Economic experts have identified agriculture as the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy providing employment to over 60 per cent of the population.
At independence in 1960, Nigeria was the leading producer of cash crops such as palm oil, groundnut, cotton and cocoa globally.
The sector accounted for more than half of the nation’s Foreign Exchange Earnings (FOREX) and Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
With discovery of crude oil and subsequent development of petroleum industry, agriculture witnessed gradual setbacks which made Nigeria to fall in the global commodity market rankings.
To address the ugly trend, successive administrations initiated various policies and programmes to reinvigorate the sector and enhance food security in the country.
In 1972, the Yakubu Gowon administration introduced the National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP), and in 1976, the Olusegun Obasanjo’s military regime rolled out Operation Feed the Nation (OFN).
Also; In April 1980, the Shehu Shagari administration introduced the Green Revolution Programme (GRP), to ensure self-sufficiency in food production through introduction of mechanise system of agriculture, improved varieties seeds and enhance farmer extension services.
Similarly; the democratically elected Obasanjo’s administration initiated the National Special Programme for Food Security (NSPFS) in 2003.The programme was replaced by the National Food Sector Plan (NFSP) anchored in 2007 by late President Umaru Yar’Adua.In 2011, the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration introduced the Agriculture Transformation Agenda (ATA) which metamorphosed into the Agricultural Promotion Policy (APP) under President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.The programmes focussed at accelerating rapid transformation of agriculture, encourage productivity and processing, promote value addition, farmer enterprising skills and provide market for the produce to achieve self-sufficiency and national food security.
The programmes failed to achieve their noble objectives due to lack of continuity by successive governments.
However, stakeholders in the sector expressed divergent views as to whether agriculture made positive contributions or otherwise to national development.
Alhaji Umar Daware, the Adamawa Commissioner for Agriculture, said agriculture went through series of transformation geared towards making it a major contributor to national economic development.
He said that pre and post independence era had been characterised by agricultural initiatives such as Operation Feed the Nation, Green Revolution and current Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP).
He said the programmes assisted farmers, increased productivity and processing, reduce poverty and enhance food security in the past 62 years.
This, he said, were achieved through innovative interventions that enhanced farmer access to inputs, extension services, enterprising skills and agricultural financing.
Abdussalam Gulak and AbdulRazaq Ahmed, rice growers in Yola, said agriculture made significant progress towards encouraging food production under the ABP scheme.
They, however, said that proactive measures were imperative to encourage production of fertilisers, chemicals and other farming implements in the country.
“This will reduce high cost of fertiliser and inputs, and encourage agricultural productivity”.
Also, Ibrahim Zubairu, Chairman, Maize Growers, Farmers and Manufacturers Association (MAGFAMAN) in Bauchi State, said about 10,000 farmers benefitted from farm support services under the ABP scheme in the state.
He said farmers received fertilisers, seeds, water pumps, chemicals, sprayers, among others under the programme.
Addtionally; Mr Ibrahim Sadiq, Coordinator, Wheat Farmers, Processors and Marketers’ Association of Nigeria (WFPMAN), said the ABP initiative encouraged farmers to engage in dry season activities.
“Farmers are motivated by the government support, which enabled them to record bumper harvest,” he said.
Corroborating Sadiq, Marka Abbas, Chairperson, Small Scale Women Farmers Organisation of Nigeria (SWOFON), said the ABP programme encouraged more women to engage in agriculture since inception.
“Many women farmers in recent years engage in farming activities due to awareness creation and sound farmer support services initiated by the Federal Government,” she said.
In Jigawa, rice farmers said agricultural sector witnessed unprecedented achievements under President Buhari’s administration through the implementation of ABP.
The sector, the farmers said, enjoyed massive deployment of resources and initiatives aimed at achieving self sufficiency in rice production.
A rice grower, Misbahu Sadik, said farmers received loans and inputs to accelerate cultivation of rice, wheat, maize, cotton, cassava, cotton, groundnut and soybeans as well as fishery, poultry and livestock productions.
Another farmer, Idrisa Guda, said Nigeria made progress in irrigation farming, adding the achievements couldn’t have been possible without government support in the development of irrigation schemes and farmer support services.
