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 the discovery of crude oil and subsequent development of the 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 Veterinary/ 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 Jakusko/Nasari, 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.