Farmers differ on progress, one year after Buhari’s Emergence

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.

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