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Nigeria’s Agricultural Revolution Campaign And Massive Hunger…The Missing Link…Connecting The Dots

By Ayoade Olatokewa

The latest release by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics indicates that the cost of food increased by 17.38% in October 2020 and in the last five years the figure has surged by 110.5%. This is an indicator that there is a rising number of people suffering from hunger.

Although there are efforts to improve the agricultural sector, stakeholders opine that the focus should be on emerging technologies. For instance, Ogbole Samson is among farmers exploring effective means of agriculture while leveraging mineral resources.

In my conversation with Ogbole, he brought up the concept of hydroponic, a form of horticulture farming and a subset of hydroculture. The system entails cultivating crops, without soil but utilises mineral nutrient solutions in a water container.

Hydroponic comes with several advantages like the minimal use of water. For instance, to grow one kilogram (2.2 lb) of tomatoes using intensive farming methods requires 400 litres of water. However, the amount of water used is significantly reduced in hydroponics.

According to Ogbole, the farming system is not affected by weather patterns hence crops can be cultivated throughout the year. He believes if utilised on a wide scale, it could solve the perennial hunger challenge. The farmer adds that hydroponic can help stabilise the price of foodstuffs. In addition, there is predictability in the production cycle due to less risk and insurable harvest.

With the highlighted benefits of hydroponic, the question is why is the government not focusing on this farming method? It’s time the government begins to look into this option which can at least cater for half of the population while other farming systems complement it.

Mismatched agricultural policies

In the last 10 years, the Nigerian Government mostly through the CBN has come up with programmes on eradicating hunger. Some of the initiatives include Anchor Borrowers, cassava initiative, palm oil intervention, cotton, rice, millet etc.…yet prices of staple food are on the increase, amidst the recession.

Worth noting is that previous Nigerian regimes have made several efforts through agricultural agencies to run numerous programmes geared towards making food available. However, some analysts argue that the results could be better, hence, the need for improved agricultural practices and food security.

There is no doubt that the government is backing the reality of food sufficiency in the midst of population explosion, insecurity, food insufficiency and corruption.

Notably, Nigeria was part of the 2003 Maputo Declaration where all African Union member countries made a commitment to allocate at least 10% of their total annual budgets to agriculture. The declaration was part of a bid to increase food sufficiency in the continent.

However, this is not the case in Nigeria, because of inadequate funding despite repeated promises by the current and past administrations. A PREMIUM TIMES analysis in November 2020 indicated that Nigeria has constantly under-funded the agricultural sector.

In the last 20 years, agriculture got its highest budgetary allocations during the administration of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua.

In 2008, that administration budgeted N2.92 billion for agriculture, which was 5.41% of the total budget, and in 2009, the figure stood at N3.101 billion again for the sector, about 5.38% of the total budget.

The Obasanjo and Jonathan administrations remained low compared to previous years. The Buhari government, despite repeated promises to revive agriculture, has allocated some of the lowest funds to agriculture with 1.5 per cent of the budget going to the sector as of 2021.

Interestingly, the minister of Agriculture Sabo Nanono, maintains that nobody is hungry in Nigeria amidst glaring indices, which calls for concern. One then wonders if the government’s plan to start farms in all the local government areas is more of a mirage or a reality.

On June 4, 2020, Nanono, at a press briefing said that “the present administration would ensure the success of the Green Imperative which would be private-sector driven and devoid of any form of political interference, a $10 billion programme would have better help if they are sincere. Most allocations resulted in recurrent expenditure, leaving a fraction for capital expenditure.

Supporting his colleague at that briefing, Minister of Information and culture, Lai Mohammed, explained that the “stage is now set for an agricultural revolution that will strengthen food security, create massive jobs, transfer technology, revive or reinvigorate many assembly plants, strengthen the economy, save scarce resources, mechanize farming and lead to the emergence of value-added agriculture, among other benefits.”

With consistent rising hunger and food prices, is taking such promises to the bank likely to lead to any cashout?

According to Dataphyte, a data research platform, in May 2020, The Ministry of Agriculture received ₦592.9 billion in the last five years. It is just a fraction of the total budget for the period despite efforts by the Federal Government to find alternatives to oil.

As price war and coronavirus disrupted global oil prices and sent economies to the north, Nigeria looked elsewhere to reduce corresponding effects on the economy.

Can the agricultural sector be the bailout? Can it save the nation’s economy from ultimate collapse and quickly help revive it from the looming recession? In the last 20 years, the sector has served as one of the key drivers of the Nigerian economy, contributing more than 20 per cent to the country’s GDP.

