The agricultural sector is the major source of livelihood for more than 70 per cent of Nigerians. Agriculture is presently estimated to represent 42 per cent of the country’s GDP. However, many Nigerians are yet to see the gains of the enormous investments in the agriculture sector by the federal Government. It is estimated that more than 35 per cent of the population are suffering from malnutrition because they cannot attain the required calories level. It is also estimated that in 2009 alone that farmers were faced with series of challenges ranging from land insecurity to the lack of soft loans, grants and implements like tractors. Also, there are fears that the food situation in Nigeria could worsen since soils are becoming poor and degraded.
Also, the small-scale farmer is also faced with the dearth of quality seeds, fertilizer and agro chemicals. It is also argued that if all the projects, policies and initiatives are well implemented and supervised, there will be a significant difference in the agricultural sector of the Nigerian economy. There is also the need to reposition agricultural research institutes to make them more responsive to emerging challenges. However, stakeholders argue that it is time for government to review the agricultural policy and strategies to ensure development, efficiency, effectiveness and food for all. For every one of the government’s agricultural initiatives to be meaningful, it must embrace the right to food security, civil rights, good governance and implementation.
The ADB, in partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), has supported agricultural development in Africa with investments of around $3.8 billion. In Nigeria, apart from its growing budgetary allocation from seven per cent in 2008 to 12 per cent in 2009, various special intervention funds had also been injected into the sector. More than N400 billion was injected into the sector in 2009 alone. A budgetary allocation of 3.7 per cent was made in the sector in 2010. (i.e. recurrent N34.4bn and capital 49.9bn). The Yar’adua government (2007 – 2009) also earmarked three per cent (N300bn) of the Natural Resource Development Fund for the development of the agric sector.
President Goodluck Jonathan also , has set aside N242 billion to stimulate agriculture growth. This is apart from the N200bn that was lodged in some banks in 2009.Other intervention programmes in the sector since Nigeria’s independence in 1960 include; the National Accelerated Food Production Project (NAFPP) from 1970 to 1974; Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) of 1976; Green Revolution Programme (GRP) of 1980; Directorate for Food, Road and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) of 1986; National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) of 1992; National Accelerated Industrial Crops Production Programme (NAICPP) of 1996; Agriculture Development Programme (ADP); National Seed Service Programme (NSS); the establishment of the Federal Agriculture Coordinating Unit (FACU), Agriculture Credit Guarantee Scheme (ACGS), the Nigerian Agricultural Corporative and Rural Development Bank (NACRDB) and the recently launched contentious N200bn Commercial Agric Credit Scheme, among others.
In Nigeria, increasing changes in rainfall patterns as a result of climate change is already threatening small –scale agriculture, making it pretty difficult to plough farm lands after the very first rains. This threatens food security and income – making for small scale farmers. However, beyond this challenge are those of supporting farmers with services that are underpinned by the principles of ecosystem-based management necessary to manage agricultural land in ways that are sensitive to the ecological health of the environment. The paper therefore canvasses that any worthy investment in today’s agriculture should aim to basically address these challenges in order to foster sustainable development. Using a social-ecological approach, it discusses case studies of small scale rice farmers in Uboma, South-eastern Nigeria who are partnering to secure markets through a process that rewards farmers producing quality crops as well as creating of viable networks that links farmers from local farms to critical markets.
Water mismanagement, inappropriate land use, as well as poor knowledge of anti-drought measures by farmers have led to land degradation such as soil erosion and loss of the soil’s productive capacity to produce food. Also the limited potential for dry season farming through soil and water conservation, the non-employment of rain water harvesting technology, as well as conflicts over limited water resources have not helped the situation. Consequently, local livelihoods are being jeopardized while increasing poverty for thousands of local farmers expands. It is feared that economic losses of about 5-20% of National GDP could be wrought and that the region may lose between 4-6% of its GDP, with some sectors likely to face greater challenges. Already the region is facing reductions in yields from rain-fed agriculture of 10%, which may climb up to 50% by 2020.
This therefore underscores the need for the government to assign appropriate priority to the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors, in order to create opportunities to enable the world’s smallholder farmers and fishers, including indigenous people, in particular vulnerable areas, to participate in, and benefit from financial mechanisms and investment flows to support climate change adaptation, mitigation and technology development, transfer and dissemination. Agricultural systems must move in tandem with sustainable land management practices that positively contribute to the mitigation of climate change and ecological balance.”
Till today in parts of eastern Nigeria, the effects of worsening drought have continued to hamper farming activities. Water mismanagement, inappropriate land use, as well as poor knowledge of anti-drought measures by these farmers have led to land degradation such as soil erosion and loss of the soil’s productive capacity to produce food.
Also the limited potential for dry season farming through soil and water conservation, the non-employment of rain water harvesting technology, as well as conflicts over limited water resources had not helped the situation. Consequently, local livelihoods are being jeopardized while increasing poverty for thousands of farmers expands.
Getting farmers to enrich and share their knowledge of rainwater harvesting practices and soil and water conservation is often difficult because of dispersed nature of the farms and poor availability of time. A pool of different on-the-farm experiences is therefore desired to gain valuable experience amongst farmers in monitoring and evaluation and to formulate and agree upon a strategy on how to continue/advance in sharing and implementing rain water harvesting experiences as well as using the project to improve soil management and further options for land management and boost food harvests.
The concept of water harvesting has been around for many years through the use of reservoirs for domestic water supply. Water harvesting into small ponds or special devices as is currently the case should be consolidated as it remains the solution to water droughts because they reduce the consumption of mains or abstracted water and provide a secondary store of water for irrigation during dry season.
Farmers should be supported to use the World Overview on Conservation Agriculture Technology (WOCAT) questionnaires to document rainwater harvesting practices and soil and water conservation technologies.Farmers need to be exposed to gain valuable experience in monitoring and evaluation.Their is also the need for farmers to be assisted to formulate and agree upon a strategy on how to continue/advance in documenting, evaluating and disseminating rainwater harvesting experiences.
A wealth of SWC knowledge exists world-wide (scattered), but this is not documented and evaluated and thus being lost. Indigenous or local knowledge is not documented hence not easily accessible and thus hardly used; there has always been a heavy focus on documenting degradation but too little on sustainable land management (SLM) practices; experiences and lessons learned at global, national and local level should help to achieve better SWC and effective adaptation to climate change.
SWC specialists and decision-makers need better knowledge management. To adapt to climate change. WOCAT’s vision-that knowledge on sustainable land management is shared and used globally to improve livelihoods and the environment; should be mainstreamed. By the adoption of these measures farmers in eastern Nigeria underscored the need to maximize the potentials of dry season agriculture in order to boost food security, alleviate poverty, restore lost top soils and reduce point pollution of water sources from farms. But to achieve these would require putting in place pro-poor governance mechanisms as well as unleashing the creative ability of all farmers to participate fully in conservation agriculture measures under a framework of sustainable land management necessary in order to boost their livelihoods, reduce conflicts over water and enables a comprehensive understanding of human, and the natural environment.