Mechanized farming is predominantly adopted in all the leading agricultural countries studied. The farming systems in these countries are mainly medium to large scale commercial plantations with cultivations and harvesting done using tractors. The level and quality of technology enhances the agricultural productivity recorded in these countries and sustains their agricultural exports’ competitiveness in the international market, especially in those crops where they have comparative advantage.

In Nigeria, the level of agricultural mechanization is still very low when compared with some of the leading countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia whose agricultural history and outputs were similar to that of Nigeria in the late 1950s to early 1960s. Tractor usage per 100 hectare is as high as 41, 241, 156 and 137 in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Brazil respectively while Nigeria has only 10 tractors per 100 ha.

Development Imperatives
Currently in Nigeria, agricultural activities are predominantly labour intensive, at a subsistence level and characterized by traditional practices such as the use of machetes, hoes and other crude implements resulting in very high man-hour utilization, poor crop yield and high post-harvest losses. Nigeria needs to accelerate the modernization of its agricultural practice to enhance productivity and optimize the use of resources towards achieving food security in the medium term and boosting export competitiveness in the long term. Investment through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in mechanizing farm operations is critical to the transformation of the Nigerian agricultural sector

All leading agricultural countries depend on irrigation systems for their farming activities to enhance productivity and sustain a year-round farming. However, crop production in Nigeria has remained largely rain-fed dependent with minimal irrigation practices. For instance, less than 1% of Nigeria’s arable land is irrigated. This is almost insignificant when compared with countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Brazil that have irrigated arable land of 12.36%, 4.81%, 28.19% and 4.38% respectively.

Development Imperatives
Currently, smallholders and traditional farmers who use rudimentary production techniques cultivate over 90% of the arable land, less than 1% of which is irrigated. To steer Nigeria towards achieving self sufficiency in food supply in the medium term and increasing agricultural exports in the long run, the concept of year-round farming through irrigation must be a priority in future agricultural development programs - in both private and government farms. To achieve this, government should drive the massive expansion of irrigation infrastructure and provide incentives to shared usage of irrigation facilities among farmers in order to spread the cost burden.

Government Spending/ Agricultural Budget
In 2003, African leaders including that of Nigeria met in Maputo, Mozambique where they all jointly agreed that at least 10% of the total government spending should be targeted at the agricultural sector towards attaining food security. While some African countries such as Ghana, Uganda and Malawi have stabilized their budget expenditures on agriculture around 10%, Nigeria, up to 2007, consistently spent less than 3% of its annual budget on agriculture. However, a slight increase to 5% per annum has been recorded in the last two years due to the new government’s drive to achieve part of its 7-point agenda for National Development. Malaysia, on the other hand, has achieved accelerated agricultural development through sustained annual expenditure of between 20-25% of its budget on agriculture in the last three decades.

Development Imperatives
Improved investments in Research and Development, mechanization and irrigation of agriculture, manpower development and infrastructural development are all required to accelerate and sustain the development of the Nigerian agricultural sector. Consequently, government investment in agriculture must increase very significantly to over 10% (Maputo Agreement) in the next 10 years to strengthen the core drivers of agricultural development.

One of the key problems of Nigerian agriculture is the low yield of its seed and seed stock. The seeds of most crops and breeds of livestock and fish in Nigeria produce yields that are far below world averages. In this circumstance therefore, seed and breeding stock quality improvement is a sine qua non to increased yield and increased domestic production. Some of the leading countries including the USA and Ireland have maximally exploited conventional breeding and applied genetic engineering to boost their agricultural productivity. Genetically modified crops are typically disease resistant, high yielding and early maturing. For example, the USA specifically utilizes genetically modified crops for the production of bio fuels to mitigate the impact of fuel requirements on the food chain. Advanced livestock breeding system which include Artificial Insemination, Marker Assisted Selection and Embryo Transplant are being used for faster breed upgrading and selection for herd replacement and basis for culling.