The sector also employs more than 40% of the population — almost 90% of such in the rural areas, most especially women. Although this is not peculiar to the agricultural sector alone.

The Director of GOURIA Agricultural Ventures from Bauchi State, Dogo Mohammed, did not deny this intervention. He expressed appreciation to the government but laments that with so many interventions along the value chain, it shows the government is providing an enabling environment.

However, he is worried about summersault’s policy and wants the state to ensure strict monitoring of materials and funding disbursement because there are many players along the value chain.

As the population skyrocketed, Nigeria’s food demand increased. However, with the current food production growth rates, Nigeria remains unable to feed its population. According to Research Gate, Biotechnology can boost food production and promote sustainable development on high and low potential lands.

Since the seed is the delivery vehicle for agricultural biotechnology, this technology can only benefit farmers if they have access to quality seeds.

The conventional breeding techniques where farmers select the best-looking plants and seeds and save them to plant for the next year need to be reduced and the modern biotechnology tools employed.

In the last few years, the Nigerian agricultural sector has not received adequate funding to catalyse transformative growth. Recently, the amount to the sector as a percentage of the total budget revolves around 2 per cent or less.

Meanwhile, it has been widely noted that public spending in the agricultural sector is a recipe for the growth and development of the sector and is critical to achieving the objective of food security and job creation in the country. Hence there is a need for increased investment in the sector.

Existing threats

Insecurity is a major threat that has continued to hurt the agricultural sector. The insurgency, especially in northern Nigeria, often occurs in the local communities where a large proportion of food production is carried out.

The situation, therefore, obstructs the production of food crops and livestock farming and stifles agro-processing activities due to the displacement of farmers.

The impact of insecurity is highlighted by the fact that Nigeria lost $121 million in 2017, according to a report by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry in a paper titled, Insecurity in Nigeria. The figure amounted to about an 11 per cent loss to GDP that year.

The Central Bank has again released the framework for the Private Sector-Led Accelerated Agriculture Development Scheme. The move is in line with the developmental mandate of the Central Bank of Nigeria targeted at expanding access to finance to critical sectors of the economy to achieve food self-sufficiency and diversification.

The CBN said it is introducing the scheme to engage 370,000 youth in agricultural production in collaboration with state governments.

According to the guideline, agricultural commodities eligible for consideration under the Scheme include rice, maize, cassava, cotton, wheat, tomato, poultry, fish, sorghum, oil palm, cocoa, livestock/dairy, and any other commodities as may be listed by the CBN from time to time. This is no doubt that CBN, in particular, is working to ensure that there is a massive food supply.

Still, for this young Agro farmer, Khaleed Mohammed, beyond this, it’s obvious that the CBN also needs to consider tools for modern mechanised farming that can attract more participants.

Possible solutions

In 2020, the administration budgeted N79.79 billion for agriculture, less than 1 percent of the total federal budget. The latest proposal for 2021 shows only a 0.5per cent increase from last year.

Appropriations will affect farmers as the rainy season sets in. It must be noted that the late passage of the budget has its negative toll on the implementation of the capital projects.

Going forward, it would be fundamental if the Budget Office of the federation could start the process for a succeeding year at the beginning of the preceding year.

According to Ibrahim Shelling, an economic analyst, with appropriate funding for the sector, more people can be lifted out of poverty while the country’s economy grows quicker.

A former permanent secretary of the Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Nana Fatima Mede, at a presentation on the National Policy on Food and Nutrition in Nigeria, provides a framework covering the multiple dimensions of food and nutrition improvement.

She said the policy had been revised to add value and strengthen synergy among sectors and other initiatives of government and partners. It further recognises the need for public and private sector involvement, and that hunger eradication and nutrition improvement are a shared responsibility of all Nigerians.

The policy has been updated to address the problems of malnutrition and extreme hunger across different levels of Nigerian society, ranging from the individual, household, and communities, thus contributing to the overall national development. With a holistic approach, it is envisioned to implement the reviewed policy that will meet the target of eradicating poverty.

With Nigeria in its second recession within five years, in the third quarter of 2020, the Gross Domestic Product fell for the second consecutive quarter by 3.62%. There is no other magic than for Nigeria to begin recovery by tapping from its enormous potential in agriculture to change the phase of the economy.

AYOADE OLATOKEWA

KISS FM RADIO,999 ABUJA

olatokewa@gmail.com

Data visualization support by ATUPA via civic hive.

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WanaData is a Pan-African network of female journalists, data scientists and techies working on changing the digital media landscape by producing and promoting data-driven news while applying digital technologies in their storytelling.

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