Breakthrough with Prof M.K Othman (PhD)
As presented in the first part of this article, National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) is under the auspices of two organisations – FMARD and ABU. This symbiotic relationship of the two organisations brings out the best out of NAERLS. Thus, NAERLS personnel have the opportunity to interface with both undergraduate and postgraduate students of ABU in teaching and research activities. Similarly, the personnel are involved in agricultural extension activities thereby interfacing with field staff of the 37 ADPs across the nation.
Consequently, there is no conflict of interests between the two supervisory bodies of NAERLS as they are achieving their goals. While FMARD is achieving agricultural extension policy and direction through NAERLS, ABU uses both the human resources and infrastructure of NAERLS for teaching, learning and community services. So much has been said on NAERLS and its distinctive position among the National Agricultural Research Institutes in the country. Now, let us go back to the questions; what are the contents of the APS report?
How can these findings help Nigeria achieve food security? The APS report is a 245 – page document segmented into Executive Summary, Introduction, Methodology and Findings. The objectives of the APS are crops performance assessment during the 2017 wet season; production forecasts; identification of constraints to increased agricultural productivity and effective extension delivery service. The APS is also aimed at providing feedbacks on field situation and farmers’ problems to research Institutes and policy makers for improved research and policy performance. The methodology of the APS involved the use of Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) technique. This includes questionnaire/checklists administration, farm visits/observations, nterviews with farmers and Ministry/ADP officials /reports of technology review meetings.
A total of 20 multi-disciplinary teams of three scientists each, constituting 60 scientists, conducted the survey across the 36 States, Federal establishments and Federal Capital Territory. In each state, two communities were selected from two LGAs in two selected agricultural zones for field evaluation. From each community, five farmers were interviewed in addition to focused group discussions held at every site. In all, interactions were held with 674 individual farmers and 74 different farmers’ groups. Data capture from the farmers was done electronically using Android Tablets. Extensive discussions were also held with the ADP staff, ministry officials and staff of other relevant agencies. Final wrap-up sessions to validate the data generated and findings were held at the end of the exercise, with officials of the State ADP and Ministry of Agriculture. Primary and secondary data collected were analysed using simple statistics.
To forecast the 2017 crops yield, adjusted land area/ output estimates of 2015 were used as base figures in computing percentage changes in the areas devoted to various crops and applied in conjunction with Report of NPFS, document from Strategic Development Initiatives and reports of respective ADPs to generate outputs forecast for 2017 for each state. Yield figures from 24 model sample plots linked to Decision Support Agricultural Information Tools (DSAT), were used to correct forecast of average yields from each state to generate the output forecasts for 2017. The findings of the 2017 APS are startling and revealing as they show our vulnerability, as a nation to food shortage. The findings in the APS report cover over 200 pages of the entire 245 – page document, which makes it difficult to be showcased in this Column. However, some important highlights and their implication to food security are presented herein.
The first is the crop production of the various agricultural commodities. Crops production estimates for 15 staple crops were made. Maize is the second most important cereal crop produced in Nigeria after rice. The total estimated land area devoted for maize production in 2017 was about 5,960,920 ha, which indicated an increase of 8.70 per cent compared to 2016 estimate (5,484,060 ha). Nationally, maize production increased from 10,813,980 metric tons to 12,107.580 metric tons in 2017 representing about 11.96 per cent increase. A national average yield of 2.03 ton/ ha was recorded in 2016 compared to 2.10 ton/ ha recorded for maize yield in 2017. A national average yield of 2.0 tons per hectare recorded in 2017, is very low compared to more than 20 tons per hectare obtainable in Europe and USA. Another important commodity is rice because it is consumed in almost all households in the country.
The crop is grown in all the states of the federation. The total estimated land area devoted to rice production in 2017 was 5,377.0 million hectares, which is an increase of 4.5 per cent over 2016 figure. A national average yield of 2.4 ton per hectare was recorded for the crop in 2017. Generally, the survey recorded percentage increase in most staple crops in 2017 compared to their production estimates in 2016. Thus, there was an increase of 4.4 per cent for sorghum and average yield of 1.3 tons per hectare; 61 per cent increase for Cowpea and average yield of 1 ton per hectare. Similarly, an increase yield of 11.4 per cent and average of 0.9 ton per hectare was recorded for soybean. Cassava had a yield increase of 7.7 per cent and national average yield of 7.3 tons per hectare. 5.0 per cent yield increase and an average yield of 1.6 tons per hectare were recorded for groundnut. Other crops production increases recorded during the period under review were cotton (2.3 per cent), Cocoyam (16.8 per cent), beniseed (6.5 per cent), tomato (13.2 per cent), onion (7.6 per cent) and okra (6.9 per cent), respectively. The increase in land area for crops production in 2017 could be attributed to the Federal Government initiative to boost agricultural production. However, the average yield per hectare for many crops is extremely low and thus, making farming unattractive to potential investors.
The low yield could be linked to low level of farm mechanisation in the country. For instance, farmers have poor access to tractor, which is the foundation of farm mechanisation in many countries. Tractor population in the country is very low compared to many countries. Data on tractors from 26 states and FCT revealed a total number of 908 and 964 functional tractors owned by states governments in 2016 and 2017, respectively. This represents a 6.17 per cent increase, although still far from reality on the field. Nonfunctional government-owned tractors in 2016 and 2017 were 539 and 524, a reduction of 2.78 per cent. Among the states that provided data, Plateau State reported the highest number of government functional tractors of 279 by any state while Rivers and Akwa Ibom States reported two and one respectively.
Generally, the number of non-functional tractors reduced in most states, except in a few instances such as Borno, which had 21.88 per cent increase in the number of non functional tractors. Farmers from 34 states reported their inability to access tractor services in 2017 due to high cost of tractor hiring services; while about 28 (75 per cent) states could not access tractor services for their wet season agricultural production activities due to unavailability. Other reasons, which prevented farmers from accessing tractor services in 2017, are cost of acquiring tractor services and poor access roads for the tractors. The 2017 APS identified general constraints/ challenges to agricultural production in the year. The challenges were classified under climate related, inputs, mechanisation, agricultural broadcasts, and e-extension services.
The survey revealed that all the ADPs complained of the high cost of airtime as a major constraint to airing their agricultural programmes through radio and television stations. Other constraints to agricultural broadcasts as captured in the survey are lack of equipment (89 per cent), poor access by farmers (65 per cent) and inappropriate broadcast times in (49 per cent). Information on increasing security challenges to agricultural production was also captured in the 2017 survey. 31 states reported frequent incidences of herdsmen/farmers conflict; six states (16 per cent) reported activities related to insurgency and kidnapping while five and four states reported cattle rustling and communal clashes respectively. This situation has caused a lot of farming communities to abandon their homes, farmlands and other agricultural ventures for fear of their lives while potential investors were scared away. One consistent issue considered worrisome in the field was adulteration of inputs.
The farmers are consistently exposed to poisonous and ineffective inputs at the expense of national food safety and security. Also, at various border towns in Ogun, Niger, Benue, Sokoto and Katsina States, the survey teams observed the thriving ‘business’ of smuggling cheap and ‘expired’ agricultural produce into Nigeria from neighbouring countries. These activities serve as disincentive to farmers, especially along the border towns. In conclusion, the APS report revealed the national capacity on the agricultural production in the country. There is urgent need to improve this capacity to meet the national food demand and avoid food insecurity. States and local governments must discharge their expected responsibilities in agricultural development of this nation.