“Without government support on irrigation over the years, Nigeria could have found it difficult to feed itself because of the uncertainties associated with rain fed farming,” he said.
While Malam Abubakar Danladi, an agro dealer noted that the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative (PFI) had enabled farmers to access fertilisers at affordable prices thereby addressing scarcity of the commodity.
In his contribution, a 25-year-old farmer, Basiru Dan Mai Awara, called on the government to regulate prices of fertilisers.
This, he said, would enable farmers to access the commodity at N10,000 as against its current prices of N30,000 per 50kg bag.
Also commenting, Malam Umaru Abubakar, said though the achievements were there but farmers who are the players are still facing a lot of challenges, ranging from lack of access to subsidised inputs, preservation and processing technologies.
“Unlike before the market value of rice and other commodities were poor thereby exposing farmers to losses, but things changed sequel to the ban on importation of rice.
“The measure put smile on the face farmers making agriculture lucrative and attractive,” he said.
In Yobe, the state government said it spent over N2.9 billion on procurement of fertilisers in the past three years.
Dr Mairo Amshi, Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural resources, said that N1.5 billion of the amount was spent on the procurement of 3,000 tones of NPK brand of fertiliser in 2021, adding the commodity was sold to farmers at subsidised rate of N13,000 per bag.
She said that N1.4 billion was spent on the purchase of 7,500 tones of NPK fertiliser in 2020, and sold to he farmers at N5,000 per bag, representing 40 per cent subsidy.
She said in 2019, government spent N882 million on procurement of 40 tractors, given as loans to large scale farmers at N11million each, payable within four years.
Amshi said the state, in collaboration with International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), had vaccinated over 1.2 million cattle, sheep, goats and dogs.
The commissioner said the state’s Livestock Development Programme was supported by 135 veterinary surgeons, 47 animal scientists, five equipped veterinary clinics and 17 Area Livestock offices across the state.
She said the state, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), set up livestock development centres at , Badegana and Gurjaje grazing reserves.
The centres, she said, had been equipped with boreholes, earth dams, veterinary clinics, feed lots, fish ponds, access roads, electricity, artificial insemination and milk collection units, among others.
Amshi said a Livestock Investigation and Breeding Centres (LIBC) was also established by at Nguru to enhance livestock production.
While 2,000 hectres of land had been developed to facilitate take off of the 2022 LAVA irrigation scheme in parts of the state.
According to Amshi, the state, in collaboration with Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, had set up National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI) North-East Outreach Station in Damaturu.
She said the state also got approval to participate in the Federal Government’s Livestock Productivity and Resilience Support Programme ( L-Pres Programme).
For his part, Mr Stephen Maduwa, Chairman, Rice farmers Association (RIFAN) in Adamawa, said Nigeria had made giant stride in its bid to become a leading rice producer in the world.
Maduwa, therefore, urged youth to embrace agriculture, set up their businesses to become self-reliant and employers of labour.
The Benue Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Mr Aondongu Saaku, has said women contribute 80 per cent to agricultural production, particularly in Nigeria.
Saaku stated this at a Food Security Town Hall meeting organised by Small Scale Women Farmers Organisation of Nigeria (SWOFON) on Thursday in Makurdi.
He said that women were the back-bone of agricultural production in the country, stressing that sadly, they were still using crude farm implements.
The AFAN chairman sued for support from both government and other agriculture-based organisations to enable them to produce enough food for the country.
The Director, Agricultural Services, state Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Thomas Unongo, said that the ministry was giving women adequate and preferential treatment to encourage them to continue to produce food for the nation.
Unongo said that the ministry was gender-sensitive and was always ready to address issues relating to women.
“We have directed the agricultural officers in the 23 Agriculture Redemption Centres across the state to give priority to women during inputs distribution,” Unongo said.
Unongo promised that the ministry would continue to support women by making inputs available to them on time.
Also, the Chairman of Oju Local Government Area of the state, Mrs Evelyn Okwe, lamented that women were denied access to farm lands, stressing that such development was hampering agricultural activities.
Okwe called for a change of attitude by men who were responsible for the trend, adding that women should be allowed to inherit lands.
She pledged that she would join forces with the other eight female chairmen in the state to support women in the sector.
