The “Meet the Farmers” programme held at the Radisson Blu Hotel Ikeja-Lagos on 5th January 2019 was organized by HEDA Resource Centre with support from OXFAM. As a food safety /regulatory affairs consultant and GLOBALG.A.P. Licensed farm assurer, I felt it was an opportunity for connection with stakeholders in the agriculture sector. That was partially correct but the main focus was connecting politicians with farmers through the Farmers’ Manifesto/Petition 2018 that enumerated farmers’ expectations concerning agriculture which I found quite innovative. The event was a huge success with speeches, presentations that included the “Evolution of the Nigerian Agriculture Sector “buttressed with relevant data and the “Effect of Climate Change on the Activities of Small Holder Farmers” which includes deforestation, erosion, drying up of rivers while homes are flooding! There were useful discussions and at the end of it all, I left the event with a reignited believe in Nigeria and its innovative, resourceful, intelligent and persistent people with a “can do” spirit that enables them push forward despite the challenges.
The programme was focused on engaging politicians in signing the Farmers Manifesto/Petition 2018 which outlined farmers’ challenges, needs and priorities presented to the Lagos State governorship aspirants which included the governorship aspirants of APC and PDP amongst others and also a presidential aspirant. All the aspirants were articulate and clear on the position of agriculture in their manifestoes which appeared aligned with that of the farmers and is a positive development. It was therefore no surprise that all the aspirants signed the Farmers Manifesto/Petition with photoshoots after their short speeches on what they plan to do for farmers. The farmers reminded the politicians that they now have evidence of their acceptance of the farmers’ manifesto which the farmers are determined to follow up on and hold them accountable for delivery on their promises by whomever emerges as the governor of Lagos State.
The key agricultural commodities with extensive farmer participation in Nigeria include roots & tubers (cassava, yam, potato and cocoyam), grains (rice, maize, soybeans, millet and sorghum); livestock (cattle, sheep and Goat); poultry; tree crops(oil palm, cocoa, coconut, orange etc.) and fruit and vegetables such as tomatoes, cabbage, carrot, cucumber, leafy vegetables (Telferia or pumpkin etc.)
The farmers observed amongst other things that:
- The growth in GDP for the agriculture sector was 13% in 2015, 4.69% in 3rd quarter of 2016, 5.3% in 2017 and todays overall sector’s GDP contribution is about 24% making it one of the largest contributors to the economy. It therefore qualifies to be given increased and adequate attention.
- Budgetary allocation to agriculture and farmers have not exceeded 2% in the last 5 years even with the Federal Government’s commitment to 10% in the Malabo Declaration.
- Many policies and programmes were initiated from the top with little or no involvement of the Small Scale Farmers at the design stage and the buy-in of this group for early understanding and effective implementation
- Farmers are yet to see proactive efforts of governments at all levels to find a lasting solution to the various conflicts including the herdsmen/farmers conflicts which have serious implications on food security in Nigeria.
Farmers categorized their concerns as follows:
- on farm productivity stagnation (crop and livestock were still below their potential,
- financial/credit access,
- production technology and adoption,
- market access and post-harvest losses,
- policy realities and inconsistencies,
- lack of farmer voice in policy making,
- climate change and resilience,
- poverty amongst farmers,
- value chain bottlenecks and
- lack of title to their farm lands.
The challenges identified in the agriculture value chain included:
- Value Chain underdevelopment: All the commodities had export potentials but the value chain remain underdeveloped and rudimentary
- Weak infrastructure: Poor road, rail and water transportation networks as well as power supply and linking farm gates to markets were identified as militating against the development of the agriculture value chain.
- Absence of Commodity Processing Zones (CPZ): Absence of CPZ adversely affects commodity value chain and markets development
- Weak Extension Service: This remains a weak link to productivity and value chain growth
- High Cost of Production Inputs: High costs of inputs remains a major concern for smallholder producers. It presents the constraints of affordability and availability, affects good agricultural practices and erodes farm incomes and profitability.
- Processing: The processing of agricultural commodities faces the challenge of high cost of equipment and near absence of locally fabricated efficient small processing technologies. The national research and development institutions have not been patenting their technological research outputs for commercial production of prototypes.
- Markets: There is weak market linkages therefore most commodities are still consumed locally without meaningful commercial value addition or large scale industrial use. The wholesale market is exploitative with much profit not accruing to farmer. The off-taker regime presents a new challenge of price management in a contract system and an unstable macroeconomic and price environment. Farmers are unable to access direct organized markets due, among other factors, to poor post-harvest infrastructure, non-connection to market information system, poor quality produce, retail market fragmentation and absence of time and location value infrastructure (storage/aggregation, transport logistics etc.)
- Insecurity: This has become a major threat to the production, movement and utilization of produce through its value chain. Poor security has increased the cost of production (including the cost of human lives) which increasingly discourages the producer.
After all said and done, the farmers are watching and would follow up on the politicians, holding them responsible and accountable for implementation of the signed farmers’ manifesto in Lagos State and Nigeria by extension since Lagos is the preferred destination of food for domestic consumption and for export due to its large population and the presence of the largest seaport in the country.