Development Imperatives
Currently, low level application of conventional breeding techniques has stifled Nigeria’s agricultural technological development. In addition, lack of Biotechnology (Biosafety) enabling law and funding has hindered research as well as adoption and use of bioengineering techniques such as genetically modified seedlings and livestock breeding techniques in Nigeria.
Increased agricultural production and conservation of land can both be achieved through the adoption of biotechnology. Adopting the use of genetically modified seedlings and livestock improvement techniques will significantly increase Nigeria’s agricultural productivity, enhance food security and improve the quality of its agricultural exports to meet international standards. In doing this however, due consideration must be given to the ethics of the Biotechnology practice.

Farming Techniques
Mono culture, organic farming, green house farming, selective breeding, dry land farming and use of remote sensing to aid agricultural activities are some of the improved farming techniques that are leveraged by some of the leading agricultural producing countries to enhance their agricultural development. All these techniques have significant positive impacts on agricultural productivity.

Development Imperatives
Currently, limitations in the level of mechanization and technology may hinder the immediate adoption of some of these modern farming techniques in Nigeria. For instance, mono culture is typically practised on many large scale farms and is dependent on mechanization. The support of Nigerian agricultural research institutes is required in developing or adapting some of these techniques to suit local conditions. Public-Private Partnership funding is equally crucial in ensuring long term sustained support for the required R&D activities.

Current Operational Considerations and Constraints
Key Issues and Challenges
In spite of consistent growth in the agricultural sector in recent years, it is not yet performing to its optimum in terms of productivity, wealth creation, foreign exchange generation and food security. The agricultural sector has been constrained by various challenges that have impeded the development of the sector. These challenges need to be addressed in order to sustain and even surpass the current agricultural growth rate. A review of National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) programs implementation highlighted the challenges to include inadequate funding which limits the scope of intervention, absence of institutional mechanisms in the area of input production and distribution particularly in the case of seeds, fertilizer and credit, poor infrastructure and low or inappropriate technologies which have also limited the growth of the sector. Others include gender inequality and the scourge of HIV/AIDS in agricultural production communities in the country. The overall consequences relate to food insecurity, intensification of poverty and inadequate wealth creation. In order to properly tackle these challenges and position Nigeria in the path of attaining the ambitious target of becoming one of the leading 20 economies by year 2020, the following key issues must be addressed:

Agriculture – Industry Linkage
The linkage between agriculture and industry in Nigeria is still very weak. A good synergy between agriculture and industry will involve the existence of processing firms for perishable and marginal products for the purpose of value addition in order to reduce losses (currently estimated at about 15–40%), enhance food security, stimulate production and increase employment generation. More so, agriculture still employs over 70% of the labour force in Nigeria. This is mainly at the primary production level because of low mechanization and small holding. To promote national development, agriculture must release labour to other sectors of the economy. It is envisaged that as agricultural mechanization improves and the food processing capacities of Nigeria expands, agriculture will need less people to till the soil, harvest the crops and handle raw yield. The concomitant effect will be reduced human labour and increased industrialization. However, such “released” labour need to be trained with new skills to fit into the merging industrial economy.

Inconsistent Agricultural policies
Agricultural policies in Nigeria have not only been inconsistent but they have often been poorly coordinated as well. Against a background of short political cycles, agricultural policies tended to change frequently with changes in political leadership, and often the political will to implement the policies had also varied as well. The history of Nigerian agriculture is littered with abandoned policies, programs, and initiatives. The fragmented approach to policy-making has constrained agricultural growth because it has prevented a sustained commitment to a coherent, integrated strategy for agricultural development. Such a sustained commitment is needed to achieve good results in a sector that not only requires longer time spans to yield desired outcomes, but also relies on other sectors for its development.

Nigerian financial policies have been designed to ensure the stability of the financial system and, thereby, guarantee the flow of credit to all the economic sectors including agriculture. Although several reforms have been designed to redress the abuses inherent in credit rationing, the issue of inadequate access to credit by farmers has persisted. The high interest rate constrains demand for credit by farmers whose returns have remained low. When concessionary and agricultural credit support schemes were introduced, their administration have often been bedeviled with abuses and lack of access by those that need the support most. Hence, there is need to provide a structure to ensure that the rural resource-limited farmers have unfettered access to credit.

