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Date Published: 05/18/10

A New Approach to Agriculture in Nigeria By Zayyad I. Muhammad

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Everyone in Nigeria believes that agriculture is very important for the country’s progress as well as being a vital tool for the liberation of Nigerians from the prison of poverty. However, Nigeria with a total area of 923,768 km² of which 910,768 km² is arable land, and 13, 000 km² water ; in addition to  140 million people, huge oil wealth and twenty-one (21) agricultural institutes- it can be interesting to mention them:

1. Arable Crops Research Institute          

2. National Agricultural Extension Research and Liaison Services (AERLS)

3. Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR)

4. Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T)

5. National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI)

6. Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI)

7. National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI)

8. National Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI)

9. Forestry, Horticulture and Tree Crops Research Institutes

10. Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria

11. National Horticulture Research Institute (NIHORT)

12. Cocoa Research institute of Nigeria (CRIN)

13. Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR)

14. Rubber Research Institute of Nigeria (RRIN)

15. Animal Production, Fisheries and Oceanography Research Institutes

16. National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI)

17. National Institute for Freshwater Fisheries Research (NIFFR)

18. Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research

19. Animal Health Research Institutes

20. National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI) – Vom

21. Nigerian Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research (NITR)

With the above mentioned Nigeria’s natural resources and the 21 agricultural research institutes along with the assistance of international development agencies, the country have created and implemented projects and programmes for the development of the agricultural sector- programmes such as the National Accelerated Food Programme of 1973, National Lives Stock Production programme of 1975, the Presidential Initiatives on selected commodities- rice, cocoa, cassava, vegetable and livestock and fisheries of 1999.  But it is disheartening to note that these efforts have not yielded appreciable successes. The reasons for the low successes were not because the projects and programmes were mere paper and pencil solutions, but the methodology of their implementation seems to have missed some vital links, such as effective youth and local community participation and free from politicians interference.  

Nigeria should redefine the implementation strategies of her agricultural programmes and policies, in such a way that youths are made the central focus. This is because for Nigeria to remain economically viable, it is imperative that the country’s agricultural sector is developed.

How would Nigeria benefit from an agricultural Scheme that makes youth its centre of attraction? Will such scheme not end-up same as the previous ones we criticised at the beginning of this piece? Most development and poverty reduction programmes in Nigeria end-up being hijacked by politicians at the detriment of the initial motive of the programmes or schemes. How can such a scheme be make to be free from ‘politics’ – the Nigerian politics, so to speak?

This proposed ‘youth centered’ approach to agriculture should not deviate from government’s agricultural goals of alleviating poverty and hunger, promoting sustainable agricultural development, improved nutrition and food security. However, the scheme should imbibe an all inclusive participatory technique- where youth, communities, local councils, states, the federal government and the private sector (financial institutions and private investors) will be active and major participants. Financial institutions and private investors shall be the financiers; governments at all levels will have well-defined roles, while the youths and communities shall be the targets. In addition, the scheme should be designed to be in four categories- ‘export oriented’, ‘large’, ‘medium’ and ‘small’ scales, along with a well-defined timeframe for government complete handoff from the scheme. But how will this be implemented?                                                               

The federal government would be the guarantor of fund to be provided by financial institutions or private investors. This will be done through the issuance of either callable, par value or coupon rate bonds. The scheme should work in such a way that local councils and state government would provide lands and other logistics. The private investors or financial institutions who will participate in the scheme are not to give money directly to the governments in order to receive the bond-certificate, but it would be a kind of batter arrangement; where the investor; either financial institutions or private individuals would setup farms, in addition to putting in place all structures required in a standard farm. After which a bond certificate equivalent to the cost which is to be determined by both parties and NGO’s will be issued to them. This will completely eliminate corruption which is the main reason for the failure of most good programmes in Nigeria.

To encourage investors to participate in the scheme, before the maturity of the bond, the investor would take a prescribed stake, between 5% and 10% in any of the farms they setup. T his will assist in monitoring progress on the farm, on top of being an added value to the investors, since, in addition to the interests they will get from their bond when it is redeemed, they will have shares in the farms’ profit. However, after maturity of the bond, their stakes in the farm would be transferred to the host communities.

Despite the seeming complexity of such a scheme; if experts in the areas of systems thinking, financing, agriculture,   and development are engaged to design it workability, it can be experimented as a tool for the implementation of the numerous government’s fine programmes that have suffered failures at the implementation stages. In addition to  setting up of new farms, it can be experimented in rejuvenation of old ones; provision of extension services and agric implements to small scale farmers and also in the area of commercialisation of research findings by the agricultural research institution.

Perhaps it becomes what a Diaspora- Nigerian once said Nigeria’s economic problems dearly need- a ‘platinum bullet’.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, zaymohd@yahoo.com , 08036070980. He blogs at www.zayyaddp.blogspot.com

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