Flipping through my Instagram in search of a farmer mentioned by a friend, on his profile was… PhD farmer, Ogbole Samson, and I was curious with his caption, “food production should not be seasonal, because hunger is not seasonal” Waoh! And in my thought, it seems I’m getting closer to what I am looking for in drawing attention to the narrative about ending hunger and poverty as a nation.
Worried like every other Nigerian that hunger is on the rise, with poverty and high cost of food, this popular local parlance comes to mind…na so we go de dey? Meaning – is this how we will fold our arms without finding a solution to end hunger in Nigeria? Hence the need for a better option.
The latest release by Nigeria Bureau of Statistics shows that the cost of food increased by 17.38 percent in October 2020 and in the last five years it has risen by 110.5percent. No wonder there is massive hunger in the land.
And I then engaged farmer Ogbole to satisfy my curiosity. Then we began the conversation via WhatsApp, he mentioned HYDROPONIC…with the journalistic curiosity, I searched on Wikipedia, Hydroponics while on chat with him and I found out that is a type of horticulture and a subset of Hydro culture, which is a method of growing plants, usually crops, without soil, by using mineral nutrient solutions in a water container.
Hydroponics offers many advantages, one of them being a decrease in water usage for agriculture. To grow 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) of tomatoes using intensive farming methods requires 400liters of water using hydroponics, since it takes much less water to grow produce, it could be possible in the future for providers in harsh environments with little accessible water to grow their own food.
Farmer Ogbole further explained hydroponics offers many advantages, one of them being a decrease in water usage for agriculture – with this hydroponic, we can grow plants all season and no need for seasonal high price and will help greatly in food security. Secondly, he said with soilless farming, the cost is fixed and will help stability in food prices because they sell at specific amounts.
In addition, there is predictability in the production cycle with less risk and insurable harvest, because the problem of insecurity is taken care of.
The soilless farming brings farming and healthy living close to the people. What about the challenges of movement? It helps provide food in the urban area and bring about food security. Then my curiosity pushed me into asking – why is the government not looking into HYDROPONICS? Anyway, in case they didn’t know, it’s time the government begins to look into this best option which can at least cater for half of the population while other farming systems complement it. Let us not scratch the surface, why the massive hunger and food insecurity?
MISMATCHED AGRICULTURAL POLICIES
In the last 10 years, the Nigerian Government mostly through the CBN continued coming up with programs on how to eradicate hunger. Some of the programs like Anchor Borrowers program, cassava initiative, palm oil intervention, cottons, rice, millet etc.…yet prices of staple food are on the increase, amidst recession.
This has a resultant effect on food security in the country.
The various Nigerian Governments have made several efforts through agricultural agencies in running agricultural programs geared towards making food available for her citizens, but some analysts argue that the results could be better. Hence, the need for improved agricultural practices and food security.
It is no doubt that the government is backing the reality of food sufficiency in the midst of population explosion, insecurity, food insufficiency and corruption.
Nigeria was part of the 2003 Maputo Declaration in which all African Union member countries made a commitment to allocate at least 10 per cent of their total annual budgets to agriculture.
This was done as one the ways to increase food sufficiency in the continent. Inadequate funding despite repeated promises by the current and past administrations, a PREMIUM TIMES analysis in November 15,2020 shows that Nigeria has constantly under-funded the agricultural sector.
In the last 20 years, agriculture got its highest budgetary allocations during the administration of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua.
In 2008, that administration budgeted N2.92 billion for agriculture, which was 5.41 per cent of the total budget, and in 2009, it budgeted N3.101 billion again for the sector, about 5.38 per cent of the total budget.
The Obasanjo and Jonathan administrations never raised their Agric allocations to those marks.
The Buhari government, despite repeated promises to revive agriculture in the country, has budgeted some of the lowest figures to agriculture with 1.5 per cent allocation in the 2021 budget proposal is significantly less than the 10 per cent African countries agreed to set aside annually for agriculture.
How much improvement that introducing an Agriculture revolutionary plan barely two years into the end of an administration is yet to be determined. And then, a Minister of Agriculture Sabo Nanono still denying the reality that nobody is hungry in Nigeria amidst glaring indices calls for concern.
One then wonders if the government’s plan to start farms in all the local government areas of Nigeria is more of a mirage or a reality.
On June 4,2020, Nanono at a press briefing said that “the present administration would ensure the success of the Green Imperative which would be private sector driven and devoid of any form of political interference, a $10billion program would have better help if they are sincere. Supporting his colleague at that briefing, Minister of Information and culture, Lai Mohammed, explained that the “stage is now set for an agricultural revolution that will strengthen food security, create massive jobs, transfer technology, revive or reinvigorate many assembly plants, strengthen the economy, save scarce resources, mechanize farming and lead to the emergence of value-added agriculture, among other benefits.” With consistent rising hunger and food prices, is taking such promises to the bank likely to lead to any cash out?
According to Dataphyte, a data research platform, in May 2020, The Ministry of Agriculture received the sum of ₦592.9 billion in the last five years. It is just a fraction of the total budget for the period despite efforts by the Federal Government to find alternatives to oil.
As price war and coronavirus disrupted global oil prices and sent economies to the north, Nigeria looked elsewhere to reduce corresponding effects on the economy.
Can the Agric sector be the bailout? Can it save the nation’s economy from ultimate collapse and quickly help revive the economy from the looming recession? In the last 20 years, the agricultural sector has served as one of the key drivers of the Nigerian economy, contributing more than 20 percent to the country’s GDP.
