Agriculture in Nigeria

When we have a comprehensive blueprint as described, detailing enabling policies and regulations, this should be properly made available to the public. It would guide all who are interested in the different areas in the entire production process, which they might consider investing in, while boosting the mechanisation of agriculture, as well as the emergence of small, medium and large-scale enterprises across the sector.

At the start of the life of this administration, the president decried the dwindling oil prices and emphasised the need for the country to diversify its revenue sources. This call was a no-brainer and not news. Everyone could see it was time we reduced our dependence on oil.

As a way of defining the new thrust of the economy however, the president particularly talked about agriculture and solid minerals as alternatives to oil in salvaging our currently battered economy. Looking back, we all know how well we used to do as a country in the agricultural sector, before we all became too lazy as a result of cheap money from oil.

There have been incessant calls, even before the advent of this administration, for us to go back to the farms. We have had a lot of reports on the opportunities that abound in that sector. The sector alone can reverse the regression our economy is experiencing currently, particularly in the area of job creation and reduction in the importation of a number of food items, which would inadvertently reduce the current pressure on the naira that is causing a high demand for our limited forex resources.

These points have been made on several occasions. The opportunities in the agricultural sector have never been in contention. What have been missing however, are decisive and actionable steps to revamp the sector and make it attractive and lucrative. At the opening of a two-day retreat of the National Economic Council to brainstorm on how to resuscitate our ailing economy in Abuja recently, the president reiterated his position on the need for both the federal and state governments to pay adequate attention to the agricultural sector.

He made some important points that ought to be part of an overall strategic framework for repositioning the sector, which include the provision of financial support and extension services to farmers. We are all watching to see what would be the outcome of the retreat, which was chaired by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

While we await a possible blueprint on how to reposition the economy, I will like to note that the agricultural sector itself needs a comprehensive blueprint if it is to make a comeback as our major economic backbone. Merely throwing statements of intent here and there without a comprehensive plan would not take us anywhere.

In the 1960s to early 1970s, we had economic blueprints called development plans. These plans were detailed with clear actionable steps and timelines. The timelines were not like what we started having in recent years as VISION 2010 or VISION 2020 set to outlive the tenure of the governments that put those plans in place. They do this knowing fully well that subsequent administrations could put those plans aside. It also provides a cover preventing people from holding administrations to account when they do not deliver on the plans.

In recent years, the closest we have had to a workable blueprint was the National Economic Empowerment and Developments Strategy (NEEDS) of former President Obasanjo’s administration. From that document, the states of the federation came up with their own counterpart blueprints referred to as State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (SEEDS) at that point in time. While the NEEDS document could be applauded for its comprehensiveness, it barely had feasible timelines for delivery on its objectives. After this, we had the 7-Point Agenda of former President Umaru Yar’adua, and then the Transformation Agenda of the immediate past Jonathan administration. These were actually more of Declarations of Intent, rather than economic/governance blueprints.

What is required under the current administration is a comprehensive blueprint on how to reposition the economy, with special focus on chosen strategic sectors like agriculture. This blueprint should be actionable to a significant extent within the lifespan of this administration – it should be about what is achievable within four years, although, rather unfortunately, the current administration currently has only three years left.

Zeroing in on the agricultural sector for instance, we need to have a comprehensive plan on how the government intends to reposition the sector for greater economic impact within its lifespan, including the delineation of steps on how to maximise the advantages from the entire value chain of primary produces; for instance, it is not enough to produce large quantities of tomatoes, but there must be clarity on how to process and package this local sales and export.

The blueprint needs to focus on specific crops, detailing the entire process of how to harness their advantages and derivations, including the sort of support system that would be available to farmers, and for production.

When we have a comprehensive blueprint as described, detailing enabling policies and regulations, this should be properly made available to the public. It would guide all who are interested in the different areas in the entire production process, which they might consider investing in, while boosting the mechanisation of agriculture, as well as the emergence of small, medium and large-scale enterprises across the sector.

There are enormous opportunities in having a clear vision and a comprehensive blueprint and framework for actualisation in the agricultural sector. This would provide direction to our leaders, a layout to encourage those interested in participating in the sector, whilst – most importantly – Nigerians would be more empowered to hold their government to account on the basis of clear programmes and promises made.

Fred Adetiba, a Human Resource and Administration professional, is a Premium Times columnist.