Opinion (2/10/2021): 61 Years Of Policy Flip-Flops On Nigeria’s Food Security – By Ayo Oyoze Baje

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According to the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, it means that “all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life. It is the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.” It is a similar description by the World Food Summit.

Worthy of note is that the right to food is recognized in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as part of the right to an adequate standard of living, and is enshrined in the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It is also protected by regional treaties and national constitutions. and in several international conventions.

Narrowing it down to the Nigerian nation, researchers, Yusuf Izang Elijah of the University of Jos and  Francis John Tenon in their work titled: “An Assessment of Agricultural Programmes and Food Insecurity in Nigeria 1960 to 2016” posited that over the decades, agricultural programmes were introduced by different governments with the aim to ensure food security for the people.

Considering the challenges facing the agricultural development in Nigeria, such as seasonal drought, land degradation, climate change, violent conflicts between armed herders and farmers as well as policy flip-flops, food security declined drastically since independence.  It is evident with the contribution of agriculture to the national economy dropping from 80% in the 1960s to a mere34%  in 2003.

Beginning with the administrations of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Tafawa Belewa (1960-1966) the Regional Agricultural Programmes (RAP) was characterized by focus on colonial cash crop production against food crops mainly for export.

They were set in  place between the  Federal  Government of   Nigeria (FGN)  and   the Regional  Governments  (RGs) in accordance with Nigeria’s Constitution of 1963. To achieve this aim, the Regional Ministries of Agriculture were established in 1962/63.   The Western  region  became  the   major  producer  of cocoa and coffee, while rubber came from the Mid-West. The Eastern Region Oil Palm and Northern region Ground-nut and Cotton boosted the production of more cash crops,   agricultural   raw-materials for   industries,   export   earnings   and   jobs opportunities  for  millions  of   Nigerians.

But the programme ‘s failure was  because priority was not given to food crops. There was lack of unity. Issues of ethnicity   and   political   differences  led to   disagreements  that  affected   the programmes from becoming a success.

On its part, General Yakubu Gowon’s regime (1966-1975) came up with  National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP) as an agricultural extension programme established in 1972, following the end of the Nigerian civil war. It was aimed to end the food crisis that engulfed the country at that trying time. Its failure was because the  farmers who could not form co-operatives were left out.

Subsequently, Shehu Shagari’s Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) came on board. The programme, according to Elijah and Tenon relied on disbursement of credits  and farm inputs through cooperative societies excluding  most small-scale farmers.

The   major reasons for its lack of impact included the sudden withdrawal of funding by the federal government. It also lacked farmers’  participation

As for the acclaimed farmer, General Olusegun Obasanjo, (1976-1979) the Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) was launched in order   to   bring   about   increased   food   production   across   the   entire   nation   through   the   active involvement and participation of everybody in every discipline.

But it  did   not succeed because of the indiscriminate  use of land for farming  activities since most farmers   were   very   young   and   inexperienced. Also, hired   labour  was   the   main   source   of   labour employed by participants. There was absence of available markets, so livestock diseases caused havoc on farms of the novice farmers bringing the beautiful dream to its end.

With the return of democratic government, Alhaji Shehu Shagari (1979-1983) introduced the Green Revolution Programme (GRP) on  June 3,   as a  replacement for OFN. “The programme depended on the ministry based extension system and was instrumental to raising mass awareness on the problems of food confronting   the   nation.

“ The   FGN   ensured   the   success   of   the   programme   by   providing agrochemicals, improved seeds/seedlings, irrigation system, machine, credit facilities, improved marketing and favourable pricing policy for the agricultural products and encouraged farmers to produce  food,  cash  crops,  and  livestock”.

According   to  Goodluck  Jonathan,  “Green  Revolution   and Operation   Feed   the  Nation  failed  because   they  were   not  properly  articulated,  agricultural programmes in Nigeria just followed the political class and disappeared”.

