Agriculture is an important source of the Nigerian economy, providing employment for about 30% of the citizenry as of 2010. Agriculture contributes significantly to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It also provides raw materials to some agro-allied industries. Considering these, if meaningful and sustainable national development is to be visualized in Nigeria, then the Agricultural sector must be developed. Nigeria has experienced fast population growth without a related increase in agricultural production. The effects of these are found in malnutrition, unemployment and inadequate basic necessities of life such as health care centres, schools, good roads, portable and safe drinking water, electricity and irrigation.
Over time, the rural sector has suffered more neglect and underdevelopment with ever-increasing cases of population growth, unabated rural migration of able-bodied youths and total marginalization.
It is as a result of the aforementioned problems that various agricultural and rural development programmes and interventions have been in initiated and executed by different government administrations in Nigeria from the country’s independence in 1960 till date. These interventions were aimed at improving or elevating the level of agricultural production that will ensure self-sufficiency in food production.
Agricultural programs in Nigeria since 1960
This article consists of agricultural programmes that have been initiated since 1960 and the link of these reforms to national development in form of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), its goal of transforming the quality of life of the target beneficiaries of these development programmes, improvement in the principles and practice of agriculture given both human and material resources that will result in maximum output .
These Agricultural interventions can be viewed from two perspectives:
- Based on the policy of the programme
- Based on the nature of the agency.
- National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP) – This is a policy-based intervention programme. It was designed in the early 60s by both the Federal and state governments to accelerate the production of grains that is maize, rice, guinea corn, millet, wheat, cassava and cowpeas. The initiators of this programme thought that grains are major staple foods and if produced in abundance, hunger and related food crisis will be put to check. This was achieved through the introduction of fertilizers, agrochemicals, good storage and processing facilities, high yielding facilities and provision of credit outlets to farmers. Several research institutes were mandated to develop improved crop varieties and were made popular through extension agents and use of the mass media.
- Operation Feed the Nation (OFN): This agricultural programme was launched in 1976 in order to address the problem of the rising food crisis, rural-urban migration and escalating food import bills.
The OFN programme attempted to mobilize the general public to participate actively in agricultural production and ensure self-sufficiency in food production. Strategies used included subsidized production inputs, increased bank credit to farmers, the establishment of commodity boards and fixing of attractive prices for agricultural produce.
- Green Revolution Programme (GR): The Green Revolution Programme was initiated by the civilian government of 1979 to replace the Operation Feed the Nation of the Federal Military Government. This was in an attempt to bring about radical changes in Nigerian Agricultural production and eliminate food problems of earlier governments. The programme provided a number of incentives to large, medium and small-scale farmers in order to boost their level of production. Research institutes were better organized to make them more useful to the needs of farmers.
Agency-Based Intervention Programmes
- National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA): This development authority initiated a national agricultural land development programme aimed at helping farmers utilize their land resources well so as to lead to expansion. This was proposed as a means of increasing the food production level of farmers. It was reported by the Central Bank of Nigeria in 1998 that the agency was able to develop 16,000 hectares of land. It also provided services to farmers so they could plant more than they consumed and sell surpluses at the local markets or as a means of exportation to other countries for foreign exchange earnings.
- River Basin Development Authority (RBDA): The River Basin Development Authority was prompted by the existing abundant water resources in the country and its potential for increasing agricultural production if well utilized. In many parts of the country, farmers suffered due to the short rainy seasons in many parts of the country. This restricted cultivation to single cropping pattern the whole year round and caused a decrease in production output. The development authority set out to establish various large scale irrigation facilities to enable multiple cropping patterns. In addition to this, larger areas were cultivated while livestock and fisheries production were intensified. Statistics from the River basin Development Authorities showed an increase in agricultural activities in 1998 due to land area development by the authorities. Hadejia-Jama’are River Basin and Tiga and Challawa dams located in former Kano State could also conserve enough water to irrigate lands that produced wheat, rice, cotton and sugar cane. It also allowed for fishery, poultry, livestock and hydroelectric power generation.
- Agricultural Development Programmes (ADPs): This development programme started in 1972 and was focused on integrated agricultural and rural development. Projects began in the towns of Gombe and Gusau and were assisted by the World Bank. The project included the provision of Infrastructural facilities such as roads, schools, water supply in the rural areas at the right times in required quantity to farmers and conducting worthwhile training on improved agricultural technologies and supply of farm inputs. The Agricultural Development Programmes focused on the small farmer. The success of the projects in Gombe and Gusau encouraged the government to embark on more projects with the assistance of the world bank.
- Directorate of Food, Road and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI): It was noticed that in spite of huge investments in the agricultural sector in order to eradicate rural poverty, the goal was not achieved. This was due to dwindling economic resources which did not address the conditions of the rural area. Therefore, the Babangida administration established the Directorate of Foods, Road and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) in 1987. The aim of the DFRRI was to open up easy access to the rural areas via the construction of roads and provision of basic amenities of modern living. This was hinged on the concept that the rural areas needed to be developed in order for the country to experience economic growth and to enhance the quality of food and raw material consumption.
It is against these many backgrounds that effective development plans have been initiated. Since then, Nigeria has continued to witness agricultural development programmes of various dimensions.