Is Nigeria truly committed to agriculture?

Is Nigeria truly committed to agriculture?

This blog is co-authored by Razaq Fatai, Fiona Robertson and Anita Okemini of ONE’s policy team.

For nearly a decade, Nigeria’s government has indicated interest in increasing its focus on agriculture, with the aim of ensuring food security and sustainable development. There are obvious reasons for doing so, as agriculture accounts for about a quarter of the country’s GDP and nearly half of its workforce. Aside from representing the largest share of non-oil exports in Nigeria, agriculture has the most potential to lift millions of people out of extreme poverty.

In 2014, African leaders, including Nigeria’s government, agreed to a set of policy commitments to accelerate inclusive agricultural development on the continent, called the Malabo declaration. However, a recent review of the progress of these commitments shows Nigeria underperforming on a majority of its obligations.

Increased investment in agriculture is desperately needed in Nigeria.

Given this, it is no surprise that Nigeria’s agricultural productivity has declined while the number of people facing extreme hunger has increased. According to the 2016 Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme [CAADP] report, (an African Union initiative that monitors countries’ progress in agriculture), Nigeria’s agricultural productivity fell at one of the fastest rates on the continent. Since 2014, productivity declined by 20%, compared with growth of 4% and 2% in Rwanda and Ethiopia respectively. In Nigeria, 25% of the population lack stable access to sufficient amounts of food. In 2016, over 14 million people or 7% of the population were reported to be undernourished—a 33% increase since 2011. If this trend continues, the number of malnourished people in Nigeria will reach 31 million by 2050, equivalent to the population of Ghana.

ONE recognises low government investment in agriculture as one of the main drivers of low agricultural productivity and food insecurity. Nigeria has 190 million citizens but just 2% of the Federal Government budget goes to the Agriculture Sector, this is less than N1,000 or about US $2.50 per person annually.  In Rwanda and Ethiopia, where agriculture is booming, governments spend more than 7% of their budgets on the sector. Rwanda spent 7.5% of its budget on agriculture in 2017, whilst Ethiopia spent 16.8%. In United States dollars per person—almost US $4 and US $20 respectively. What is worse, Nigeria’s budgetary allocation of 2% is less than the 3% allocated between 2009 and 2014. It is also far below the commitment made under the Malabo Declaration to spend at least 10% of the budget on agriculture.

Agriculture expert & ONE Champion, Olalekan Sipasi promotes sustainable agriculture techniques.

As well as increasing government spending on agriculture, it is important that spending prioritises core challenges in the agricultural sector such as:

Low investment on research and development: It has been proven that spending on research and development is more effective in boosting agricultural productivity and reducing poverty when compared to other types of agricultural spending, but the government has often ignored these type of investments. According to ActionAid, the share of the agricultural budget allocated to research and development fell by 70% between 2017 and 2018. Currently, only ~ 3% of the agriculture capital budget is allocated to research and development, this does not reflect its level of importance in catalysing growth in the agriculture sector.

Weak agricultural input market: An efficient input market is necessary to boost agricultural production. But farmers’ access to items such as seeds, fertilisers, and pesticides has deteriorated significantly and this results in low input use.  For example, fertiliser use is extremely low at 11kg per hectare, compared with an average of 58kg/ha in Ethiopia and 32kg/ha in Rwanda. Currently, budget allocation to the development of the agricultural inputs market represents 7% of agriculture capital budget, up from about 1% in 2017. This is a positive development and could help address some of the issues in the inputs market. However, we must ensure that these funds are spent adequately and that funds do not crowd-out private investment into the input market.

Agricultural productivity needs to be increased to support Nigeria’s growing population

Low farmers’ access to extension services: Agricultural extension services remain the major vehicle for transfer of technology and best agricultural practices to small-scale farmers, who represent over 80% of the farming population. But in 2016, less than 15% of Nigerian farmers had access to extension services. Despite this, the budget for extension services in 2018 dramatically declined to one-third of its 2017 level so it is likely to become even more difficult to educate and empower many of these farmers.

Rising youth unemployment and a widening gender gap: Women and youth have historically been left behind in agriculture. It is encouraging to see the government’s commitment to empowering these groups in a bid to achieve inclusive growth, but much more investment is needed. In 2018, programmes containing youth elements received 3% of the agricultural capital budget, and those with a gender focus received just over 2%. At the end of 2017, more than half of the Nigerian youth in the workforce (15-35 yrs) were either unemployed or underemployed so the government must invest more if it is to achieve a youth-led agricultural transformation. Women working in agriculture are still a long way from benefitting from their labour, despite accounting for nearly half of agricultural production.

Adverse climatic effect on agriculture. There is an increasing need for investments that help farmers adapt to the adverse effects of climate change such as extreme weather and natural disasters. For instance, the days in which it will be possible to grow crops in sub-saharan Africa will decrease by about 20% by 2050, impacting crop and livestock productivity. This means that the government needs to increase its budget for climate smart agriculture significantly above the 2% of agriculture capital budget in 2018.

There are many important reasons why Nigeria’s government needs to increase its spending on agriculture but arguably the greatest is the one that has the potential to be either transformational or catastrophic. By 2030, the country’s population will reach 265 million, more than half of whom will be under the age of 25 years. Adequate investments need to be made now to double agricultural productivity and ensure that Nigeria’s growing population is employed and well-nourished.


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