Food Security in Nigeria: Can Development of Community Based Advisors a Pathway? II- Prof. MK Othman
This is a corollary to the last week piece, which I vividly presented the unlimited agricultural resources in Nigeria. Land, water and human resources in addition to favorable weather in the country permit the production of over 200 different livestock and crops with series of unquantifiable varieties. Virtually, all known major types of agricultural commodities in the world can be grown in some parts, if not all parts of Nigeria. This is because Land resources are in abundance. The country has 91 million hectares of arable land with merely 50 % under utilization despite the quantum of water resources, soil fertility, favorable topography and climates.
On water resources, Nigeria has seven distinct climate zones, which provide average annual rainfall ranging from 700 mm in the far north (Sahel savannah) to 4,000 mm in riverine and mountainous areas in the south. Rainfall provides billions liters of water annually in addition to several other billions liters of water from River Niger, the third biggest river in Africa, after River Nile and River Zaire. River Niger passes through the country and drains an average discharge of 5,589 m3/s into Atlantic Ocean. The River has a length of 4,180 Km and drainage basin area of 2.1 million Km2. River Niger has six major perennial rivers as tributaries crisscrossing the length and breath of Nigeria making it the most endowed country with unlimited water resources available for all kind of agricultural development and even transportation.
Despite these large unquantifiable agricultural resources, Nigeria has not been able to produce enough food for the citizenry in the last couple of years. For instance, Nigeria imports 90% of the sugar consumes in the country annually in spite of the large cane production areas in more than two-third of the country’s landmass. Available information from International Journal of Economics, Commerce and Management (http://ijcm.co.uk) of 2014 indicates that Nigeria imported an average of N1 billion worth of food per day within a period of twenty years from 1990 to 2011. Today, this figure has almost triple, CNN report of 14th August 2019 indicated that Nigeria imported agricultural products valued at ₦236 billion (about $640 million) in the first quarter of 2019 quoting the National Bureau of Statistics as the official source. This figure translates to an average of agricultural product importation of N2.622 billion per day. Low agricultural productivity is the major cause of Nigerian inability to produce food for self-sufficiency. This perhaps is why the ‘giant of Africa’ still struggles with “extreme poverty” level.
The low agricultural productivity in Nigeria is largely due to absence of agricultural extension services in several places. In few places where such services exist, they are poorly and untimely done. Agriculture cannot grow without adequate and well-timed agricultural extension delivery services along the value chain of the various agricultural commodities. The absence of agricultural extension services is largely due to comatose condition of a hitherto vibrant and perfect extension service structure; the Agricultural Development Program (ADP). The structure popularly known as “ADP – System” is almost completely dead and very difficult to revive; perhaps, the system has outlived its usage.
The major challenge of the ADP system is the refusal or inability of the financiers of the system to fund it. State governments are the owners of the ADPs, thus, each of the 36 states and FCT has one ADP to service the farmers in their states. Annual Agricultural performance survey (APS) conducted by NAERLS revealed that in 2015 and 2017, only 17 and 14 ADPs were respectively allocated with funds for the extension services. The 2018 APS report revealed gloomier picture, showing 25 ADPs with zero allocation of funds up to September of 2018. Globally, the bedrock of extension service is a continuous training and capacity development of the service providers. With zero funds allocation, staff capacity building becomes impossible and extension services become ineffective. Inadequate staffing of the ADP system is another serious challenge to the public extension in Nigeria. Another study conducted by NAERLS, “Census and profile of extension personnel in Nigeria” reveals the ratio of one extension agent to number of farm families is between 1:3,000 and 1:18,000. This means that one extension agent is to service between 3,000 and 18,000 farm families, which is practically impossible.
The extension system is certainly in comatose, and needs urgent revival to function. What is the way forward? With low funding, inadequate trained manpower, actively growing population and large, untapped agricultural potentials, Nigeria is ripe for the development of private – driven extension model to serve the teeming farmers and double or even triple their productivity per unit area. Consequently, the development of Community Based Advisors (CBAs) becomes imperative to address the aforementioned challenges and move the country towards achieving sustainable food security. CBA concept is an alternative to public–funded extension system aimed at addressing the inadequacy of formal extension services provision to rural farmers. It is a concept striving in several other climes with appreciable recorded successes. Sometimes, the concept is adapted to address varieties of issues related to inefficiency of public extension service providers as farmers find it difficult to hold such service providers accountable. This category of service providers is a state-sponsored and uses supply-driven approach mostly initiated and financed with World Bank loan just like the way the ADP system was established in Nigeria. Finally, the CBA concept establishes strong linkages between research, extension and training; and between public and private partners. The concept has been tested several countries including Tanzania and Ghana. What is CBA?
Community-based Advisors (CBA) is a “self-employed” agent who rapidly creates demand for yield-enhancing inputs while teaching farmers good agricultural practices and aggregating produce and linking farmers to markets, seed and fertilizer companies supply inputs to CBAs for demonstration and sale to farmers at the Village level. CBA must possess minimum basic education to be able to read, write and effectively communicate with farmers, inputs suppliers and marketers. Many CBAs graduate into Community-based Agro-dealers/aggregators or Agents for Companies. CBA must be personable with Entrepreneurial tendencies who can work with all farmers, input and output dealers. CBA is democratically selected by farmers in the community to advise and serve ALL farmers. A good CBA should be willing to share knowledge and information with ALL farmers in the community at all times. Similarly, a good CBA should have the ability to develop a “mother demonstration plot” within an accessible area to all the farmers. The plot can serve as best case scenario and be used to teach other farmers. While managing the mother demo, the CBA facilitates and supervises farmers’ establishment of “baby demonstration plots”. How is the CBA concept introduced into farming communities?
CBA concept does not emerge from the blues. A driver or facilitator introduces CBA concept into community. Such driver or facilitator can be an NGO or government agencies with good technical knowledge and experience on how to establish CBA concept. The first step of CBA concept introduction is the community entry and baseline survey. During the survey, agricultural resources listing, census and profile of farmers with their socio-economic characteristics are done. The second step is the “inception” workshop. The results of the survey are presented at inception workshop with all the stakeholders in attendance where agricultural constraints and their solutions are identified in a participatory manner. CBAs are democratically identified and roles of each stakeholder groups are similarly identified. The outcomes of the inception of the stakeholders must include work plan to cover two seasons in year with monitoring and evaluation strategy. No doubt, introduction of CBA concept requires funds to facilitate activities at initial stage as well as the establishment of demonstration plots, which forms part of continuous training of the CBAs.
In Nigeria, NAERLS and SG 2000 are vigorously promoting the CBA concept in two states; Kaduna and Niger. NAERLS was able to secure a project grant from Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) aimed at increasing the agricultural productivity of 360,000 small holder farmers in the two states within a period of two years; 2019 and 20120. The project is already working in 14 and 12 LGAs of Niger and Kaduna States. Already, in the two states, over 1,500 demonstration plots of rice, maize and soybeans were fully established being managed by the CBAs. About 200,000 smallholder farmers are similarly involved in this year’s rainy season. Several green field days were conducted in the last 30 days with excellent outcomes thereby creating confidence in farmers for bounties harvests. Yes, CBA can certainly be a pathway to food security.