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Nigeria's Agricultural Policy: Seeking Coherence Within strategic Frameworks

While Nigeria has many singular features, the country is
no exception when it comes to agricultural policy in the
region, caught between enormous potential, immense ambitions,
and still-insufficient concrete results.

Nigeria is the most populous
country in Africa, with an
urban population growing
at an exponential rate. The government’s
objective of achieving food
self-sufficiency is a major challenge.
In this country that is experiencing
relatively rapid economic growth, this
goal is not unrealistic but will require
a great deal of effort.

Recent Trends: From Interventionism
to Liberalisation
. Agricultural policy
in Nigeria has evolved considerably
since the country’s independence. The
1960s were characterised by strong public
intervention in agriculture, with
development guidelines and plans
established at the federal level [1] and
implemented in the states. The government’s
priority at the time was to
boost domestic production, particularly
of cash crops. This strongly interventionist
period pushed Nigeria to the
position of the world’s top producer
of rubber, groundnuts and palm oil,
and the world’s second-largest cocoa
The 1970-1986 period, which coincided
with intensive petroleum exploitation,
was marked by policies’ lack
of interest in supporting agriculture.
The strong decline in domestic agricultural
production reduced the
country to growing dependency on
imported foodstuffs. In the wake of
the major food crisis in the country in
1976, programmes such as “Feed the
Nation” (1976-1979) and “Green Revolution”
(1979-1983) were set up. These
programmes focused on strengthening
agricultural production, providing
subsidised inputs, community
development, and access to credit.
However, they were implemented
without a transparent framework to
structure action, and the successive
governments at the head of the country
did not ensure continuity. The enactment
of the Land Use Act in 1978
marked an historic turning point for
land use management in Nigeria.
The movement was reversed in 1987
with the structural adjustment programmes
(SAPs) that sought to reduce
the national economy’s dependency on
oil and promote the private sector as
the engine driving growth.
In 1998, the Nigerian government
once again turned its attention to the
agricultural sector. It adopted an agricultural
policy that had the objective,
among others, of ensuring food security
for the population by developing
local production.

Agriculture at the Heart of Nigeria’s
Current Strategic Frameworks.
the reference document “Agriculture
in Nigeria: The New Policy Thrust”
was issued in 2001, the government
has assigned the agricultural sector
an ambitious role in its strategic planning
frameworks. The strategic document
for reducing poverty in Nigeria,
“National Economic Empowerment
and Development Strategy” (NEEDS
II 2008-2011) emphasising economic
development driven by the private
sector, and the “7-point Agenda”, the
framework guiding economic reform
in the country that was adopted in
May 2007, are the medium-term policy
documents intended to help the country
achieve the Millennium Development
Goals for 2015 and its own “2020
Vision” plan. The latter aims to make
Nigeria one of the top twenty economies
in the world by 2020. For agriculture,
this means increasing current
domestic production sixfold.
The National Food Security Programme
issued in August 2008
by the federal Ministry of Agriculture
and Water Resources is designed to attain
food security by ensuring that all
Nigerians have access to good-quality
food while making Nigeria a major exporter
of foodstuffs. The programme
designates priority crops (cassava, rice,
millet, wheat) for achieving food security
and outlines objectives for all
stages of these supply chains. The aim
is to create more value in production,
particularly downstream in the chain,
by improving storage, processing, and
access to agricultural markets. The programme
also plans the creation of irrigation
schemes (450,000 ha).
The strategic frameworks in NEEDS
II and the 7-point Agenda have been
translated into short-to-medium-term
programmes. The federal Ministry of
Agriculture and Water Resources has
drawn up a “5-point Agenda” for agriculture,
a detailed roadmap of steps
to be implemented to attain the objectives
listed for agriculture in the
7-point Agenda.
Olusegun Obasano’s government
also launched Presidential Initiatives
in 1999 for seven agricultural
products (cassava, rice, vegetable oil,
sugar, livestock, cultivated trees and
dry grains). The aim of these initiatives
is not only to boost Nigeria’s agricultural
exports by taking advantage of
preferential agreements in the framework
of the World Trade Organization
(WTO) and the Economic Partnership
Agreements between the European Union
and the Africa-Caribbean-Pacific
countries but also to make the most of
the potential regional market made up
of neighbouring countries. Although
these measures have shown that investment
in the agricultural sector
can have concrete results in terms of
increasing domestic production, their
overall outcomes have been mixed in
that only the “intensification of production”
segment has been taken into
account, ignoring the downstream
segments of the value chain (such as
product processing).
Support for agricultural inputs has
been a central element of Nigerian agricultural
policy since the 1950s. This
support consists primarily of attributing
public subsidies so that farmers can
more easily acquire inputs (fertiliser, improved seeds, phytosanitary products).
Thee level of federal subsidies has
followed a spiky path [2], with highs and
lows, and methods of implementation
have been highly variable. In addition
to federal subsidies, each state allocates
its own subsidies for fertiliser. These
vary greatly from one state to another
in both amounts (50 to 150 kg per
farmer) and subsidisation rates (from
10% to 50%). Even so, many farmers still
find it difficult to obtain good-quality
inputs at an affordable price and at
the time they are needed. The government
has not yet managed to set up an
effective regulation and monitoring
system to address quality issues and
the diversion of subsidised inputs to
outside the country. Some states have
been testing the distribution of input
subsidy vouchers since 2008.