The sector also employs more than 40percent of the population – almost 90 percent of such in the rural areas, most especially women. Despite its contribution to the economy, over the years, the Federal Government only allocated a small portion of the total budget to the sector. Most allocations ended up in the recurrent expenditure, leaving a fraction for capital expenditure.
Although this is not peculiar to the Agric sector alone.
CONNECTING THE DOTS….
With so many interventions, like the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, which is intended to create a linkage between anchor companies involved in the processing agricultural commodities like cereals (Rice, Maize, wheat etc.); Roots and Tubers (Cassava, Potatoes, Yam, Ginger etc.); Tree crops (Oil palm, Cocoa, Rubber etc.); Legumes (Soybean, Sesame seed, Cowpea etc.); Livestock (Fish, Poultry, Ruminants etc.). Others include Cotton, Sugarcane, Tomatoes, yet the cost of these staple foods daily on the increase.
Director of GOURIA Agricultural Ventures from Bauchi State, Dogo Mohammed in an interview with him did not deny this intervention, he expressed appreciation to the government, but laments that with so many interventions along the value chain, and it shows the government is providing an enabling environment. However, he is worried about Summersault’s policy and wants the government to ensure strict monitoring on disbursement of materials and funding because there are many players along the value chain.
STILL CONNECTING THE DOTS…
As the population skyrocketed, Nigeria’s food demand increased.
However, at the current food production growth rates, Nigeria remains unable to feed its population. According to Research Gate, Biotechnology has the capacity to boost food production and promote sustainable agricultural development on high and low potential lands.
Since seed is the delivery vehicle for agricultural biotechnology, this technology can only benefit farmers if they have access to quality seeds.
The conventional breeding techniques where farmers selected the best-looking plants and seeds and saved them to plant for the next year needs to be reduced and the modern biotechnology tools employed.
Still CONNECTING THE DOTS…
In the last few years, the Nigerian agricultural sector has not received adequate funding to catalyze a transformative growth in the sector. Recently, the amount to the sector as a percentage of the total budget revolves around 2 percent and less.
Meanwhile, it has been widely noted that public spending in the agricultural sector is a recipe for growth and development of the sector and critical to achieving the objective of food security and job creation in the country. Hence there is a need for increased investment for the sector.
Insecurity is a major threat that has continued to hurt the Agric sector.
The insurgency especially in northern Nigeria with this violence most times occurring in the local communities where a large proportion of food production is carried out.
Insecurity, therefore, obstructs production of food crops, livestock farming and stifles agro-processing activities, which is due to displacement of farmers.
Nigeria lost 121 million dollars to insecurity in 2017 according to a report by Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry in a paper titled, insecurity in Nigeria. The figure amounted to about 11 percent loss to GDP that year.
The Central Bank has again released the framework for the Private Sector-Led Accelerated Agriculture Development Scheme. The move is in line with the developmental mandate of the Central Bank of Nigeria targeted at expanding access to finance to critical sectors of the economy to achieve food self-sufficiency as well as diversification.
The CBN said it is introducing the Accelerated Agriculture Development Scheme to engage 370,000 youth in agricultural production, in collaboration with state governments.
According to the guideline, agricultural commodities eligible for consideration under the Scheme include rice, maize, cassava, cotton, wheat, tomato, poultry, fish, sorghum, oil palm, cocoa, livestock/dairy and any other commodities as may be listed by the CBN from time to time.
This is in no doubt, that CBN in particular is working to ensure that there is massive food supply, but for this young Agro farmer, Khaleed Mohammed, but beyond this, it’s obvious that the CBN also needs to consider tools for modern mechanized farming that can attract more youths.
In 2020, the administration budgeted N79.79 billion for agriculture, which was less than 1 per cent of the total federal budget.
The latest proposal for 2021 shows only a 0.5per cent increase over last year.
Appropriations will affect farmers as the raining season sets in. It must be noted that the late passage of the budget has its negative toll on the implementation of the capital projects.
Going forward, it would be good if the Budget Office of the federation can start the budget process of a succeeding year at the beginning of the preceding year.
For this economic analyst, Ibrahim Shelleng, appropriate funding of the agriculture sector, more people can be lifted out of poverty, while the country’s economy grows quicker
A former permanent secretary of Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Nana Fatima Mede, at a presentation on the National Policy on Food and Nutrition in Nigeria, which provides a framework, covering the multiple dimensions of food and nutrition improvement.
She said the policy has been revised to add value and strengthen synergy among sectors and other initiatives of government and partners. It further recognizes the need for public and private sector involvement, and that hunger eradication and nutrition improvement is a shared responsibility of all Nigerians.
The policy has been updated with the aim of addressing the problems of malnutrition and extreme hunger across different levels of Nigerian society, ranging from the individual, household and communities, thus contributing to the overall national development. With a holistic approach, it is envisioned for the implementation of the reviewed policy that will meet the target of eradicating poverty.
With Nigeria in its second recession in five years in the third quarter of 2020, the Gross Domestic Product fell for the second consecutive quarter.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, GDP dropped by 3.62 per cent in Q3 and 6.10 per cent in Q2.
There is no other magic than for Nigeria to begin recovery by starting to tap from its enormous potential in agriculture to change the phase of hardship its battling with.
Data visualization support by ATUPA via Civic Hive.