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Lessons from Nigeria’s agric policies at 61

According to the United Nations‘ Committee on World Food Security, it means that “all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life. It is the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.” It is a similar description by the World Food Summit.

Worthy of note is that the right to food is recognized in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as part of the right to an adequate standard of living, and is enshrined in the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It is also protected by regional treaties and national constitutions. and in several international conventions.

Narrowing it down to the Nigerian nation, researchers, Yusuf Izang Elijah of the University of Jos and Francis John Tenon in their work titled: “An Assessment of Agricultural Programmes and Food Insecurity in Nigeria 1960 to 2016” posited that over the decades, agricultural programmes were introduced by different governments with the aim to ensure food security for the people.

Considering the challenges facing the agricultural development in Nigeria, such as seasonal drought, land degradation, climate change, violent conflicts between armed herders and farmers as well as policy flip-flops, food security declined drastically since independence. It is evident with the contribution of agriculture to the national economy dropping from 80% in the 1960s to a mere34% in 2003.

Beginning with the administrations of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Tafawa Balewa (1960-1966) the Regional Agricultural Programmes (RAP) was characterized by focus on colonial cash crop production against food crops mainly for export.

They were set in place between the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) and the Regional Governments (RGs) in accordance with Nigeria’s Constitution of 1963. To achieve this aim, the Regional Ministries of Agriculture were established in 1962/63. The Western region became the major producer of cocoa and coffee, while rubber came from the Mid-West. The Eastern Region Oil Palm and Northern region Ground-nut and Cotton boosted the production of more cash crops, agricultural raw-materials for industries, and export earnings and jobs opportunities for millions of Nigerians.

But the programme‘s failure was because priority was not given to food crops. There was lack of unity. Issues of ethnicity and political differences led to disagreements that affected the programmes from becoming a success.

On its part, General Yakubu Gowon’s regime (1966-1975) came up with National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP) as an agricultural extension programme established in 1972, following the end of the Nigerian civil war. It was aimed to end the food crisis that engulfed the country at that trying time. Its failure was because the farmers who could not form co-operatives were left out.

Subsequently, Shehu Shagari’s Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) came on board. The programme, according to Elijah and Tenon relied on disbursement of credits and farm inputs through cooperative societies excluding most small-scale farmers.

The major reasons for its lack of impact included the sudden withdrawal of funding by the federal government. It also lacked farmers’ participation

As for the acclaimed farmer, General Olusegun Obasanjo, (1976-1979) the Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) was launched in order to bring about increased food production across the entire nation through the active involvement and participation of everybody in every discipline.

But it did not succeed because of the indiscriminate use of land for farming activities since most farmers were very young and inexperienced. Also, hired labour was the main source of labour employed by participants. There was absence of available markets, so livestock diseases caused havoc on farms of the novice farmers bringing the beautiful dream to its end.

With the return of democratic government, Alhaji Shehu Shagari (1979-1983) introduced the Green Revolution Programme (GRP)on June 3, as a replacement for OFN. “The programme depended on the ministry based extension system and was instrumental to raising mass awareness on the problems of food confronting the nation.

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“The FGN ensured the success of the programme by providing agrochemicals, improved seeds/seedlings, irrigation system, machine, credit facilities, improved marketing and favourable pricing policy for the agricultural products and encouraged farmers to produce food, cash crops, and livestock”.

According to Goodluck Jonathan, “Green Revolution and Operation Feed the Nation failed because they were not properly articulated, agricultural programmes in Nigeria just followed the political class and disappeared”.

Coming to General Muhammadu Buhari (1983-1985) and his Back to Land (BL) programme was to revive the agriculture by encouraging Nigerians to go back to farm to reduce over dependence in oil.

But it failed with regards to poor quality of infrastructures provided by the directorate due to embezzlement/mismanagement of fund. “Lack of focus and accountability made the impact of the programme almost insignificant”.

Next came the IBB-driven Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in 1986 to achieve the objectives of its far-reaching reforms on diversification of exports and adjustment of production and consumption. SAP provided strategies on food crops, livestock, industrial raw materials, wildlife, forestry, fish production. It also provided policies on support services such as agricultural extension, technology development and transfer.

Its failure was traced to unskilled handling of water application through irrigation that degraded and depleted the soil of its productive capacity.

While the Family Support Programme (FSP) was initiated in 1994 the Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP) came in 1996 by General Abacha and his wife Mrs. Maryam Sani Abacha. These programme eventually culminated in the creation of the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare.

The programme focused “ on areas like health, education, women in development, agriculture, child welfare and youth development. They also touched on the provision of shelter for the less privileged in the society from ongoing housing programme of government “. The sudden death of Gen. Abacha limited their impact on the women and the masses.

Ever since, we have had Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s (1999-2007)National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS). The key elements of this development strategy included poverty eradication, employment generation, wealth creation and value reorientation. Its activity with States Economic Empowerment and Development Strategies (SEEDS) would help to implement integrated rural development programme to stem rural-urban migration.

“The programme did not go far because of problem of market, lack of accountability, and proper planning”.

Food Security, aimed at strengthening agribusinesses through the institution of profitability and price support mechanism was cardinal to Ahaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua’s (2007-2010) Seven-Point Agenda (SPA) .It targeted land tenure changes, aggressive development and supply of new land. Not left out was the strengthening of farmer support groups through commercial farmers, improvement of rural access infrastructure, and resuscitation of the River Basin Development Authorities RBDAs.

As with previous programmes, it did not carry the peasant farmers along. The problems of monitoring and evaluation, poor input and marketing access, affected this also.

His successor, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan(2010-2015), would be remembered for Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) driven by the Dr. Akinuwnmi Adesina-led Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The focus was to ensure food security, reduce expenditure of foreign exchange on food imports, diversify the economy, generate foreign exchange and create jobs.

It was focused on major policy reforms to eliminate corruption in the seed and fertilizer sectors and improve the functioning of market institutions. Other areas included the establishment of staple crop processing zones to attract private sector into areas of high production. This was to reduce post-harvest losses, add value to locally produced crops and foster rural economic growth.

But it failed, according to Elijah because of “ corruption, embezzlement of funds, lack of transparency, Islamic insurgency, herdsmen and farmers conflicts, lack of planning, monitoring and evaluation.”

Even as we are still analyzing the Muhammadu Buhari’s (2015-2016) Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) as adopted from his predecessor, kudos goes to him for the CBN-driven Anchor Borrowers Programme and the huge boost in local rice production. But his administration’s long-winding war against herders-farmers’ clash has put a huge dent on his achievements in the agric sector. Currently, Nigeria’s food price inflation rate is at its highest.

Perhaps, succeeding administrations would learn from the mistakes of the past-to involve the critical stakeholders across the food value chain in their policy formations and implementations. These include the rural farmers, the food processors, local machine operators, the research institutes, the marketers and the private sector.

And as usually emphasized, restructuring of political power to bring it closer to the grassroots would engender more robust and sustainable food security matrix.

Kudos to Nigeria at 61.

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