Boosting agricultural productivity to prevent food insecurity
source: The Nation
It’s a clear danger. A severe food crisis stares Nigeria in the face, requiring urgent policy responses by the authorities, including various players across the nation’s agriculture sector, to avert the looming danger.
With Nigeria’s rapidly growing population, amid rising cases of herders/farmers clashes that have disrupted food production across the country, as well as climate change, the on-going campaign for a more resilient ecosystem to securitise food supply has never been this compelling.
For those pushing the campaign, the model of agriculture, which largely centres on labour-intensive, primary production and consumption, must urgently give way to full scale mechanisation in order to achieve food security.
To them, the time has come for small-scale agriculture, which accounts for 70 per cent of agricultural production, to give way to large-scale, commercial agriculture that will not only guarantee increased revenue to farmers, but also create jobs and ultimately, achieve food security.
Incidentally, Nigeria enjoys a wealth of different climates and soils, which is reflected in the diversity of its agricultural production. And admittedly, the agriculture sector has continued to play a major role in the economy, generating income, employment and foreign exchange, for instance. However, the sector represents only three per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with experts noting that mechanisation a sure way to go to enhance its productivity.
Interestingly, the authorities in the agriculture sector seem to be aware of this thinking and appear to have, accordingly, risen to the challenge. The Federal Government’s decision to extend the National Programme on Food Security (NPFS) for another five years after it elapsed last year, for instance, attests to its realisation of the need to boost food production and halt the impending food crisis.
The NPFS, The Nation learnt, runs at the national level, by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and at state level, by the state Ministry of Agriculture. It is an expanded phase of the erstwhile Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) implemented from 2002 to 2006 in the states.
The NPFS was selected as a priority project as a result of the preparation of the National Medium-Term Investment Programme (NMTIP) in support of the New Partnership for Africa Development’s (NEPAD’s) Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) designed to improve rural infrastructure and accessibility to market, improve household income and food security among others.
NPFS began with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development at the apex management committee, with Agricultural Development Programme (ADP) authorities acting as the supervisory body at the state level and implementation agencies for the programmes. The programme was to run for five years (2008 to 2013). Another phase ended in 2020, but it has now been extended by another five years.
NPFS’s Head of Agric Processing and Enhancement Mr. Hassan Bawa explained that the government’s decision to further expand the NPFS was in recognition of the role of agriculture in the national economy, as well as the need to improve smallholder productivity. He also said it was in recognition of the importance of sustainable agriculture for food security.
According to him, NPFS comprised a broad variety of interventions that focus on areas most relevant for improving food security at both national and household levels. These include improving farmers’ access to input such as fertiliser and seeds for rain-fed and irrigated agriculture; making it possible for farmers to have more than one cropping cycle, with the attendant doubling of net returns.
Bawa added that there had been instruments in facilitating groups of farmers to recognise and take up opportunities for improving their farming systems and livelihoods.
According to him, Lagos State Programme for Food Security (LPFS) is the state branch of NPFS to improve national and household food security, reduce rural poverty sustainably and increase agricultural output and the income of rural households and beneficiary communities.
The NPFS Head acknowledged the commitment of the Lagos State Government towards the sustenance of the initiative, attributing it to purposeful leadership on the part of successive administrations in the state.
He said Lagos State, being one of the selected states for the pilot phase, recorded an impressive performance which qualified it for the expanded phase and later on the third phase.
Bawa noted that the state had qualified for another five years with support from the national headquarters. According to him, NPFS was being repacked to respond to the aspirations of the government to place agriculture as the engine of social and economic growth, adding that it was building consensus among partners on solutions to meet the challenges within the sector.
He reiterated that the NPFS agenda was an integral part of national efforts to promote the agriculture sector’s growth and economic transformation. He emphasised that considering the challenges faced by the agricultural sector, it was high time stakeholders re-engineered the sector by fully tapping the potential of agribusiness.
Agribusiness, Bawa said, could pave the way for a modern and resilient agriculture by fostering competition, innovation, research and development. He pointed out that agribusiness would provide opportunities for inclusive economic growth and sustainable livelihoods as well as ensure food security.
According to him, rural development projects financed by NPFS have contributed to increase productivity, income and food security, adding that the programme has been innovative in bringing solutions around agro-processing. Such interventions, while boosting agricultural productivity, have also led to higher incomes and improved food security for beneficiaries of all projects.
For the Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms. Bisola Olusanya, ensuring the supply of quality and safe food at affordable prices requires a mix of food policy, smart technology and entrepreneurship.
According to her, the government has been supporting the agriculture business with a variety of policies in an attempt to stabilise the output, and also seeking ways to make sure that the agribusiness is growing healthily and sustainably. She noted that because of helpful policies, the agriculture sector’s performance has been raising steady in recent years.
Olusanya further stated that Lagos State has risen to the challenge of ensuring food security by increasing farming output, ensuring the provision of key farm product, promoting the supply-side structural reforms and accelerating the utilisation of machinery and advanced technologies within the agriculture sector.
In addition, she added that there were a network of public institutions and various programmes and schemes to safeguard agricultural producers and boost production. For instance, the State Programme for Food Security (SPFS) has been supporting projects aimed at raising incomes and improving livelihoods, food security and living conditions of the people.
The Commissioner, who said capacity development and training for farmers have helped them set up and develop their own businesses, also reiterated that Lagos State was determined to promote mechanisation to achieve a modern, competitive, comprehensive and sustainable agriculture.
To address the lack of agricultural system technology application in farm practices, Olusanya said the Lagos State Government was promoting incentives for investment, research and adoption in agricultural system technology.
She reiterated that the government was working to address various aspects of the food supply chain, including manpower, technological applications, financial resources, investment and infrastructure.
According to Olusanya, the goal was to grow the agric sector to a greater level to strengthen food supply and self-sufficiency through increased domestic production, modern technology expansion, and reduce dependence on food imports.
She added that the SPFS has also provided support services such as extension, credit, nutrition education to farmers and consumers in the state, thereby improving their standards of living and livelihood.
She noted that innovations were needed all the way from the farm to fork.
So far, she said, farmers across all the three senatorial districts in Lagos had benefited from the state government’s initiative under SPFS with the donation of millions of naira to support farmers, as well as distribution of various farming implements to the beneficiaries.
The commissioner maintained: “We must always bear in mind that farming at any scale is a business and businesses need clear linkages along the value chain from production to processing, to marketing and ultimately to consumption.”
According to Olusanya, “Investing in these farmers, many of whom are women and in the markets around them is more important than ever. In order to feed a population expected to grow globally to nine billion people by 2050, the world will needs to be more efficient in how it meets this demand.”
The General Manager, Lagos State Agricultural Development Authority, Dr. Pereira-Sheteolu Olalekan, noted that it was important to ensure that food security became one of the cornerstones of the State’s response, adding that there was the need to continue to leverage innovation.
He said, for instance, that Lagos has been driving aquaculture training and empowering rice/fish, poultry on project sites, in addition to spreading the use of improved farm storage facilities to all interested farmers. This, according to him, was to increase the availability of domestically produced fish through increased aquaculture output.
Olalekan informed that the Authority was saddled with generating and distributing improved farming technology, new innovations and practices to farmers in the State.
According to him, the idea of procuring and distributing various farm inputs such as knapsack sprayers, organic manure, cutlasses, hoes, safety gadgets, digital movable scales, compost plus and water pumps, among others, to farmer groups, would assist them in expanding their farms and food production in the State.
He said a total of 6,650 farmers had benefited from the programme, adding that the 2021 edition would impact 2,310 farmers.