Agriculture was once the backbone of the the nation’s economy accounting for about 63 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and accounting for about 70percent of active labour for Nigerians.
With the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration on May 29, 2015, farmers and many Nigerians were optimistic that the agricultural sector would experience the much awaited change expected to transform and place the sector in its former glory especially in the face of dwindling crude oil prices.
Agriculture under the previous administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan witnessed tremendous transformation and was one sector experts scored his government high.
The sector witnessed especially several innovations introduced by the former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, and current President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina which earned Nigeria applause from both local and international observers.
The feat recorded by the former administration was also acknowledged by both President Buhari and the current Minister of Agriculture Chief Audu Ogbeh whom at various fora did not hesitate to applaud the achievements and even assured that there will be no policy somersault in the new dispensation..
At a meeting President Buhari held with permanent secretaries in the agriculture and water resources ministries in Abuja, he reiterated that there would be no change to the agricultural policies already going on.and particularly pointed out the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GESS) which he applauded as a good initiative.
“There will be no policy change, the GESS is the most effective, transparent and accountable way of ensuring farm inputs get directly to the farmer without intermediaries and without all the various corrosive behaviour that used to tempt the process. So, we are on course with the project and we have the support of all the states.
“So it is a continuum, we did not envisage much change in terms of policy, but ensuring that those things that work, work , and correcting those things that are not working very well to ensure that we derive maximum efficiency from our efforts,” he added.
He also promised that his administration would evolve and implement policies that would help Nigeria become self-sufficient in food production because continued importation of food could expose the country to more external shocks.
“We developed a mono-product economy and lost opportunities to diversify in the past. We have great potential for agriculture and solid minerals; we are now determined to exploit them to the fullest”, he once said.
With this, the President also took a step in the right direction and officially launched the N40 billion Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) and the commencement of the dry season farming organised by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for rice farmers across the country.
However, stakeholders and some Nigerians still have expressed dissatisfaction with the government in staying true to its words
According to a representative of Nigerians Against Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) Arc Gbadegbo Rhodes- Vivour, “the allocation the agriculture ministry received is the lowest compared to other sectors. One is tempted to a ask if government is really sincere about repositioning the agriculture sector”.
An executive of the Agro Allied Association who spoke on anonymity said they were yet to feel any impact in that area. “It is more of political talk than action. There is really nothing on ground.”
The last one year also saw an increase in prices of staple food commodities especially rice. For example, before now, a bag of rice sold between 10 to 12 thousand Naira. But it has risen to about 15 thousand Naira.
The Minister of Agriculture had also earlier in the year outlined several plans of this administration which includes making Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production in three years, producing one million trees of Ogbono in 2016 and planting two million cashew trees over a three-year period with the nurseries starting January 2016, growing jute bark industry which will employ close to 10,000 Nigerians and provide grazing up the North for our cattle rearers.
Other areas he outlined are the one-meal-per-child a day project which is part of an egg and one pint of milk for school children while working towards achieving livestock and milk sustainability for the country.
But the greatest challenge perhaps may be the lack of funds which seems to be the militating factor working against the realization of these plans as even the programmes of the previous administration in the sector are either not being partially implemented or completely put on hold.
The 2016 budget for the agriculture sector which stood at N77 billion, accounting for 1.6 per cent of the total budget is grossly inadequate. It also shows that the Nigerian government’s budgetary allocations to the sector is yet to meet 10 per cent as required by d 2003 Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security that 10 percent of the national budget allocation be dedicated to agriculture development.
Despite the poor rating by some Nigerians of federal Government efforts towards the sector, some have argued that judging the performance of the ministry under one year may not be tenable since the budget was approved barely a month ago.
Managing Director of Universal Quest Limited/National Publicity Secretary, National Cashew Association of Nigeria (NCAN), Sotonye Anga, said that one thing Buhari administration has done is appointing Chief Audu Ogbeh as the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development because he understands agriculture.
He said: “If you look at it critically, nothing has been achieved in terms of agricultural productivity rather than the Minister putting together the roadmap implementation for agriculture and he has been talking to stakeholders and everybody prefer to work with him to drive growth in the sector. But you cannot drive growth without money. Funding has hampered productivity. In the last one year, food prices have gone high on almost every products.”
Now that the budget has been approved, he stated that agriculture sector would see a level of improvement, since this is a critical planting season and farmers cannot plant without being funded.
He explained that farmers have almost lost whole planting season 2016 because of lack of fund but by 2017 there be accelerated and dynamic improvement across the agricultural value chain..
Also, President, Potato Farmers Association of Nigeria (POFAN) and the Vice National President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) Root and Tuber Crops, Chief Daniel Okafor, also had a different view when he said the agricultural model in this current administration has changed.
“Since the government has changed the way agriculture is being practiced in Nigeria, the farmers are now being carried along; they are now being included in the areas of policy development.
The government is now friendly with the farmers and they are trying to do things as it should be by carrying everybody along. The contribution of the farmers are needed for proper policy formulations. Farmers are supposed to be involved in decision taken on how agriculture should be run in the country. So what is happiness now is different from the previous administration.
The President has also enjoined Nigerians on several occasions to join hands with his government in ensuring that agriculture is made the mainstay of the country’s economy considering the falling price of crude oil.
However, stakeholders are of the view that a lot still needs to be done towards revamping the agriculture sector especially in the area of providing single digit interest rate loans especially for Farmers in the rural areas, providing irrigation facilities for all year round farming, provision of improved seeds for greater yield as well as access to fertilizers.
Originally posted 2016-06-06 05:16:16.