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Nigeria’s agricultural imperative: Need for a consolidated policy framework (Part 1)

Nigeria’s agricultural imperative: Need for a consolidated policy framework (Part 1)

This is the third in the series of articles on the agricultural sector, which has historically been described as the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, and which despite its decline for decades still holds the key to the long-term transformation and stabilisation of the Nigerian economy. The last article, titled, “Nigeria’s agricultural imperative: Need for a 10-year master plan,” made a brief reference to the five key agricultural policy frameworks of the Nigerian government since 1985/1988. These policies are the “Agricultural Policy for Nigeria (1985/1988 – 2000)”, “The New Nigeria Agricultural Policy (2001)”, “The Green Revolution and Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) – 2012”, “Agricultural Promotion Policy (2016-2020)” and “National Agricultural Technology and Innovation Policy (NTAP) – 2022-2027.” The purpose of this present article and the subsequent one is to briefly review key aspects of these policies with a view to suggesting a consolidated policy framework for a transformational agricultural master plan.

“The policy predicted a gradual transition from a predominantly small and medium scale agricultural sector to one dominated by medium/large scale farming “in the coming decades.””

The Agricultural Policy for Nigeria (1985/1988 – 2000) was first prepared and published in 1985 but was finalised in 1988. It proposed the following roles for the agricultural sector: “(i) Providing adequate food for an increasing population, (ii) Supplying adequate raw materials to a growing industrial sector, (iii) Constituting the major source of employment, (iv) Constituting a major source of foreign exchange earnings, and (v) Providing a market for the products of the industrial sector.” Needless to say, the Nigerian agricultural sector has not been able to play any of these roles effectively over the years, except for (iii) providing the major source of employment, which has declined from about 70 percent some decades ago to about 40 percent now. The policy predicted a gradual transition from a predominantly small and medium scale agricultural sector to one dominated by medium/large scale farming “in the coming decades.” That has not happened as 80 percent of Nigeria’s agricultural output is still accounted for by smallholder farmers from 70 percent of Nigerian households four decades later. Also against the policy’s prediction, little backward integration and agricultural processing is taking place.

Read also: Nigeria: The agricultural imperative

The policy set a four-to-five-year target for Nigeria to achieve self-sufficiency in the production of poultry meat and poultry eggs, sheep and goat production, fish production and dairy milk production. None of these targets has been achieved. Complete local sourcing of industrial crop raw materials was also expected to be achieved in five years and the revival of their exports, especially in processed form. The Federal Government was to undertake a comprehensive development of both underground and surface water resources for multipurpose use; and construct and maintain dams, dykes, polders, wells, boreholes, irrigation and drainage systems, etc. However, according to a January 2018 blog of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), only 1 percent of Nigeria’s cropland was irrigated, unlike 99.8 percent in Egypt according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

The New Nigerian Agricultural Policy (2001) was a logical transition from the 1985/1988-2000 policy. It kept the five roles assigned to the agricultural sector, but went on to evolve strategies that will ensure improvement in technical economic efficiency in food production “to be achieved through (i) the introduction and adoption of improved seeds and seed stock, (ii) adoption of improved husbandry and appropriate machinery and equipment, (iii) efficient utilisation of resources, (iv) encouragement of ecological specialisation, and (v) recognition of the roles and potentials of small -scale farmers as the major producers of food in the country.” Other policy prescriptions were the reduction of risks and uncertainties in agriculture, a more comprehensive agricultural insurance scheme; a nationwide, unified and all-inclusive extension delivery system under the Agricultural Development Programs (ADPs); and active promotion of agro-allied industry to strengthen the linkage effect of agriculture on the economy.

Perhaps the most innovative policy prescription of the New Nigerian Agricultural Policy (2001) was the assignment of roles for the first time to key stakeholders like the federal government, state governments, and the private sector. The Federal Government was to be responsible for the provision of a general policy framework, including macroeconomic policies for agricultural and rural development, maintenance of a reasonable flow of resources into the agricultural sector, support for rural infrastructure development, agricultural research and development, seed industry development, and control of pests, among the 25 roles assigned to the central government. State governments were assigned 11 responsibilities, including the promotion of the primary production of all agricultural commodities through the provision of a virile and effective extension service; the promotion of the production of inputs for crops, livestock, fish, and forestry; ensuring access to land for all those wishing to engage in farming; and the development and management of irrigation facilities and dams.

Six responsibilities were assigned to local government councils, including the provision of effective extension services; the provision of rural infrastructure to complement the efforts by federal and state governments; the management of irrigation areas of dams; the mobilisation of farmers for accelerated agricultural production; and the provision of land for farming. The private sector was to be responsible for six activities that were commercial in nature or that lend themselves to entrepreneurial initiatives, including investment in all aspects of agricultural enterprises and agribusinesses like agricultural commodity storage, processing, and marketing; agricultural input supply and distribution; the production of commercial seeds, seedlings, brood stock, and fingerlings under government certification and quality control; and agricultural mechanisation.

These are just snippets, but nonetheless very important components of the agricultural policy frameworks of the Nigerian government between the periods 1985 and 2010. It should be noted that 14 of those 25 years (1985–1999) were years of military rule, some of which were very turbulent, apart from the fact that the economy generally, including agriculture, suffered under military rule.

What was evident was that there was a determined effort by agricultural technocrats and policymakers to make headway in strategic agricultural policy formulation during the period, albeit with little political commitment and support.

Mr Igbinoba is Team Lead/CEO at ProServe Options Consulting, Lagos.