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Attaining food sufficiency through implementable agricultural policy

From childhood, I have been hearing of policies across sectors of the economy but I found myself having  a special interest  in agriculture. Keeping abreast with the latest happenings in the agricultural sector is extremely difficult and often time not possible because of challenges with internet. I was born and raised on a farm: precisely, an agrarian community where almost everybody is involved in agriculture and only few know about agricultural policy, its discussion and implementation.

The more I grew in the agricultural space, the more I acknowledged and understood the need to have a robust policy that is workable and can be implemented to favor all actors especially smallholder farmers, youth and women.

Nigeria’s agricultural policy

Evolution has taken place severally on the agricultural policy in Nigeria but the fact remains that agriculture is a panacea for economic growth of the country, since nutrition is a must for every human as well as the industrial need.

Nigeria’s agricultural policy has changed greatly with different focus from surplus extraction, export-led production of key agricultural produce, attaining food security in the country, accessibility and affordability of inputs, agricultural modernization, strengthening of market linkages, collaborations and partnership. These are a few of the issues raised when discussing the agricultural policy.

It is no doubt that agriculture is the major employer of labour and contributor to the country’s GDP. But implementation of agricultural policies and interventions are slower than expatiated owing to changes in political wills and power.

Although, the tile is changing as the current policy thrustAgricultural Promotion Policy (2016 – 2020) explore more on the continuity of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) under Dr. Akinwumi Adesina.

Akwa Ibom agricultural policy summit

Creation and implementation of different policy initiatives, programmes and projects over the years by the state government is noteworthy. Some of the agricultural programmes are aimed at developing and modernizing agriculture. They include: Integrated Farmers Scheme (IFS); Agricultural Inputs Distribution (AGID); Community Plantation Development Scheme (CPDS); Accelerated Livestock and Fisheries Production (ALFIP); Strategic Food Reserve Programme, Rice Rehabilitation Project; Akwa Ibom Agricultural Development Project (AKADEP); Fertilizer Procurement & Distribution Project; Agricultural Loans Credit Scheme and a host of others.

Akwa Ibom is one of the prominent states with abundance of mineral resources such as oil, limestone, clay etc., though many are yet to be commercially exploited. The state is blessed also in term of agriculture, ranging from food crops to tree crops, livestock and aquaculture. However, the potentials of the agricultural sector have not been fully maximized in the state.

Reawakening the state’s agricultural viable potentials, the state government constituted a technical committee on agriculture and food sufficiency. This committee is to ensure that the state is food sufficient and diversifying from oil exploration to agriculture – driven economy.

The state agricultural policy summit was a joint effort of the committee driven by the Nigerian government, Forum for Inclusive Nigerian Development (FIND) and New Nigeria Foundation (NNF) – a development NGO promoting socio-economic sustainable community development through public-private partnership in Nigeria. The clear objective of the policy summit strategy was to create a short-to-long term vision on the development of the agricultural sector of Akwa Ibom State as a fulcrum for economic diversification of the State’s economy.

The technical partners

In the mission to make the summit a success and ensure sustainable implementation of the agricultural policy recommendations and interventions, the Technical Committee on Agriculture and Food Security with FIND and NNF have partnered with a host of technical donor agencies, international organizations, some financial institutions and the Ministry of Agriculture- Nigeria.

These technical partners include: United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Market IIUnilever, British American Tobacco Foundation (BATNF), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Cassava Adding Value for Africa Phase II (CAVA II), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Bank of Agriculture (BOA), Dalberg, Fisheries Society of Nigeria (FISON), Federal Ministry of AgriculturePIND Foundation (Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta), Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR), Bank of Industry (BOI) and Federal Department of Fisheries.

The three-day summit

The summit which was held between 19th – 21st of April 2017 gathered together over 300 stakeholders who are active players in the agricultural sector with no exclusion of farmers, finance sector, education, industries, NGOs, telecommunication and ICT sector, donor agencies, export council, mining sector, transportation sector, youth-led organizations, just to mention few.

The three-day summit started with an opening ceremony where the Deputy Governor of State, representing the State Governor gave an opening speech on the state’s achievements in agriculture and infrastructure. This was immediately followed by the presentation of the policy document compiled by New Nigeria Foundation to the representative of the Governor.

Having done the necessary proceedings, the summit fully kicked-off with a quick and detailed presentation of the policy document by the consultants to identify potentials, opportunities, gaps and the need to have a policy document that will not just be paper work but can be implemented in the state.

Three different break-out sessions were held all through the three-day summit. The break-out session on the first day saw participants focus on commodity value chain - food crops, tree crops, livestock and fisheries. The outcome of the group discussion was presented to the plenary by the representatives of each group. At the plenary, questions, comments and suggestions were welcomed from the participants.

Two break-out sessions were held on the second day with focus on the thematic area – production and productivity, agribusiness development, food security, capacity building, environment, sustainable and inclusive growth, stakeholder engagement and management and agricultural sector financing.

The other break-out session had participants grouped along attendees from the private sector, research and institutions, government parastatals, NGOs and donor agencies.

Summaries of the group discussions were presented to the plenary on the third day to give credibility to the policy document. An implementation plan and framework was developed with specific target at smallholder farmers and youth. The third day of the summit also allowed partners to formed coalitions. Discussions from the policy summit can be found at #AKSAgSummit.

Take home

It was indeed an engaging 3-day summit which allowed inspiring discussions to ensure that the agricultural sector is restructured to improve the lives and productivity of smallholder farmers and other actors in the sector. The summit allowed youth participation in the policy discussion and YPARD members were present at the summit to represent youth interest and contribute to the course of making agriculture attractive for young people.

To conclude, it is imperative to note that the agricultural policy must be structured rightly and not just as paper work but as a policy that is backed up with implementation and interventions that are achievable, sustainable, adoptable and measurable.

Photo credits: 1. Speak Ibido, 2. Derinsola, 3. John Agboola