Some farmers in the South-East geopolitical zone have identified policy inconsistency as the major impediment to sustainable growth in the country’s agricultural sector.
The stakeholders, operating under the aegis of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), said that agriculture had experienced some ups and downs under different policy frameworks in the post-independence era.
They spoke in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on how agriculture has fared in terms of its prospects and challenges in the past 62 years.
The Chairman of AFAN in Imo, Dr Vitus Enwerem, said that the country had performed considerably well in agriculture since it gained independence on Oct. 1, 1960.
“We cannot say that we have not done well because we have recorded some successes in rice and cassava production and other value chain programmes,” Enwerem said.
He, however, argued that the progressive trajectory in the sector had suffered a major setback due to policy inconsistencies and insecurity.
He said that the situation where people sit down in Abuja to initiate policies on agriculture and impose them on farmers at the state and local government levels had not yielded the much expected gains.
“Nigeria started with Operation Feed the Nation and Green Revolution, amongst other beautiful programmes, but did not succeed because the farmers were not part of the policy formulation.
“But, if we adopt a bottom-top approach, where farmers are involved from policy conception and formulation to implementation, things would be better.
“Any policy that does not put the interest of the rural farmer into consideration does not appeeciate the farmer as the driver of the policy, hence it would not be easy to implement,” he said.
Enwerem also said that the rising security challenges in different parts of the country had seriously hampered growth in the agricultural sector.
Enwerem said, “Even here in Imo, I usually pray before I go to my farm to avert any impending danger on the way.”
He said that the country might face food crisis should the present security challenges be left unresolved.
Also, Chief Dunlop Okoro, the South-East Coordinator of AFAN, said that agriculture was the mainstay of the country’s economy before and immediately after independence.
Okoro told NAN in Umuahia that the independence struggle by the country’s nationalists was funded with resources from agriculture.
He regretted that successive administrations in the country had continued to evolve different agricultural policies that made little or no appreciable impact.
He blamed the development on the lack of continuity in policies and their implementation.
Okoro said that after independence, the regional governments developed their respective agricultural sectors in a competitive manner, especially in the areas they had comparative advantage.
He said that the regions made remittances to the Federal Government’s coffers from the agricultural boom.
According to him, the east was famous in oil palm production, while the West and North were known for cocoa and groundnut pyramid, respectively, among other agricultural products.
He regretted that the discovery of oil led to the neglect of the agriculture sector, making the country a mono-economy.
“There is always a change of policies by successive administrations in the country and this is not good for agriculture.
“Every administration wants to have their own roadmap for agriculture because they know money will be released for it.
“They do not want to follow up on the existing policies which the farmers are already used to,” Okoro said.
He argued that the disruptions in policy implementation had hampered sustainable growth in the sector.
The respondents, therefore, urged the Federal Government to develop long term agricultural development plan that can continue to run even after the life of an administration. (NAN)