Rice Pyramid in Nigeria and Matters Arising

instead of having commodity pyramids, efforts should be geared towards adequately funding extension services through legislation of agricultural extension policy. This will sooner than later bring the desired result of achieving food security, reducing poverty, and creating jobs for millions of Nigerians.

In the early part of the year, 2013, the Agricultural Complex of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria received members of the Joint House Committee on Agriculture who came for an oversight function.
During the introduction of personalities, the then Executive Director of the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Professor Balarabe Tanimu of blessed memory was introduced as professor of groundnut agronomy, and IAR, a research center with the mandate of genetic improvement of groundnut among other agricultural commodities.
During the opening remarks, the leader of the delegation, a distinguished senator enthusiastically challenged the distinguished scholar, Professor Tanimu, and the Institute to bring back the “great” Kano groundnut pyramid of the 1960s and 1970s. After eulogizing the tireless efforts of the groundnut farmers of that epoch, he pledged a sturdy House support to the Institute with enough budgetary allocation to achieve the challenge.  
In his response, Prof. Tanimu appreciated the benevolent gesture of the
House members for their keenness to increase the Institute’s budgetary
allocation. He stressed the importance of adequate funding for
agricultural research as the most viable means of decupling production,
addressing production challenges, and/or enhancing crops’ nutrient
content. He assured the guests of IAR’s readiness to judiciously utilize
the fund allocation for higher research outputs. He pointed out that
even with the inadequate funding, IAR was able to develop new varieties
of groundnut, which produced high yield and the quantum of production
was much higher than what was being produced in the 1960s and 1970s.
Similarly, the level of consumption was much higher due to population
increase within the period (about 45 million people in 1960 and 170
million in 2013). Nonetheless, Tanimu pointed out that reviving the
groundnut pyramid was not the aim of IAR. Those pyramids served as
aggregation centers for feed-stocking the Agro-industries of foreign
countries. Professor Tanimu, an excellent diplomat cum academic,
carefully chose his words not to hurt the feelings of the august
visitors. Yet, the message was very clear; the groundnut pyramid was a
symbol of colonial exploitation and underdevelopment.
Then, groundnut
and other cash crops were being produced for exportation to European
countries, which processed and imported into the country at ten times
the prices of the raw materials. The best way to produce agricultural
commodities is to serve as raw materials to local industries whose
products would be locally consumed and exported to other countries. In
any case, the commodity pyramid has been one of the performance
indicators for measuring agricultural productivity. The simple indicator
for measuring productivity is crop output or yield per unit area of
production with a unit of Kg/m2 or tons per hectare. So, what was the
implication of the Abuja rice pyramid mounted some weeks ago?
Mounting
a pyramid of an agricultural commodity such as rice in any part of the
country cannot showcase the quantum of production of such a commodity.
The associated costs of organizing and transporting the commodity to the
venue can be overbearing. However, the Abuja rice pyramid event, being
the first of its kind, was marked with pomp and pageantry recording a
huge success.
Although, this success could not stand to represent a
success story of boosting rice production but has uniquely packaged
hopes for a better future. The presence of top government functionaries
and high-profile personalities including President Buhari indicated the
willingness of Nigeria’s leadership to support the country achieve food
security. The commodity pyramid should not replace the annual
agricultural show where innovations, ingenuity, and breakthroughs in the
agricultural sector are being packaged and displayed. A few weeks after
the rice pyramid event, where do we move? What are the matters arising
from the Abuja event?
Fortunately, Nigeria is naturally
positioned to achieve greatness in Agriculture; versatile fertile land,
huge unquantifiable water resources, and virile and active human
resources. In addition to these natural endowments, policies, and
programs, over the years were designed to fast-track agricultural
development.
Theoretically, these programs and projects sound perfect
but practically, their implementations have always been haphazardly done
thereby retarding their successes. In the last three decades, so many
funds were sunk in agriculture in the names of programs and projects
without tangible impacts on the productivity of smallholder farmers who
constitute ninety percent of the farming population and contribute
eighty-five percent of national food production.
The major defect of
these programs/projects is the lack of an agricultural extension
component. where extension component exists, there has always been
incoherent roles and responsibilities because the front extension
personnel belongs to the state government while the programs are mostly
federal government-sponsored/supported.  Today’s agriculture is driven
by knowledge and the knowledge is solely facilitated by extension
service delivery. In Nigeria, agricultural extension service is poorly
funded and poorly manned.  How do we move forward?
Agricultural
extension entails knowledge transfer, utilization and feedback, market
intelligence, skill acquisition and perfection, and productivity
enhancement along the value chain of agricultural commodities (crops and
livestock). Therefore, special treatment to agricultural extension can
be made through fast-tracking the release of the National Agricultural
Extension Policy. The policy was already developed and I am privileged
to be part of the team that finalized the policy document.
The
development of the policy was a painstaking national assignment that was
done over five years by agricultural experts, technocrats, and
academics. Thus, the policy contains ready-made and holistic solutions
to the challenges to agricultural extension service delivery. It also
considers what to be done to modernize agriculture holistically now and
in the future.
Fortunately, the structure of the agricultural extension
system at the grassroots level, the Agricultural Development Program
(ADP), developed between the 1970s and 1980s with the support of the
World Bank is still in place and robust but ineffective due to gross
underfunding.
The policy has taken good care of how to source
alternative and sustainable funds to support and develop an agricultural
extension system in the country. If the policy becomes operational, it
will automatically increase public and private investment in agriculture
with special attention to extension services. This will spontaneously
escalate agricultural productivity in geometric proportion.  The
increase in agricultural productivity will cover both crops and
livestock farming with positive implications on the livelihoods of the
farmers and herders.

In conclusion, instead of having commodity
pyramids, efforts should be geared towards adequately funding extension
services through legislation of agricultural extension policy. This will
sooner than later bring the desired result of achieving food security,
reducing poverty, and creating jobs for millions of Nigerians.     
 

Leave a Reply