There is no gainsaying the fact that agriculture is regaining its lost glory in Nigeria as the mainstay of the economy as the present administration appears to have dutifully re-positioned it; and it seems to be growing in leaps and bounds.
Accordingly, agriculture which accounts for some 22 percent of national GDP and providing employment for about 70 percent of the labour force shapes Nigeria’s physical landscape and remains a significant contributor to its economic and social landscape. In the past, slow growth in the agricultural sector and rapid increases in population shifted Nigeria from self-sufficiency in food production during the 1960s to heavy reliance on food imports from the 1980s onwards. Poor agricultural output and widespread poverty have resulted in extensive and persistent food insecurity so much so that, in 2015, Nigeria was ranked 91st out of 116 in the Global Hunger Index and 91st out of 108 in the Global Food Security Index.
It is worthy of note that Nigeria’s over dependence on crude oil as a main-stay contributed in the decline of growth in the agricultural sector; however, in recent years, with declining oil prices, the potential economic significance of the agricultural sector has grown. Nevertheless, the sector faces significant challenges, including global warming and increasing climate variability. The potential for external shocks to further compound food insecurity and affect sector development is high.
Consequently, future food security and wider economic development driven by a thriving agricultural sector require an integrated approach under which agricultural development and environmental sustainability develop in tandem, reducing risks to communities and enhancing the sustainable development of key value chains.
To this end, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN) and the Federal Ministry of Environment is supporting the implementation of an initiative tagged: “Fostering Sustainability and Resilience for Food Security in the Savanna Zones of Northern Nigeria”.
The overall goal of the project is to enhance long-term sustainability and resilience of food production systems in Nigeria, by building greater community resilience to climate risks and other shocks that drive food insecurity.
To this effect, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Federal Ministry of Environment and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) which are hosting the Project Management Unit (PMU) organised a two-day Inception Workshop in Kano from December 7 to 8, 2017 to kick-start the implementation of the project.
The workshop polled stakeholders and participants from different organisations which strategically play roles in agriculture, livestock and forestry sector and climate change, among others.
Day One, which was the pre-inception meeting with stakeholders, held at the Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN) conference hall with a highlight on the project overview, project funding and state commitments, and project MoUs, amongst others.
Day Two, which was a wrap-up inception meeting, held at the Conference Centre, Nassarawa Guest House. The highlight was three-group work presentations by the participants, under the the following auspices: Policy, Up-Scaling and Monitoring & Evaluation. The idea was an outlook into possible additions to help make the project a success with a solid framework.
The project has four components, namely:
- Enhancing the institutional and policy environment for achieving improved food security;
- Scaling up sustainable agricultural practices and market opportunities for smallholder farmers in the target agro-ecological zones to increase food security under increasing climate risks;
- Scaling up sustainable agricultural practices and market opportunities for smallholder farmers in the target agro-ecological zones to increase food security under increasing climate risk; and
- Knowledge, monitoring and assessment.
Ultimately, the first component has the outcome of supportive policies, governance structures and incentives in place at federal and state government levels to support sustainability and resilience of smallholder agriculture and food value chains.
For the second, the expected outcome is increased land area and ergo-ecosystems under sustainable agricultural practices, while the third posits increased youth involvement and reduced gender disparities in agricultural production for enhanced food security.
Meanwhile, the fourth component’s expected outcome is encouraging harmonised monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework in place for food security information, multi-scale assessment of sustainability and resilience in production agro-ecological zones and landscapes and monitoring of Global Environment Benefits (GEBs).
Little wonder, speaking separately at the meetings, climatologist and the projects Lead Consultant, Prof. Emmanuel Oladipo; UNDP Focal Person on Environment, Mr Muyiwa Odele; Deputy Director, Agriculture Mechanisation, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Abdullahi Abubakar; and Founder and Executive Director, Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN), Hajia Salamatu Garuba, among others, reiterated the importance of the project as it is meant to enhance productivity and promote sustainability and resilience of Nigeria’s agricultural production systems for improved national food security in the face of dwindling oil revenues in the country and beyond.
It is worthy of note that the success of this project is dependent on many indices such as commitment by state and non-state actors involved in its implementation as well as the political will by the various state governments to counter fund and sustain it. Invariably, when these stakeholders take the project as theirs and for them and not as any donors project, they would protect its good implementation and encourage its sustainability, which will result to enhanced food security in the savannah region of northern Nigeria in particular and the nation in general.
The five-year project, which is expected to kick-off in 2018 in the seven states of Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Gombe, Adamawa, Nasarawa and Benue which already have existing programmes on food security, will have selected project sites in 70 communities of 13 LGAs of Dutsima, Musawa, Kabo, Gwarzo, Jahun, Katungo, Balanga, Yola South, Fufore, Akwanga, Kokona, Otukpo and Ukum respectively, in reflection of the three major agro-ecologies of the northern part of the country’s savannah zones.
By Damian Daga, Kano