Stakeholders in the agricultural sector have urged the Kaduna State Government to develop specific programmes to improve women’s access and ownership of farmlands to boost agricultural production.
The stakeholders made the call in Kaduna at the validation of Gender Situation Analysis of Agriculture and Rural Development in Kaduna State, facilitated by the Legal Awareness for Nigerian Women (LANW).
The objective of the study is to highlight the differences and inequalities between women and men in relation to their tasks, access to resources, opportunities, constraints and priorities in agricultural production.
The data, according to LANW, will be used to develop a gender policy in agriculture for the state.
Mrs Hannatu Soni, State Coordinator, Small Scale Women Farmers Organisation of Nigeria (SWOFON), said that ownership of lands had remained the greatest challenge affecting women productivity in agriculture.
Soni said that most of the land women cultivated were borrowed, adding that the moment the land became very fertile and productive, it would be taken away, leaving them with nothing.
Similarly, Mrs Aisha Usman, Leader of Kafin Madani Women Cooperative Society, said that most government interventions did not get to the real famers, particularly women.
Usman called on the government to be deliberate about empowering women with land they could cultivate without limitations.
On his part, Mr Yusuf Goje of Coalition Associations for Leadership Peace Empowerment and Development, said that the state budget was not gender sensitive.
Goje added that the agricultural sector was also grossly underfunded, stressing the need for specific intervention that addressed the needs of women, particularly access to land and financial resources.
Dr Abubakar Bayero, General Manager, Kaduna State Agricultural Development Agency, advised the women groups to write officially to the state government requesting for allocation of land for agricultural production.
Bayero expressed optimism that the responsible authority would allocate available government lands across the state to women to cultivate without hindrance.
Mrs Rebecca Sako-John, Member of the Board of Trustee, LANW, explained that the objective of the meeting was to present to the stakeholders the findings of the gender situation analysis for validation and identification of gaps.
She said the gathering was also to agree on key recommendations for incorporation during the development of the draft policy.
This, according to her, will increase women inclusion and implementation of the National Gender Agricultural Policy and its domestication in the state.
She explained that LANW, in partnership with Value Seeds Limited and Palm Valley Nigeria Limited, established the Gender Consortium on the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) project.
The report of the gender situation analysis has revealed that the lack of ownership and control of farmlands is limiting women’s productivity in agricultural production in Kaduna State.
The report, obtained by NAN, also shows that the lack of control over lands prevents women from expanding production or the choice of crops to produce.
It also shows that men have access to all critical resources for agricultural production more than women, due to biased traditional practices.
The report also indicates that lack of funds was the most important factor hindering women from accessing land, followed by culture, religion, illiteracy, and insecurity.
The analysis further shows that women are not fully engaged in agricultural activities, adding that women and men have distinct but complementary roles in agricultural enterprises.
It, however, shows that men have more control and benefits on available resources than women.
The report recommended massive sensitisation and awareness campaigns on the negative cultural and traditional norms against women that are detrimental to agriculture and rural development.
On the male dominated-land ownership and control, the report recommended programmes specifically designed to improve women’s access to land.
This, it said, would enable women to increase their productive capacities, promote involvement in agricultural activities and improve livelihood status.
Some farmers in the North-East have expressed concern over the difficulties experienced in accessing fertiliser due to unavailability and hike in price of the commodity.
The farmers, who spoke in Bauchi, Damaturu, Gombe, Maiduguri and Yola, said the situation would result to low yields at harvest.
The decade-long Boko Haram insurgency and other forms of insecurity have adversely affected crop production as many farmers had abandoned their farms in parts of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. Farmers in areas prone to insecurity now rely on close-by, often overstressed lands to farm in resettled communities, thus, making significant surge in the demand for fertiliser to boost soil fertility for bountiful output.
The farmers’ concerned stem from their inability to access fertilisers such as Urea, and the Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorous (NPK) due to exorbitsnd prices.
The situation was further compounded by the ban imposed on circulation of granular fertiliser in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. The ban was to prevent Boko Haram insurgents from accessing granular fertiliser to make Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
A NAN check in markets across the region showed that prices of the commodity had shot up by over 100 per cent in the last one year.
