That Nigeria is an agrarian nation mostly sustained by the efforts of small holder farmers is no longer news. What remains worrisome however is the fact that Nigeria has failed to develop a workable agricultural policy that would benefit the small holder farmers, promote food sovereignty and ultimately reduce or totally eradicate hunger.
With the threat of Nigeria’s increasing population,there is no doubt that the time to address Nigeria’s agricultural food challenges is now rather than later, as the effects of ineffective agricultural policies lead to various challenges which affect the nation’s food security and promote larger post harvest losses.
Nigeria had in the past initiated several agricultural policies that had failed as a result of constant policy somersaults occasioned by the constant change in governments and ministers.
From the 70s till date, we recall that Nigeria had created several policies in the sector which had been undermined by new administrations and subsequently phased out.
From 1972-1973, Nigeria developed the National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP). The policy was set up by the then Nigerian government to increase food production and eliminate rural and national poverty. The policy was set to achieve food security and increase the demands of staple foods such as cassava, garri, yam, potato etc, against more expensive carbohydrate foods such as rice. This programme however failed to achieve its objectives.
In 1976-1980, the then military government created Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) in an attempt to achieve food security. That policy collapsed four years later and also did not achieve its set goals.
The Green Revolution Programme (GRP) was launched from 1981-1983. It was a major initiative by the Shehu Shagari-led administration aimed at ensuring self-sufficiency in food production and also to introduce modern technology into the Nigerian agricultural sector.
The programme also tried to introduce modern methods of farming such as high yielding varieties of seeds, fertilisers, tractors, etc, in order to boost the agriculture sector. This programme was not a success and it was discontinued two years after.
The Green Revolution Programme was followed immediately by the Back To Land Programme in 1983-1985. The Back To Land Programme established by the military government of the then head of state, Gen Muhammadu Buhari was an initiative spearheaded by his deputy, Brig-Gen Tunde Idiagbon in 1984. The aim of the programme was to implement a policy that will encourage massive agricultural food production and also alleviate poverty, but like those before it, the programme failed two years after.
The immediate past administration of Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan also came with the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) from 2011-2015. The Agricultural Transformation Agenda was aimed at making agriculture work for Nigerians, especially rural farmers, such that it becomes not just a development programme but also an income generating commercial activity. That policy also ended with the administration in 2015.
The present administration of President Buhari again came in with the Agriculture Promotion Policy, started in 2016 to last till 2020. The policy tagged the ‘Green Alternative’ is aimed at building on the successes and lessons from the ATA. The vision of the Buhari administration for agriculture is to work with key stakeholders to build an agribusiness economy capable of delivering sustained prosperity by meeting domestic food security goals, generating exports, and supporting sustainable income and job growth.
The current policy regime is founded on the principles of practising agriculture as a business, agriculture as key to long-term economic growth and security, food as a human right, value chain approach, and prioritisation of crops among several others
This newspaper is of the view that a workable agricultural policy is not only key for the attainment of food sovereignty and poverty alleviation but is neccessary for job creation and improved citizens welfare.
An efficient agricultural policy will enhance agricultural production. It will increase the quantity and quality of the nation’s agricultural produce. It will enhance the modernisation of agriculture in terms of production, harvest/post-harvest yield, protect the nation’s arable land and enhance job creation across the states.
This newspaper remains convinced that an effective food policy document that would trascend political administrations will promote healthy prices of agricultural commodities and enhance healthy market competition amongs agricultural businesses.
It will also promote local production while boosting quantity and quality of foods, which will ultimately increase agricultural exports and promote the nation’s Gross Domestic Product(GDP).