Our cor­re­spon­dent ex­am­ines the fea­si­bil­ity of de­vel­op­ing agri­cul­ture us­ing the lo­cal govern­ments as a driv­ing force.

Weekly Trust - - Analysis - Ab­bas Ji­moh

Par­tic­i­pants at a re­cent work­shop on agri­cul­ture in Abuja were unan­i­mous that past ef­forts by govern­ment and mul­ti­lat­eral agen­cies to place agri­cul­ture on the front scale in Nige­ria have not met much suc­cess.

The ex­perts at­trib­uted the par­tial suc­cess to many fac­tors which in­clude lack of ac­cess to mech­a­nized farm­ing, dearth of en­hanced seedlings and fer­til­iz­ers as well as in­con­sis­tency in govern­ment poli­cies.

The Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment, Chief Audu Ogbe, who spoke on the re­al­i­ties in the Nige­rian agri­cul­tural sec­tor, said Nige­ria spends about $20bil­lion on food im­ports yearly.

This was cor­rob­o­rated by the Na­tional Bu­reau of Statis­tics (NBS) which re­ported that agri­cul­ture’s con­tri­bu­tion to Nige­ria’s Gross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct (GDP) had de­creased from N4.5b in the fourth quar­ter of 2015 to N3.2b in the first quar­ter of 2016.

The bid to ad­dress the prob­lem has led to var­i­ous sug­ges­tions, some of which have been ex­per­i­mented with lit­tle or no suc­cess. The out­go­ing pres­i­dent of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Lo­cal Govern­ments of Nige­ria (ALGON), Al­haji Ibrahim Ah­mad Karaye, in his con­tri­bu­tion on the is­sue re­cently hinged the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of Nige­ria on in­volv­ing the lo­cal govern­ment coun­cils in agri­cul­tural pro­grammes.

He said as Nige­ria is an agrar­ian so­ci­ety with the agri­cul­tural sec­tor contributing about 24 per­cent of the Gross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct (GDP) and 70 per­cent of the ru­ral pop­u­lace and de­pend­ing on agri­cul­ture for liveli­hood, the de­vel­op­ment of the sec­tor is in­dis­pens­able to na­tional growth.

A re­searcher and agri­cul­tur­al­ist, Bunmi Oteniya, also be­lieves that the in­volve­ment of the lo­cal govern­ment in im­ple­ment­ing poli­cies and strate­gies for govern­ment in agri­cul­ture would go a long way in achiev­ing the aims and ob­jec­tives of the govern­ment for the sec­tor.

“The top to bot­tom ap­proach which has seen im­ple­men­ta­tion from fed­eral level trick­ling down to the grass­roots has been largely re­spon­si­ble for this, there­fore a process of bot­toms-up ap­proach should be worked out as it prom­ises to be more ef­fec­tive in achiev­ing govern­ment poli­cies,” he said.

Ref­er­ence has how­ever been made to a re­cent ex­per­i­ment in ALGON which adopted a bot­tom-up ap­proach through a com­pre­hen­sive plan known as C-LAP aimed at in­volv­ing the 774 lo­cal govern­ments in the 36 states of the fed­er­a­tion in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of an agri­cul­tural pro­gramme.

The ini­tia­tors said this would help small scale farm­ers move from sub­sis­tence farm­ing to com­mer­cial agri­cul­ture.

C-LAP for Com­pre­hen­sive Lo­cal Agri­cul­ture Plan and is an in­te­grated and par­tic­i­pa­tory ac­tion plan for the de­vel­op­ment of LGAs in agri­cul­ture and al­lied sec­tors aimed at adding value to Nige­ria’s agri­cul­tural raw ma­te­ri­als and to in­te­grate Nige­ria into world agri­cul­tural mar­kets.

The project co­or­di­na­tor, Bal­raj Sikka, said: “The goal is for the C-LAP to as­sess cur­rent agri­cul­tural po­ten­tials in each LGA by un­der­stand­ing its pro­duc­tion pat­terns, mar­ket­ing and other fac­tors that will ei­ther con­strain or pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for fu­ture growth of agri­cul­ture.