A 50 kilogram bag of fertiliser was being sold between N25,000 and N35,000 as against its previous prices of N15,000 during the last cropping season.
Mr Sabo Bappa, a smallholder farmer in Askira-Uba, Borno, attributed the scarcity of fertiliser to drastic drop in the supply of the commodity.
He said the decrease in the supply coupled with the ban on circulation of the commodity resulted to price hike in the region.
The farmer urged government at all levels to adopt practical measures towards enhancing access to fertiliser.
Hajiya Fatima Misau, Treasurer, Small Scale Women Farmers Organisation of Nigeria (SWOFON) in Bauchi State, said prices of fertiliser had shown spiralling increase amid growing demand since the commencement of the rainy season.
She noted that farmers could not reap much without applying fertiliser, especially on impoverished lands across the region.
Similarly; Samuel Luka, a maize grower in Bauchi, said many farmers now rely on cow dung and chicKen droppings to nourish their farms as they could not afford exorbitant fertiliser prices.
“Many farmers are forced to abandon their farmlands which will result to poor harvest,” he said.
To address the problem, state governments in the region embarked on distribution of granular and liquid fertilisers to farmers at subsidised rate.
Gov. Babagana Zulum of Borno, said the state government could not distribute subsidised granular fertiliser to farmers due the banned imposed on the commodity.
He, however, said that his administration accorded pririoty towards enhancing farmer access to liquid fertiliser and other input to encourage productivity.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports also that the Borno Fertiliser Blending plant has been closed due to Boko Haram insurgency in the past 13 years.
Liquid FertiliserIn Adamawa; the Commissioner for Agriculture, Umaru Daware said the state government had procured 54,000 litres of organic liquid fertiliser for 2022 wet season activities.
He listed the products to include NPK, Urea brand of fertiliser and Folier rice, adding that it would be sold to farmers across the 226 wards at subsidised price of N4,000 per bottle.
According to him, the product costs N6,000 per bottle at open market.
He warned against diversion of the products, stressing that government would not condone erring officials.
Also; Malam Adamu Muazu, Programme Manager, Adamawa Agricultural Development Programme, said experts had certified liquid fertiliser to be safe and environmental friendly capable of increasing farm yields.
Shehu Jabdo and Usman Michika, both farmers in Adamawa commended the state government for introduction of liquid fertiliser in the state.
They said the initiative would end scarcity, encourage agricultural productivity and deal clashes in the state.
In Bauchi State, the state government has commenced distribution of fertiliser to farmers at subsidised rate.
Gov. Bala Mohammed who inaugurated the exercise, said NPK fertiliser would be sold at N15,000 and Urea N20,000 per 50kg bag.
The gesture, he said would make the commodity available to the farmers in the state.
Granular fertiliserMoreso, the Gombe State Government had so far distributed 72,000 bags of assorted fertilisers to assist farmers for 2022 wet season activities.
Alhaji Alhassan Fawu, Chairman, Fertiliser Distribution Committee, said the move was to reduce the effect of the high prices of the commodity on farmers and boost food security.
The Chairman who attributed fertiliser scarcity to the Russo-Ukraine war, said the state government had adopted proactive measures towards enhancing farmer access to the commodity.
He said that NPK brand of the commodity would be sold at subsidised rate of N19,000 per bag.
To further improve supply of the commodity, the Yobe government announced that the rehabilitation of its moribund fertiliser blending plant had reached 95 per cent completion stage.
The Commissioner for Commerce and Tourism, Barma Shettima said the plant designed with 18 tonnes production capacity per hour would soon begin operation.
“Yobe State Fertiliser Blending Company Limited, located at about 28km along Damaturu – Gujba road had reached 95 per cent completion.
“The company have the production capacity of 18 tonnes per hour if completed.
“Fertiliser scarcity would be a history among farmers in Yobe,” he said.
Farmers applying fertiliser in rice fields For his part; Alhaji Ibrahim Gare, Chairman, All Farmers Association Nigeria (AFAN) in the state, described farmers lack of access to fertiliser as a major bane towards sustainable agricultural development in the country.
While commending Yobe government for the distribution of fertiliser to farmers, Gare called for resuscitation of the fertiliser blending plant in the state.