Plight of Nigerian farmers
“Buhari and his country want to put an end to us”, said Barthelemy Agon, a pineapple producer in Benin Republic, as reported by a French Media House, France24 on September 29, 2019.
This statement was made (expectedly) out of frustration by a Benin Republic citizen who has been hit badly by the unilateral decision of Nigeria to close its land borders against its neighbours in order to curb the activities of smugglers who are depriving Nigerians (especially Nigerian farmers) of reaping the benefits of their sweat.
Monkey dey work, baboon dey chop; no! We have to change the tide. Laudable as this policy appears in principle, it looks more of a theoretical concept than a true reflection of the state of things, at least in the short-run where we cannot vary the factors of production.
Nigeria with a population of about 200 million people has been unable to attain self-sufficiency in terms of food production and has relied heavily on the importation of food items for a long time now. Successive governments had rolled out various programmes like Operation Feed the Nation, Green Revolution etc aimed at ensuring that Nigeria achieved self-sufficiency in food production. However, foot-dragging and snail-walking mode of implementation ensured that we moved in circles without progressing.
Most recently has been the Anchor Borrowers’ Programmes by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which is aimed at helping small holder farmers improve production in order to ensure that the country (Nigeria) spends less of its foreign exchange on the importation of food items. These programmes have yielded little result(s) compared to the expected impact that they would have brought if properly implemented. Well, it is easier said than done.
The failure of these policy programmes to yield expected results in the agricultural sector can be attributed to several factors like selective/poor implementation, corruption, lack of proper planning, poor infrastructure, illiteracy, inadequate funding, frequent change of government, especially during the military era, inconsistency in government policies etc.
Like we always do in this part of the world where we blame every other person but ourselves whenever things go wrong. So, who is to be blamed for the failure of these programmes? Your guess is as good as mine.
Despite the huge amount of money that has been spent by various administrations over the years to implement policies and programmes in the agricultural sector, ‘political farmers’ have been the highest beneficiaries with the actual farmers only being able to scoop the remnant. Well, in Nigeria, the bottom part of a jollof rice pot is the sweetest right?
The inability of the genuine farmers to have access to these funds have helped in stagnating growth in the agricultural sector while the political farmers smile to the bank at the detriment of the entire nation.
Most farmers have continued to beg for government’s attention in various areas, which include but not limited to provision of mechanized farm implements, fertilizer at subsidized rates, proper and adequate storage facilities to mention but a few.
But wait a minute! How can you expect my Oga at the top to import tractors instead of Prado Jeeps?