“The scope of work of work of the con­sor­tium will be de­sign­ing of com­pre­hen­sive agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment plans for each LGA, un­der C-LAP, pro­cure­ment of trac­tors with im­ple­ments and farm ma­chin­ery would be pro­vided for each of the LGAs.”

He said a model would be de­signed in each of the LGAs keep­ing in view agro­cli­matic con­di­tions, crop­ping pat­terns, soil and ir­ri­ga­tion fa­cil­i­ties, type of the pre­ci­sion fa­cil­i­ties avail­able and the man­power for man­ag­ing farms and im­part­ing train­ing as well as know-how to farm­ers.

The ALGON pres­i­dent, ex­plain­ing why the as­so­ci­a­tion took to the ini­tia­tive, said it was be­cause the main fo­cus of his as­so­ci­a­tion was on agri­cul­tural rev­o­lu­tion which would in­volve LGAs with mi­cro level plan­ning and new tech­nolo­gies to the farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

“We set out with the idea to ul­ti­mately get to a point where Nige­ria could stop im­por­ta­tion of food prod­ucts par­tic­u­larly rice by pro­duc­ing lo­cally for im­port sub­sti­tu­tion and ex­port and en­sure that CLAP ac­tiv­i­ties will demon­strate new tech­nolo­gies for higher pro­duc­tiv­ity and will re­sult in agri­cul­tural rev­o­lu­tion in Nige­ria,” he said. He said this is be­cause agri­cul­ture forms the best weapons against hunger and poverty.

List­ing some of the ben­e­fits ex­pected, Karaye said this would re­sult in en­hanced se­cu­rity for farm­ers, in­creased and sus­tain­able food sup­plies and mea­sur­able

TTe­co­nomic growth in de­vel­op­ing na­tions.

The ALGON pres­i­dent also stated that it would cre­ate 10,000 di­rect jobs and over a mil­lion in­di­rect jobs in the next five years, gen­er­ate over a tril­lion naira in wealth at the grass­roots level and lead to the cre­ation of a mega food park for agri­cul­tural pro­cess­ing in each state.

Sikka, who ex­plained the work­ing of the project, said it was de­signed as a food mart re­tail chain model to cre­ate a net­work that de­liv­ers the agri­cul­tural pro­duce straight to the doorsteps of con­sumers.

“It will also strengthen the en­tire value chain from seed to plate with a shorter value chain en­sur­ing the re­mu­ner­a­tive prices to the farm­ers and avail­abil­ity of qual­ity food stuff at their door steps with­out any ad­di­tional cost at com­pet­i­tive prices.

“We are sure that the project will ag­gre­gate the pro­duce from 774 farms across the coun­try with ef­fi­cient sup­ply chain and lo­gis­tics and link­ing these farms to a na­tional re­tail chain, whole­sale mar­kets and mega food parks will re­sult in en­hanc­ing the net in­come. It will also cre­ate busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties for fran­chise op­er­a­tors, jobs for the youth, re­duce wastage of agri­cul­tural pro­duce as there is a de­fined re­tail net­work to ab­sorb pro­duc­tion,” he said.

But some have pointed out the pos­si­ble chal­lenges it might face due to the re­verse pat­tern of im­ple­men­ta­tion, say­ing it might lead to de­lays, thereby slow­ing down the en­tire process.

“When it the grass­roots, the ten­dency is that the other tiers of govern­ment may not be com­pelled to mon­i­tor it as their co­op­er­a­tion is needed to en­sure it is not re­stricted to one par­tic­u­lar area but the en­tire coun­try,” said a stake­holder, Umar Aliyu.

But re­cent co­op­er­a­tion with the state govern­ments through the plat­form of the Nige­rian Gover­nors Fo­rum has dis­pelled this fear.

“Fur­ther, it will em­power farm­ers and agriprenures through self-em­ploy­ment as an op­tion for their ad­di­tional in­come or a fullfledged liveli­hood sus­tain­abil­ity and cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for pri­vate in­vestors to in­vest in food chains and fi­nally the busi­ness can be taken to the cap­i­tal mar­ket in three to four years so that ALGON has a ma­jor ben­e­fit and sus­tain at its own,” he added.

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