Food Security In Nigeria: Reality, challenges and prospects (II), by Prof M K Othman

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Professor MK Othman.
Professor MK Othman.

Deep Thoughts with Othman

This is a corollary to last week’s piece, in which insecurity challenges were cited as the major stumbling block to the development of agriculture in Nigeria. In fact, the insecurity situation is not only stopping farming activities but capable of completely halting movement from one town to the other.

This is in addition to dislodging several villages and forcing the habitants to become “guests” of urban areas in IDP camps. This is because kidnapping and banditry actions strive mostly in the forests and rural areas where primary agricultural activities take place.

Last week, I mentioned the lethal Zabarmaricase where scores of farmers were slaughtered in the most horrible manner seven months ago. In the same week, Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, there was a report of a bandit’s attack on Magami and Mayaba communities in Gusau, the Zamfara State where 17 farmers were killed as they cleared their farms ahead of this year’s farming season. This is a clear message that the nation must wake up to address the looming and terrifying threat, otherwise farming would soon be history in Nigeria. God forbids this to happen.

The questions I posed last week; can Nigeria achieve food security? What are the prospects of Agriculture in Nigeria? Yes, Nigeria can be food secured. Today, the country’s food system faces herculean challenges that make it very difficult to provide affordable, sustainable, nutritious and safe food in the right quantity and quality for all Nigerian residents at all times, which is meeting the global definition of food security.

However, despite the mountainous challenges, agriculture has a brighter prospect in Nigeria. As a matter of urgency, Nigeria must declare a state of emergency in Agriculture; the government at various levels (Fed, State and LGA) must invest heavily in agriculture, if possible through legislation to galvanize agricultural revolution through the use of improved technologies, equipment and capacity building.

The insecurity issues must squarely be addressed through interventions of the causes as well as effective policing and subduing the evildoers using superior arms. We must remember, food insecurity is the mastermind of all other insecurities; banditry, insurgence, kidnapping and robbery. What are the strategies to implement these actions?

The prospects of developing agriculture in Nigeria depend on our ability and sincerity to address the two major categories of challenges; technical and security. On the technical challenges, Nigeria as a nation can resolve the issues by increasing our level of effective and quality investment. We must first consider agriculture as the livewire of our nation, which when disconnected will be akin to disconnecting oxygen supply to a patient in an intensive care unit, death will be a matter of seconds to such patient.

Therefore, can we raise our level of agricultural investment? There is already a Bill for Agricultural Trust Fund before the National Assembly, which when legislated; Agriculture would receive the needed impetus, investment-wise to be modernised.

Additionally, states and National Assemblies with the support of the executive arm of government can legislate an increase of budgetary allocation to the level of Mobuto declaration of 10% of the annual budget.

Furthermore, the component of extension service provision in agriculture can receive special treatment. This is because while agriculture is the livewire to our society, the provision of agricultural extension services is the “blood” of agriculture. Agricultural extension entails knowledge transfer, utilization and feedback, market intelligence, skill acquisition and perfection, and productivity enhancement along the value chain of agricultural commodities (crops and livestock). Therefore, special treatment to agricultural extension can be made through fast-tracking the release of the National Agricultural Extension Policy.

The policy was already developed and I am privileged to be part of the team that finalized the policy document. The development of the policy was a painstaking national assignment that was done over a period of five years by agricultural experts, technocrats and academics. Thus, the policy contains ready-made and holistic solutions to the challenges to agricultural extension service delivery. It also considers what to be done to modernise agriculture holistically now and in the future.

Fortunately, the structure of the agricultural extension system at the grassroots level, the Agricultural Development Programme (ADP), developed between the 1970s and 1980s with the support of the World Bank is still in place and robust but ineffective due to gross underfunding. The policy has taken good care of how to source alternative and sustainable funds to support and develop an agricultural extension system in the country. If the policy becomes operational, it will automatically increase public and private investment in agriculture with special attention to extension services. This will spontaneously escalate agricultural productivity in geometric proportion. The increase in agricultural productivity will cover both crops and livestock farming with positive implications on the livelihoods of the farmers and herders.

The cattle herders, Fulani are majorly accused of banditry and kidnapping, the most deadly insecurity challenge nationwide. The root cause of this challenge could be traced to a hitherto perennial conflict between farmers and herders over agricultural resources utilization. As the minor conflict, which was minor, left unmanaged overtimes, added to other socio-economic factors such as low literacy level and dwindling poor agricultural productivity exacerbated by demographic issues, the conflict transformed to current national calamity. The calamity has become fatal, risky and catastrophe to all and sundry, no one sleeps with eyes closed.

So, increasing effective investment in agriculture will not only address the technical challenges against productivity enhancement but also partially address the insecurity challenge. Cattle herders, the Fulani pastoralists will learn and adopt modern livestock farming. This is a highly productive venture with a cow producing 6-10 litres of milk against 0.5-1 litre being produce under current nomadic practice.

Yes, with excellent livestock extension services in place, the modern livestock production, highly profitable with much less drudgery will replace the current practice and gradually eliminate nomadism – stock movement, which is the cheap source of conflict. Hopefully, kidnapping and banditry will be drastically reduced, as herders will be settled in their choice places and be generating tremendous incomes for themselves and the nation.

To completely eliminate the security challenges, the concept of community policing with the capacity building of the locals must be introduced. Corruption among the security personnel must equally be addressed. These will complement the increase of investment in agriculture and will transform Nigeria into Eldorado with the capability of producing enough food to feed Africa.

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