Zero Hunger, Nigeria and 2019 APS Report (IV), by Professor MK Othman

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Professor MK Othman
Professor MK Othman

BreakThrough

In the previous part of this article, the crop productivity covering land cultivated and estimated output per crop for three major crops was discussed. Yields of two stable crops; Rice and Maize as well as one cash crop; cotton were found to be lower compared to their averages obtained in other climes.

The national average yield for rice was estimated to be 2.1 tons per hectare.  An average yield of maize was reported as 2.12 tons per hectare while that of cotton was 0.45 tons per hectare. These yields are not up to halves of their expected yields using good agricultural practices (GAP). In fact, the potential yield was not achieved for any of the crops surveyed in the 36 states and FCT across the nation.

Some of the examples reported in the APS were Cassava achieved 13.04 tons per hectare against the potential yield of 60 tons per hectare. Similarly, yam got 13.08 tons per hectare against the potential yield of 40 tons/ha. Cocoyam, millet, groundnut and cowpea achieved average yields of 7.34, 1.45, 1.19 and 0.52 tons per hectare against potential yields of 35, 6, 6, 8 and 8 tons per hectare, respectively. In addition to crops, the productivities of livestock were similarly not impressive.

APS report presented cattle population in Nigeria for 2019 as 20,407,607 heads. Surprisingly, Zamfara state despite security challenges tops the list of States with 3,432,486 heads of cattle. The goat population was estimated to be 46,757,458 with the highest population of 5,488,904 heads of goat coming from Katsina State.  Zamfara State also tops the list of States for sheep production with a population size of 7,314,023 sheep. Populations of Swine, Rabbit, donkey and camel were among the livestock estimated during the 2019 APS.  

The total population of rabbits in the country in 2019 was 1,493,559. Likewise, the population of Donkey was estimated to be 979,380 heads. Donkeys were found mostly in the 11 states of the north with the highest population found in Zamfara State at 331,641. Other states with prominent populations of donkeys in 2019 were Sokoto with 153,657, Borno with 143,707, Kano with 135,962 and Kebbi with 82,870. Other states were Jigawa and Gombe with a population of 25,135 and 14,241 heads of donkeys, respectively.

Camel, a domestic animal very popular in far way Niger and Mali Republics is beginning to be popular in Nigeria. Camel population was estimated to be 280,235 heads in the country. Almost half of all the camel population in Nigeria was found in Kano State with 128,104 heads of camel.

Other states with some palpable populations of camels in 2019 according to APS report were Sokoto with 60,346, Kebbi with 50,483, Jigawa with 12,851, Katsina with 9,581, Bauchi with 9,475, Niger with 3,270 and Yobe with 501 heads.

The report on livestock production in the country brought out a disturbing situation. This is a major area of serious concern in Nigeria over the years. Generally, there has been a consistent negligence in agricultural investment in Nigeria by governments at all levels (especially LGA and States) and private sectors; less than 5% of the annual budget of government at both states and Federal is devoted to agriculture; over 70% of this low investment goes to crops production at the expense of livestock production. To really comprehend this dismal picture, one can refer to my previous article titled “Sudanese National Agricultural Summit and Lessons for Nigeria” published in this Column and can be accessed via www.breakthroughwithmkohman.blogspot.com

In that article, I compared the cattle population of Sudan and Nigeria. I stated “The national herd is estimated around 140 million heads of cattle in Sudan (http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article58991). When one compares the population of 20 million heads of cattle in Nigeria with theirs one can then appreciate the level of progress made in Sudan. This means there are seven cows to every two persons in Sudan compared to one cow to every ten persons in Nigeria”. What is responsible for this abysmal performance of agriculture in Nigeria over the years? A low level of agricultural extension service is the cog in the wheel of agricultural progress in Nigeria.

Yes, gross inadequate agricultural extension service delivery is the major factor responsible for the awful performance of agriculture in the country. Agricultural Development Program (ADP), a state government agency responsible for extension services at the grassroots level is comatose, to say the least. There are 37 ADPs owned and funded by the 36 states government and FCT. These ADPs were established to provide extension services to farmers in their respective states.  2019 APS reported several challenges bedeviling the ADP system across Nigeria.

