Agriculture employs more Nigerians than any other sector, but the country still struggles to produce enough food. These are some reasons why:
- Our farmers do not produce enough. 80% of Nigerian farmers are smallholder farmers who farm at subsistence level, meaning they mostly farm to feed themselves and their families. Even when they want to produce more to sell, a lot of them do not have access to finance to produce efficiently, access to the extension services to help them with the information they need to farm efficiently given the nature of their soil and environment. Women who are smallholder farmers are doubly challenged, especially because they face both cultural and financial barriers to access to land, find it harder to access markets and information that they need to produce efficiently
- Poor infrastructure. Poor access to infrastructure such as roads and power makes it hard for rural farmers to access the inputs and technology that they can use to improve their yield and the markets to sell even more. Modern agriculture demands good access to power and water, much of which is not a given anywhere in the country
- Lack of policy coherence between national and state-level. Nigeria joined other AU states in 2014 to make the Malabo Declaration, which commits to the implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) Results Framework as part of an effort for at least 6% year-on-year growth in the agriculture sector. Part of the commitment is to develop the Nigerian Agriculture Investment Plan (NAIP) in line with CAADP (which we have) and increase its budgetary allocation to agriculture to 10% of the budget (which we have not). However, the conversation on CAADP typically ends at the Federal level – most people in state government do not know what CAADP is, and as a result are not working with it in mind. Also, the Federal Government has never had an agricultural budget higher than 3.5% since the Declaration. There has been a lot of policy aimed at improving productivity, especially in cash crops like rice and cassava, and providing agricultural inputs like fertilizer to farmers and access to finance. Even with all our progress on agriculture, our agricultural sector only grew by 2.1% in the first half of 2018.
- A lot of our food gets wasted. Even as we do not produce enough food, a lot of what does get produced gets wasted. This is as a result of poor post-harvest handling, lack of adequate storage, and poor access to food processing technologies and facilities. Nigerian government has done some work to provide food storage facilities, but as always the challenge is the scale and reach of these initiatives
- Inadequate response to climate change. Nigeria has plenty on paper to deal with climate change, but none of the action. Nigerian Agricultural Resilience Framework (NARF) was developed in 2015 by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to help guide policymaking on how to limit the impact of natural disasters and climate variability on our food security and farmers’ incomes. The National Adaptation Strategy and Plan of Action for Climate Change in Nigeria (NASPA-CCN) is a companion document developed by the Federal Ministry of Environment in 2011 that documents how Nigeria can improve its capacity to adapt to climate change. Neither of these have gained significant traction in states, and it is affecting our ability to respond meaningfully to the increasing rate of flooding or share vital information to farmers on rainfall patterns and how to farm more efficiently as a result
- Poor access to finance. Access to finance is a major challenge, and affects farmers’ ability to afford the needed technology and other inputs to improve their productivity. Many of the finance initiatives from government often do not reach many farmers across the country, often just ending up in the hands of farmers close to politicians.