sector with immense potential over the next decade. The crux of the argument was clear: a comprehensive “10-Year Master Plan for the Nigerian Agriculture Sector” is essential.

Why do we need this master plan? Here are some compelling reasons:

Firstly, agriculture has long been a cornerstone of Nigeria’s economy, historically contributing the largest share to our GDP. However, neglect and underfunding by all tiers of government have seen their share decline over the years.

Secondly, the agricultural sector employed 37.99 percent of Nigeria’s labour force in 2022, according to Statista. Meanwhile, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported in June 2024 that 70 percent of Nigerian households are engaged in agriculture. Though these figures measure different aspects, they collectively underscore the sector’s strategic importance as both an employer and a major economic activity for Nigerians.

Thirdly, with adequate budgetary allocation, the agricultural sector can drive the economy by ensuring food security, reducing food prices, combating inflation, and generating a substantial return on investment with relatively low capital intensity.

Additionally, given its extensive reach, every naira allocated to agriculture has a significant impact on rural income generation and poverty alleviation. This sector’s health directly influences the livelihood of the majority of Nigerians.

So, why has agriculture suffered such neglect? Several factors are at play: the rise of oil and gas as dominant revenue earners, the disruptive effects of military rule, the political marginalisation of rural farmers, and the lack of engagement by many Southern state governments. As a result, the agricultural sector has been left in the shadows, struggling to reclaim its former glory.

Read also: Nigeria: The agricultural imperative

Today’s cost of living crisis, highlighted by an unprecedented 40.66% food inflation rate in May 2024, has shone a spotlight on the critical importance of agriculture, especially food crop production. While the Federal Government’s short-term measures to boost food production are commendable, there is an urgent need for a long-term, comprehensive strategy to reposition the agricultural sector.

 “As a result, the agricultural sector has been left in the shadows, struggling to reclaim its former glory.”

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture has made commendable strides in policy formulation, producing significant policy documents over the years. However, despite these efforts, the lack of a cohesive, long-term strategy has hampered the sector’s development. A 10-year agricultural master plan could be the game-changer.

This master plan should build on past policies, incorporating inputs from the private sector and international agricultural organisations like FAO, IFAD, AGRA, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank. The goal should be nothing short of a transformation and revolution of the agricultural sector, ensuring food security, reducing food prices, stabilising the economy, increasing rural income, and generating substantial export value.

Key areas of focus should include increasing the application of agricultural inputs such as fertilisers and agro-pesticides and enhancing agricultural mechanisation. For example, Nigeria’s fertiliser application level was just 18.6 kilogrammes per hectare (kg/ha) in 2021, compared to a global average of 139.9 kg/ha and a staggering 542.6 kg/ha in Egypt. Moreover, Nigeria’s tractor density is a mere 0.27 horsepower per hectare (hp/ha), far below the FAO’s recommended 1.5 hp/ha. The master plan must address these deficiencies, ensuring safe and sustainable use of agrochemicals and accurate record-keeping.

Finally, the master plan should tackle the chronic underfinancing of agriculture. Both the federal and state governments must commit to allocating at least 10% of their annual budgets to the agricultural sector, in line with the Maputo Declaration.

In conclusion, Nigeria’s agricultural sector holds immense potential to drive economic growth, create jobs, ensure food security, and alleviate poverty. A well-crafted 10-year master plan could unlock this potential, transforming not just the agricultural sector but the entire nation. It is time for Nigeria to reclaim its agricultural legacy and forge a path to a prosperous future.