Monday Shaibu was a Masters student studying Agricultural Economics in Kogi State University when he enrolled for the Nigeria Agricultural Policy Project that took him to study in the US. He speaks about the significance of this project, agricultural insurance and also proffers solution to policy failure in the agriculture sector in this interview with PAUL OMOROGBE.
ABOUT Nigeria Agricultural Policy Project
Nigeria Agricultural Policy Project is a scholarsprogramme funded by USAID in collaboration with Michigan State University and IFPRI (International Food and Policy Research Institute)
The programme has scholars, usually graduate students, leave Nigeria for the Michigan State University in the US for onesemester, for Masters students, and two semesters for those at PhD level.
I went as a Masters student where I spent a semester. Within that period our (I and other masters students) supervisors in Nigeria would also come to Michigan State University to learn a thing or two, staying for one or two weeks before returning to Nigeria.
When I was there I took courses – a graded course and another. The courses I took were in Environmental Economics. Apart from those courses I used the opportunity to visit professors in areas of interest to establish relationship. I was able to improve my skills on how to conduct quality research. I was also able to improve my skills in data analysis and interpretation.
How were you selected?
I saw the call for applications online. I discussed it with my supervisor. He gave the go ahead. I read the requirements, put my application together and submitted it. I was selected and interviewed in two or three stages, and that was how I was considered.
What has happened since you returned?
I returned in 2017, and finished my masters in that period. I tell my colleagues that the one semester I spent at Michigan State University I honestly value more than the year MSc programme in Nigeria. Because that short period shaped my horizon a lot. It shaped my thinking and gave me an opportunity to create a niche for myself as far as my academic career is concerned.
What is that niche?
Prior to that visit Agricultural Economics as it were was broad to me, so I was not able to streamline my interest. Because of my foundation – the nature of courses I took during my undergraduate and postgraduate programme in Nigeria – I was not able to confidently choose that path. But the one semester abroad gave me direction. So I now I have a focus as far as environmental economics is concerned.
How are you going to apply this?
I have been applying it because after that if I look at my research ouput since then, there has been a great difference in terms of the quality.
What output has come in the area of policy?
Currently I am involved in a policy document. The NAPP programme is trying to draft a policy document for Kebbi State. I am a member of that team. With respect to that, I have been to Kebbi in 2018. I did some research and data collection in agricultural insurance. We are currently doing a study on that agricultural insurance. At the end of the day, the outcome of that research will be part of the policy document.
Apart from Kebbi, in my state which is Kogi State, we have a group of scholars who make informed decision for the state government as far as agricultural policy is concerned. I am also a part of that. We also have a forum where we discuss policy issues in agricultural sector.
What is the deliverable as a result of your involvement in the Kebbi State project and others also?
What I desire is to see a shift from the old way of seeing agriculture. I want to seeagriculture being practised as a business or an enterprise and not what people do for convenience. Specifically, I also want to see insurance being taken seriously. I want to see a high level of awareness and penetration as far as insurance is concerned. This is because the level of agricultural insurance is very low in Nigeria. When you look at farming as an enterprise or business it is risky.
If the penetration rate of agricultural insurance can be increased, that is, farmers’ participation in agricultural insurance, it will serve as an encouragement to others who are not into agric production. Because of the risky nature of farming as an enterprise, most of these credit institutions find it difficult to lend to farmers. They prefer lending money to estate managers and those into real estate than giving those monies to farmers. If government can come in to increase awareness and increase penetration rate, I will be happy.
Where does this problem of agricultural insurance lie with?
It is two ways: I think I will blame the insurance companies before the farmers. In Kebbi State, bove 70 per cent of the farmers do not even know there is something called agricultural insurance. So when we tried our best to explain what agricultural insurance is and what they stand to benefit if they get insured, we discovered that the majority of them about 80 per cent were willing to get insured. Now the question is why is the level of awareness very low? Is the Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation doing anything to increase farmers’ level of awareness? The extension agents we have at various locations – are they doing anything to raise the level of awareness? I will not blame the farmers because if you are able to explain to the average farmer that if u do A and B you will get this result, majority are willing to do it. But when the information is not out there, then you don’t expect such farmers to subscribe.
Again in the private sector: it is only recently I learnt we still have some private firms that are into agricultural insurance in Nigeria. So if the private sector can get involved, it will change the landscape of the narrative.
On agricultural policies in Nigeria
The problem with agricultural policies is the fact that the real stakeholders or the key players who are the farmers and the researchers who are on the field are not always involved in the policy making process. Because there is not enough of such engagement there is policy mismatch or policy somersault as it were. So implementation of these policies becomes a problem. Otherwise of a truth we have enough policies. Again as the world evolves, as modernisation creeps in you discover that most of those policies may not be so applicable in this present age and time.
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