How open grazing undercuts N1.8trn CBN’s investment in agriculture

DESPITE the over N1.8 trillion intervention funds disbursed in the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), there are fears that the Federal Government may never realise the objectives. 

A recent data published by CBN indicated that only a fraction of the N1.8 trillion disbursements has been recovered while the largest proportion remained outstanding. For instance, 100 per cent of the disbursements in the accelerated agric development remained outstanding and likewise for the rice distribution facility of which no beneficiary has repaid the loans. 

For the Textile Sector Intervention Facility, 96 per cent of the loans are yet to be repaid; Anchor Borrowers’ Programme – 76 per cent; Commercial Agric Credit Scheme- 34.0 per cent; National Food Security Programme- 80.7 percent; AgriBusiness/SME Investment Scheme- 99.7 per cent; and Presidential Fertiliser Initiative, 69.1 per cent. 

In 2011, the Federal Government launched the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), aimed at attaining self-sufficiency in vegetable oil production over a period not exceeding three years through the implementation of the Presidential Initiative on vegetable oil and tree crops development. 

It focuses on the promotion of oil palm, groundnut, soya beans, benne seed, cotton, sunflower, cashew, coconut and cocoa with production target set for each. In driving this focus, CBN had created various intervention funds, altogether, granting N1.06 trillion as loans to stakeholders in the various value chains as of December 31, 2020. 

Nigeria has an arable land area of 34 million hectares made up of 6.5 million hectares of permanent crops and 30.3 million hectares on meadows and pastures. Agricultural sector contributes a significant part of gross domestic product (GDP) with National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reporting that it contributed 22.35 per cent of GDP in the first quarter of 2021. The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) estimated that 36 per cent of Nigeria’s workforce is employed by the sector. 

Of the 69.6 million active labour force, over 25 million are engaged in agriculture. Nigeria’s arable land is endowed with fertile soil, complimented by streams, lakes, forests, lush grassland, as well as huge demand driven by a large active population, estimated at 211.0 million as of Saturday, June 19, 2021 according to UN estimates. 

The North-Central and South produce most tuber and vegetable crops while pastoralists in the far North raise most grains and livestock. Available data showed that pastoralists own almost 90 per cent of the national herd, estimated at 19.5 million cattle, about 975,000 donkeys, 28,000 camels, 72.5 million goats and 41.3 million sheep. 

Nonetheless, livestock represents just between 20 and 30 per cent of total agricultural production and between six and eight per cent of overall GDP. The remaining 30 per cent of animals consumed in Nigeria is imported. 

In spite of the energy and resources put into these efforts, food inflation in May 2021 was 22.28 per cent, according to NBS while in the 2020 Global Hungry Index, Nigeria ranked 98th out of the 107 countries with a score of 29.2. The report was considered to have a serious hunger level. There are reports that in many states, terrorists levy farmers huge amounts to be able to access their farms. Increased drought and desertification are forcing herders further south, thus increasing competition for land and pushing them into conflict with farmers. 

Local and international experts have asked government to urgently initiate practical and acceptable ways to reform livestock management practices, address negative environmental trends and curb cross-border movements of both cattle rustlers and armed herders. This is in addition to tackling issues such as land and water use, obstruction of traditional migration routes, cattle rustling and crop damage so that efforts to ensure food security and export will yield desired results. 

International Crisis Group reported that insecurity in the North, which is a consequence of religious terrorism in the North-East and worsening cases of cattle rustling and kidnapping for ransom in the North-West and North-Central zones are also responsible for increasing numbers of herdsmen migration southwards. Expansion of public infrastructure and acquisition of land by large-scale farmers and other private commercial interests have distorted cattle routes even where they existed in the North. Herders on their way south go into areas where high population growth has ensured that virtually every available piece of land has been cultivated. And so, there is frequent disputes over crop damage, water pollution and rustling. 

Some of the suggestions to ensure success of the ATA include developing grazing reserves in the 10 northern states where governments have already earmarked lands for this purpose; formulating and implementing the 10-year National Ranch Development Plan proposed by a stakeholders’ forum facilitated by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in April 2017; and encouraging livestock producers’ buy-in through easier access to credit from financial institutions. 

In 2019, FrieslandCampina WAMCO entered a partnership with Niger State government on the backward integration initiative on 10,000 hectares of land at the Bobi Grazing Reserve in the state. 

The company also began production of hydroponics – a method of growing high-nutrient grass in harsh environments – a greenhouse pasture development that would ensure year-round feed for cows. In addition, solarpowered boreholes to support farmers with potable water and provide water for the cattle were also provided on the reserve. 

In August 2020, Ekiti State government announced that Promasidor had invested $5 million into Ikun Dairy Farm for the purchase of equipment, provision of appropriate herd of cattle and development of an out-grower scheme with local farmers for providing feed for the cattle. Earlier this year, the state received 250 cows from the United States. The 250 pregnant cows were the first set to arrive while additional 200 were still being expected. Each of the Jersey cows has capacity to produce up to 50 litres of milk per day as opposed to the traditional Fulani cow that produces just about five litres. 

Similarly, Kaduna State recently signed agreement with Europe’s Arla Foods, one of the largest dairy cooperatives in Europe, to build a new commercial dairy farm in an effort to support local milk production in the country. The 200-hectare farm will house 400 dairy cows, modern milking parlours and technology, grassland, as well as living facilities for 25 employees. The dairy cooperative will train and support up to 1,000 local dairy farmers to improve milk yields and quality, animal welfare and farm profitability. When operational in 2022, the farm is expected to produce over 10 tonnes (10,000 litres) of milk per day, which will then be processed by Arla’s dairy plant in Kaduna State to supply locally produced dairy products. And Kano State has offered enough land to accommodate migrating herders as a way of putting end to destruction of farms by the animals. 

The Federal Government, original initiator of the NLTP, continues to insist on the continuation of the anachronistic practice of nomadism. Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari insisted that state governments must clear paths for herders to move their cattle, regardless of the ever-increasing population and competition for land. Buhari has ordered his Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, to retrace and recover grazing routes across the country. According to him, not all pastoralists can afford ranching.

 

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