Agricultural Policies: Sustainability for Development in Nigeria

We will be discussing the sustainability of agricultural policies in Nigeria. The statement, “Nigeria is endowed with surplus natural and human resources” is slowly becoming a cliché. 

After 50 years post-independence, the welfare of the common man seems to have worsened and with the discovery of oil in 1972, Nigeria slowly moved towards becoming a mono-economy with huge dependence on earnings from the oil and gas sector; accounting for 69% of the country’s exports and 70% of the nation’s revenue generation.

In 2014 when the price of crude oil crashed from 100USD to 30USD per barrel, the nation experienced a major shake-up as it plunged into economic recession. Although the National Bureau of Statistics reported in 2017 that Nigeria had exited recession, the “shake-up” made it more imperative to work towards breaking Nigeria’s long lasting, all-eggs-in-one-basket dependence on crude oil as her source of revenue.

Agriculture amongst several sectors in Nigeria has been agreed over the years to be viable and should be made top priority by any forward-thinking administration that has the welfare and indeed sustainability of the entire nation at heart.

It is no news that one of the reasons the agricultural sector in Nigeria is where it is due to the inability of administrations to enact time-sustainable agricultural policies which are favourable to farmers.

Agricultural Policies in Nigeria

Green Revolution (GRP)

The programme was inaugurated by Shehu Shagari in April 1980 to increase production of food and raw materials in order to ensure food security and self-sufficiency in basic staples. Secondly, it aspired to boost production of livestock and fish in order to meet home and export needs and to expand and diversify  the  nation’s  foreign  exchange  earnings  through  production  and  processing  of  export crops.

Agricultural Development Projects (ADP)

ADP formerly known as Integrated Agricultural Development Projects (IADP) was earlier established in 1974 in the North East (Funtua), North west (Gusau) and North Central (Gombe) states as pilot schemes. The idea of Agricultural Development Programmes is an offshoot of the concept of integrated agricultural and rural development.

River Basin-Development Authorities (RBDAs) (1976)     

The existing abundant water resources in the country and its potential for increasing agricultural production prompted the establishment of River Basin Development Authority (RBDA). The scheme became necessary because of persistent short rainy seasons in many parts of the country which has continued to restrict cultivation to single cropping pattern the year round. However, the establishment of various large-scale irrigation facilities the country witnessed unprecedented multiple cropping patterns.

Agency-Based Intervention Programmes

National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA)

This was established in 1992 much more later than the Decree (Land Use Decree, 1978) and Act (Land Use Act 1979). The authority aims at giving strategic public support for land development, assisting and promoting better uses of Nigeria’s rural land and their resources, boosting profitable employment opportunities for rural dwellers, raising the level/standard of living of rural people, targeting and assisting in achieving food security through self reliance and sufficiency.

Directorate of Food, Road and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI)

The Directorate was initiated in Nigeria in January 1986 under General Ibrahim Babangida’s administration. It was a kind of home grown social dimensions of adjustment (SDA) that was embarked upon in most sub Saharan African  countries  by  the  World  Bank,  African  Development  Bank  and  the  United  Nations  Development  Programme (UNDP). The programme was designed to improve the quality of life (improvement in nutrition, housing, health, employment, road, water, industrialization etc) and standard/level of living of the rural dwellers through the use of many resources that exist in the rural areas and mass participation of the rural people.

Better Life Programme (BLP) For Rural Women

Better Life Programme (BLP) for rural women was founded in Nigeria by Mrs Maryam Babangida  (wife of the then president of Nigeria) in 1987.  The programme aimed at stimulating and motivating rural women towards achieving better living standards and sensitizing the rest of Nigerians to their problems.

Family Support Programme (FSP)/ Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP)

Family Support Programme (FSP) was initiated in 1994   while FEAP was initiated in 1996 by late General Abacha and his wife, Mrs. Maryam Sani Abacha. The  programme focused on development with the following mainstreaming themes; women, agriculture, youth and children

National Fadama Development Project (NFDP)

The first National Fadama Development Project (NFDP-1) was designed in the early 1990s to promote simple low-cost improved irrigation technology under World Bank financing. The main objective of NFDP- I was to sustainably increase the incomes of the fadama users through expansion of farm and non-farm activities with high value-added output.

National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS)

NEEDS was initiated by Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999. The key elements of this development strategy included poverty eradication, employment generation, wealth creation and value reorientation.

National, Special Programme on Food Security (NSPFS)

This Programme  was launched in January 2002 in all the thirty six states of the federation during the Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime. The broad objective of the programme was to increase food production and eliminate rural poverty. 

Root And Tuber Expansion Programme (RTEP)

RTEP was launched on 16th April 2003 under Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration. It covers 26 states and was designed to address the problem of food production and rural poverty.

Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA)

The Transformation Agenda of the former president Jonathan administration identified seven sectors as the main growth drivers during the transformation period, 2011-2015, via: agriculture, water resources, solid minerals, manufacturing, oil and gas, trade and commerce as well as culture and tourism.

Agriculture Promotion Policy (APP) – Green Alternative

The new policy regime, tagged the Agriculture Promotion Policy (APP) Policy is founded on the following guiding principles, a number of which are carryovers from the ATA reflecting the strong desire for policy stability.  New elements added reflect the lessons from the ATA, as well as priorities emerging from the aspirations of the Buhari Administration

In reviewing the sector over the years, policies have existed from the days of Operation Feed the Nation (OFN), the Green Revolution Programme, the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA); all of which were dumped by successive administrations and most recently the Green Alternative Agricultural Promotion Policy (APP) which is reportedly built on the successes of ATA.

Asides the involvement of politics in policy formulation, one other reason policies have failed is the inability of the government to include effective Monitoring and Evaluation frameworks in policy implementation, to ensure that the enacted agricultural policies are in-line with changing demographics, new trends, and technological advancements

Although the APP highlights intensification of oversight and periodic publication of metrics to track performance as strategies to ensure sustainability, one would be tempted to ask, “how much of this has been put into practise?” To ensure sustainability, policy monitoring, evaluation, re-evaluation and re-strategizing are critical.

In solving the problem of “policy dumping” or “policy summersault” by different administrations, a law can be promulgated to back policies up, such that policy statements are secured by a single law which keeps them in place within stipulated periods before they may be disregarded. However, room should be provided for reviews in line with results obtained from the process of monitoring and evaluation.

It is imperative that policies be formulated and rooted across all subsectors of agriculture from the soils through to value-addition, and should be based on results obtained from community needs assessment rather than on data obtained from International Organisations or results from “meetings by relevant stakeholders” in “Abuja”.

Community needs assessment would involve role players in the sector interacting closely with members of different communities to understand the nature of existing problems as well as prioritizing the problems to be solved per time. This ensures that policies are well tailored to meet specific needs of farmers in different regions.

Also pertinent is community mobilization for the sustainability of projects birthed to implement policies as this will ensure that even when the government moves on to other activities, communities are able to stand by themselves following through with the project guidelines and of course this would be more successful with continuous monitoring and evaluation by role players beyond the lifespan of such projects.

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