Coming to General Muhammadu Buhari (1983-1985) and his Back to Land (BL)  programme was  to revive the agriculture by  encouraging Nigerians to go back to  farm   to   reduce over dependence in oil.

But it failed  with   regards   to  poor quality of infrastructures provided  by   the directorate   due   to   embezzlement/mismanagement   of   fund.  “Lack of  focus   and  accountability made the impact of the programme almost insignificant”.

Next came the IBB-driven  Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP)  in  1986 to  achieve   the  objectives   of  its  far-reaching reforms on diversification of exports and adjustment of production and consumption. SAP   provided   strategies   on   food   crops,   livestock,   industrial   raw   materials, wildlife, forestry,  fish   production.  It also provided policies on   support  services  such  as agricultural extension, technology development and transfer.

Its failure was traced to  unskilled  handling  of   water   application   through   irrigation that degraded  and depleted the soil of its productive capacity.

While the Family Support Programme (FSP) was  initiated in   1994  the Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP) came  in 1996   by   General  Abacha   and  his   wife  Mrs.   Maryam   Sani  Abacha.   These  programme eventually culminated   in  the  creation  of  the  Ministry  of   Women  Affairs  and  Social  Welfare.

The programme focused “ on areas like  health, education, women in  development,  agriculture, child welfare and youth development. They also touched on the provision of shelter for the less privileged in the society from ongoing housing programme of government “. The sudden death of Gen. Abacha limited their impact on the women and the masses.

Ever since, we have had Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s  (1999-2007)National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS).  The  key   elements   of   this   development   strategy   included   poverty eradication, employment   generation,  wealth  creation  and value   reorientation.  Its activity   with States Economic Empowerment and Development Strategies (SEEDS) would help to implement integrated   rural   development   programme   to   stem   rural-urban   migration.

“The programme did not go far because of problem of market, lack of accountability, and proper planning”.

Food Security, aimed at strengthening agribusinesses through the  institution of profitability and price support   mechanism was cardinal to  Ahaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua’s  (2007-2010) Seven-Point Agenda (SPA) .It targeted land   tenure   changes, aggressive  development   and   supply  of   new   land. Not left out was the strengthening   of   farmer   support   groups   through   commercial  farmers,   improvement   of   rural access infrastructure, and resuscitation of the River Basin Development Authorities RBDAs.

As with previous programmes, it did not carry the peasant farmers along. The  problems of monitoring and evaluation, poor input and marketing access, affected this also.

His successor, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan(2010-2015), would be remembered for Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) driven by the Dr. Akinuwnmi Adesina-led Ministry of Agriculture and Rural  Development.  The focus was to ensure food security, reduce expenditure of foreign exchange on food imports, diversify the economy, generate  foreign exchange and create jobs.

It was focused on major policy reforms to eliminate corruption in the seed and fertilizer sectors and improve the functioning of market institutions. Other areas included the establishment of  staple crop processing zones to attract private sector into areas of high production. This was  to reduce post-harvest losses, add value   to   locally   produced crops and foster rural   economic   growth.

But it failed, according to Elijah because of “ corruption,   embezzlement  of  funds,   lack   of   transparency,  Islamic insurgency, herdsmen and   farmers  conflicts, lack of   planning,  monitoring and  evaluation.”

Even as we are still analyzing the Muhammadu Buhari’s  (2015-2016) Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) as adopted from his predecessor, kudos goes to him for the CBN-driven Anchor Borrowers Programme and the huge boost in local rice production. But his administration’s long-winding war against herders-farmers’ clash has put a huge dent on his achievements in the agric sector. Currently, Nigeria’s food price inflation rate is at its highest.

Perhaps, succeeding administrations would learn from the mistakes of the past-to involve the critical stakeholders across the food value chain in their policy formations and implementations. These include   the rural farmers, the food processors, local machine operators, the research institutes, the marketers and  the private sector.

And as usually emphasized, restructuring of political power to bring it closer to the grassroots would engender more robust and sustainable food security matrix.

Kudos to Nigeria at 61.

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