By Bunmi Oteniya
The importance of agriculture to the development of Nigeria cannot be over-emphasized.
Previous administrations in the country as well as various stakeholders have at different for a harped on the significance of exploring the agricultural angle for the development of Nigeria, but the required blueprint to make it a reality has eluded the country leading to the current situation where a great potential has been reduced to a miserable reality.
Nigeria is an agrarian society with agriculture contributing about 24 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
With an estimated population of 160 million people, it is instructive to note that about 70 percent of this population, which is roughly about 112 million, live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for livelihood.
The worrisome aspect of the entire scenario is that a sizeable number of this population, 7 percent to be precise, are undernourished.
The Global Hunger Index (GHI) in the last two decades ranks Nigeria 84 out of 118 counties with a score of 25.5 (IFPRI, 2016). While ordinarily, this should be viewed in the positive light as it indicates a slight improvement on the rating and raises hope of a possible rise in the standard of living, the reality is that a dark cloud still hangs on the horizon for the Nigerian agriculture.
The Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) definitely piqued by this grim reality initiated an action aimed at developing the agricultural sector and setting Nigeria on the path of economic prosperity.
Outgoing national president of ALGON, Hon. Ibrahim Ahmad Karaye, who has many times noted the significance of agriculture to the overall well-being of the country, had to think outside the box to churn out workable blueprint to achieving a boost in the sector, by moving the sector away from the over-reliance on government to bring in the private sector.
It should be noted at this stage that one of ALGON’s goals is to help eliminate hunger through initiatives that help small scale farmers move from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture so as to ensure enhanced security for the farmers, increased and sustainable food supplies and measurable economic growth in developing nations.
The ALGON President explained that “in the recent past, Nigerian agriculture has witnessed insufficient and wastefully expensive costs of procurement, stocking and distribution of agricultural products and is presently facing several challenges which has consequently undermined socio-economic growth thereby constituting threat to the Federal Government of Nigeria’s “Vision 2020”.
After making a commitment that ALGON under his leadership is committed to addressing these challenges, he wrapped it up by adopting a bottom-up approach through a comprehensive local agriculture plan, now known as C-LAP.
C-LAP is an integrated and participatory action plan for the development of LGAs in agriculture and allied sectors and is meant to prepare a Comprehensive Local Agriculture Plan (C-LAP) through participatory process involving various organizations and stakeholders.
It also establishes linkages with the required institutional support services, like credit, technology transfer, ICT, research and evolve an action plan for achieving sustainable agricultural growth with food security and cropping system that will improve farmers’ income.
The ALGON president stated recently that through the partnership, C-LAP will create 10,000 direct jobs and over a million indirect jobs in the next five years and will also generate over a trillion naira in wealth at the grassroot level thereby stemming the tide of rural to urban migration.
C-LAP will also lead to the creation of a mega food park for agricultural processing in each state, a network of structured farmer’s market in each LGA for the sale of farm produce and a branded grocery retail chain that will be franchised across the country. According to Hon. Karaye the ultimate aim of ALGON is to take this mammoth agricultural enterprise to the Capital Market in 5 years.
The plan which has since begun to show signs of fruitfulness involves the 774 LGAs in the 36 States of the federation for the five year period.
The partner in the initiative, C-LAP on its part assesses current agricultural potential in each LGA by understanding its production patterns, marketing and other factors that will either constrain or provide opportunities for future growth of agriculture and advice ALGON based on that.
Also due to fragmented food processing facilities in Nigeria, it evaluates the opportunities for value addition by establishing food processing industries in the LGAs and will design Food Mart Retail Chain Model to create a network that delivers the agricultural produce straight to the door step of the consumers as well as strengthen the entire value chain from seed to plate with a shorter value chain as well as ensuring the remunerative prices to the farmers and availability of quality food stuff at their door steps without any additional cost at competitive prices.
Further details of the partnership indicates the project outcome would be achieved though project management consultancy, procurement of agricultural tools, equipments & tractors, involvement of international experts, liaison with other levels of government, international partners and other stakeholders and will be managed by 3 implementing agencies while each LGA will have a team of five agri-professionals.
The major outcome will be agricultural sustainability, employment opportunities and 2000 direct job creation/LGA, women empowerment, demonstration of farm mechanization, establishment of integrated model farms, enhancing the quality of life and self reliance as well as export to neighboring countries.
The outgoing ALGON president also explained at inception that the project will aggregate the produce from 774 farms across the country and will be the bigger producer and supplier of Nigeria with efficient supply chain and logistics and linking these farms to a national retail chain, wholesale markets and mega food parks will result in enhancing the net income.
With these tangible results, it becomes clearer why the policy should be sustained.
Luckily, the Nigeria Governors Forum under the leadership of the Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulazzez Yari has keyed into initiative.
Realizing the importance of involving the grassroots, the governors have lent their support to the project and this has gone a long way to drive the initiative to the point where it is able to impact positively on the economy. What is needed now is to sustain so that it would run its full course and impact its advantages at the maximum level on every sector of the economy.
More so as it tallies with the focus of the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration to diversify the economy and move away from the over reliance on oil.
Oteniya is a researcher and agriculturist from the University of Ilorin, Nigeria.