ECOWAP and Regional Integration:
Where Does Nigeria Stand?
pan-African action framework for
agricultural development policy and
strategy is provided by the Comprehensive
African Agriculture Development
Programme (CAADP) [3] adopted
in 2002. This programme aims to attain
average annual growth of agricultural
productivity of at least 6%,
and sets a target for public investment
in agriculture equal to at least 10% of
national budgets. ECOWAS adopted
a regional agricultural policy for West
Africa in January 2005 (ECOWAP) and
established a regional action plan for
2006-2010. The plan calls for drawing
up National Agricultural Investment
Programmes (NAIPs) in each country,
to be adopted by all stakeholders in the
agricultural sector via the signature
of a pact, and a Regional Agriculture
Investment Programme (RAIP).
In Nigeria, the ECOWAP/CAADP
“pact” was signed in late 2009, and the
elaboration of the NAIP led to a Medium-
Term Sector Strategy (MTSS)
for Nigeria for the 2010-2012 period
covering investments funded by the
federal government and partnership
programmes initiated by international
funding agencies. The agriculture policy
measures in the “5-point Agenda”
comply with the major orientations
outlined in the CAADP.

© Africa Rice Center

Policies Still Lacking in Coherence.
Nigeria’s agricultural policy has its limitations:
a general lack of coherence,
issues of programme continuity, issues
in relation to other sectoral policies,
and implementation issues at various
institutional levels.
Nigeria’s agricultural policies were
for a long time opportunistic and not
coordinated among each other. Critics
regret the absence of continuity
in policy, and the fact that the successes,
failures and lessons learned
in preceding programmes have not
been analysed. Strategies have not
always been transposed into action
in the field. The absence of indicators
makes it hard to track and evaluate
policy implementation. In terms of
cross-sector policy coherence, little
has been done to link agricultural
policy with rural development policy,
support for small and mediumsized
enterprises, and management of
water and natural resources. Finally,
at the institutional level, roles are not
clearly divided between the various
administrative offices responsible for
agricultural development. The sharing
of responsibilities between the federal,
state and local governments does not
appear to be optimal, either in terms
of areas of intervention or resources
allocated. Generally speaking, while
agricultural programmes managed by
the states seem to be more effective
than federal programmes, many observers
deplore that agricultural policy
is elaborated from the top down, with
little participation by stakeholders.

This article
draws upon
resources available
on the Inter-
Réseaux website:

Public Agriculture Financing in Nigeria: Key Figures

Public Investment in Agriculture Is Fairly Low…
In 2008, Nigeria devoted 4.6% of its federal
budget to agriculture. This amount is far below
the 10%objective set in the Maputo commitments
signed in 2003.

… But Capital Expenditure Is Far Higher than
Operating Budgets

In the last ten years, funding allotted for capital
expenditure has been on average six times greater
than the budgets allotted for operating expenses,
at both the federal and state levels.

Breakdown of the Funding Provided by the Federal,
State and Local Governments, and Funding

Funding agencies provide only 7% of total expenditures
in the agricultural sector. Most of their
financing focuses on producer support services (infrastructures,
processing, financing).
The remainder of expenditures in the agricultural
sector comes from the federal government
(57%) and the state governments (43%). Therefore,
raising federal funding will not be enough to improve
agriculture financing in the country. Local
governments also fund agriculture but, in the absence
of statistical data, their contribution cannot
be assessed. Problems persist in coordination of
funding efforts between the federal level, the thirtysix
states and 774 local governments.
The proportion of the budget allocated to agriculture
increases with the degree of decentralisation:
the states devote more of their budgets to agriculture
than the federal government does.

Expenditure in the Agricultural Sector Is Highly

Out of 179 line items for agriculture in the federal
budget, three items account for 81% of funding.
These items are: (i) fertiliser supply and distribution
markets (43%); (ii) the food security segment
of the National Food Security Programme (NFSP)
(22%); and (iii) purchases of grain for national stockpiles
Budgets are often poorly evaluated at the outset.
It is very surprising to note that identical budgets
are allocated for each value chain under the Presidential
Available capital funds are not always fully disbursed.
For the 2000-2008 period, the average disbursement
rate for capital expenditure in agriculture
was only 62% (and only 24% in 2007).

Development Driven by Local Communities: A Sustainable Instrument to Alleviate Poverty in Nigeria

Since 1985, IFAD has innovated
with Community-Driven Development
(CDD) programmes in Nigeria.
A pilot CDD programme was
first set up by IFAD in the 1980s in
the states of Sokotao and Katsina. The
success of this programme gave rise
to an agricultural and rural development
programme in 2003, followed
by a natural resources management
programme in 2005, both communitydriven
and supported by IFAD. The
same approach was used in the “roots
and tubers” development programme
that lifted Nigeria to the position of
top-ranking producer of cassava
The CDD approach breaks with the
conventional “top-down” approach
that has never had a sustainable impact
on beneficiaries’ living conditions. Instead,
it develops a more democratic
and inclusive “bottom-up” approach.
CDD gives control over decisions and
resources to the true agents of change
in rural communities, i.e. traditional
organizations, peer groups, women’s
groups, producers’ unions organised
by crop, etc. This approach allows
stakeholders to freely decide what
action to take, and take responsibility
for initiatives that affect their
lives. CDD has taught communities
how to set infrastructure priorities
(drinking water supply, healthcare
centres, roads and schools) and how
to achieve these goals in a cost-effective,
transparent and sustainable
way. According to the beneficiaries,
these programmes have helped them
find jobs, pay their children’s school
fees, and feel that they are useful to
their community by contributing to
its development. State and local governments
and the communities and
villages that have benefited from this
approach would like to see this initiative
extended to other regions.

By Abdoul Wahab Barry, International Fund
for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The full
version of this article is available online.

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