Poor funding was the most reported obstacle to the effective performance of the ADPs. There was also poor logistics/inadequate mobility for extension workers, lack of inputs/high costs of inputs, land scarcity for on-farm testing of verifiable technologies, poor adoption of technologies by farmers and the floods that affected between 50 and 2,000 hectares of farmlands. Another constraint to extension services is the dwindling number of extension personnel in the country. Kano State with over 8 million population recorded the highest number of 1,105 Village Extension Agents (VEAs). Other states with a significant number of VEAs include Bauchi with 266 to serve over one million farmers in the state.  Niger recorded 221 VEAs over a million farmers.

Similarly, Kebbi and Plateau state recorded 205 and 200 VEAs to serve more than a million farmers in each state. The situations in these states are even better than the rest parts of the country. The report indicated Rivers state as the state with the least number of VEAs recorded as only nine VEAs in the whole state. Other states with few VEAs are Kwara (16 VEAs), Osun (21 VEAs), Bayelsa (23 VEAs), Ekiti (28 VEAs) and Edo (29 VEAs).

On the ratio of one Extension Agent to the number of farmers, Kano state recorded a better ratio of one EA to about one thousand, two hundred farmers (1:2,000). The 2019 survey further revealed that Kogi (1:2,000) states. The highest ratios were reported in Rivers (1:18,435), Katsina (1: 10,000), Edo (1: 9,375), Ebonyi (1: 8,723) and Kaduna (1: 7,650).

Another performance indicator of extension services is the number of visits of EA to farmers. This is the regular contact by extension agents with farmers, which is necessary for effective technology dissemination and demonstration of good agricultural (GAP). The highest number of visits to farmers was recorded by Kano state (1,202,073 visits). Other significant visits were recorded in Zamfara (65,200 visits), Ebonyi (14,120 visits), Niger (12,830 visits) and Cross River (9,824 visits) states. 

Limited visits were recorded in Kebbi (16 visits), Edo (192 visits) and Enugu State. Fund allocation and disbursement of ADPs is another important performance indicator of the ADP. A total of 22 ADPs out of 37 in the country did not receive fund disbursement to carry out extension services at the time of the survey in August/September 2019. Some of the ADPs received funds for personnel cost with zero funding for research and extension during the period under review.

However, the ADPs in Ebonyi, Lagos, Kwara, Adamawa, Yobe and Taraba reported receiving funds disbursement ranging from 60 to 90 % of their 2019 annual budgets/allocations. Thus, these ADPs were able to perform some on-farm activities and capacity building farmers as well as the promotion of improved technologies. Consequently, there were appreciable improvements in agricultural productivity in these states compared to where funds releases were not made.

While appreciating the NAERLS effort in bringing out the field situation of agriculture in the country, we must ask, what do we need to do to achieve zero hunger in Nigeria? We must address the challenges of extension services in this country. As I said in my previous article titled “Food Security in Nigeria: Can Development of Community Based Advisors a Pathway?” published on 20th and 27th September 2019 in this column, “the major challenge of the ADP system is the refusal or inability of the financiers of the system to fund it. State governments are the owners of the ADPs…” they simply failed to fund the activities of their ADPs. What is the way forward?

With low funding, inadequate trained manpower, an actively growing population, and large, untapped agricultural potentials. Nigeria is ripe for the development of private – driven extension model to serve the teeming farmers and double or even triple their productivity per unit area.  Consequently, the development of Community Based Advisors (CBAs) becomes imperative to address the aforementioned challenges and move the country towards achieving sustainable food security. CBA concept is an alternative to a public-funded extension system aimed at addressing the inadequacy of formal extension services provided to rural farmers. It is a concept striving in several other climes with appreciable recorded successes.

Nigeria needs to look in this direction of developing a private driven extension service system synergizing with a public-funded structure. This will facilitate the attainment of zero hunger sooner than later. I hope the relevant stakeholders will give due consideration to this observation.

Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.

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