Land Reform
Incentives to invest in agriculture are also undermined by policies regarding land ownership and land tenure. The Land Use Act (LUA), introduced in 1978, invested proprietary rights to land in the state. User rights are granted to individuals through administrative systems rather than a market allocation system. While uniformity and equity in land allocation are major areas of emphasis in the LUA, various tenure systems are in practice around the country that fall outside the provisions of the LUA. While cosmopolitan and enlightened land owners can obtain deeds and use their land as collateral, it has not been easy for rural based small holder farmers. Hence their access to credit continued to be limited to the level not requiring collateral.

Improved Seeds & Chemical Inputs
One reason why agricultural productivity has remains low in Nigeria is that adoption of improved varieties and improved breeds is extremely low. Improved varieties of most leading food crops are available through many Agricultural Development Programs (ADPs), but the area planted with the improved varieties has remained modest. Most farmers still plant traditional varieties using seed and planting materials saved from their own harvest or obtained from local sources, including relatives, neighbors, or local traders (Cromwell et al. 1992, Jaffee and Srivastava 1994, Louwaars and Marrewijk 1999). Rapid and sustainable growth in Nigeria’s agricultural sector has further been constrained by low adoption of chemical inputs. In the crops sub-sector, the use of fertilizer and pesticides is very low. For example, in 2000 the amount of fertilizer applied to field crops represented only about 3 percent of the total agronomic requirements (FMARD 2004).

Appropriate Technologies
There is the need for the identification of appropriate technologies for the downstream agricultural activities. The significance of effective linkages between agriculture and industries to achieve maximum value-addition and processing for exports cannot be overemphasized. The appropriate technologies and institutions for the achievement of this objective must promote desired linkage effects. Deployed technologies must support farm and community level processing to reduce high post-harvest losses and must also be sensitive to the diversity in soil structure and chemistry across the country.

The area under irrigation will need to expand at unprecedented rates if irrigation is to make a significant contribution to agricultural growth. Estimates of Nigeria’s irrigation potential ranges from 1.6 million ha (FAO 1991) to 2.5 million ha (FAO 2000). Currently, only 0.7 percent of the nation’s cultivated land is under irrigation, or roughly 220,000 ha. Constraints to continued development of irrigation in Nigeria include:
(i)                high cost of constructing irrigation infrastructure
(ii)             poor public management of water resources; and
(iii)           weak management capacity

Infrastructural deficiencies
Private investment in agriculture is discouraged by infrastructural deficiencies: a national road network that is limited in its coverage and poorly maintained ports and customs facilities that are undersized and overtaxed, an electricity grid that suffers from frequent disruptions, water supply systems of spotty coverage and uncertain reliability, and communication systems that fail to reach many in the population. (Manyong et al. 2004). These deficiencies contribute to high production costs of agricultural outputs and further undermine the profitability of agriculture and discourage export initiatives.

Research and Training
The government has long recognized that technology development is vital to the development of the agriculture sector, yet the national research system has enjoyed only limited success in generating new technologies—at least new technologies that have been adopted by farmers. The disappointing impact of the research system can be attributed to three main factors: (i) public research organizations are poorly funded and financially unsustainable; (ii) coordination within the Nigerian agricultural research community is weak, resulting in unnecessary duplication of effort; and (iii) research tends to be supply-driven, with little accountability to end-users. Also, a close collaboration between the academic institutions and the agricultural ministry/institutes in training agricultural professionals is required to enhance manpower development for the sector. The recent establishment of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria should enhance coordination and provide focus for the research institutes, agricultural faculties and universities, and the Federal Agricultural Colleges

Agricultural Extension
Agricultural extension in Nigeria suffers from lack of coordination and duplication of efforts, financial unsustainability and poor accountability to farmers and processors (World Bank 2004). Key challenges, therefore, include improving coordination and reducing duplication of effort in the Agricultural Development Programs (ADPs), improving the financial sustainability of extension services, increasing the accountability of extension agents to farmers and agribusiness firms. The national extension strategy also needs to be diversified from its focus on crops to provide services that meet a broader range of needs of farmers and agribusiness firms.

Conflict Resolution Strategies
Incessant conflicts exist between crop and livestock farmers, pastoralists (mainly Fulani nomads) and arable crop farmers, fadama users and non-fadama users, female farmers (especially female-household heads/widows) and their male relatives and neighbours. There is also the sustaining threat to security in some regions. Such conflicts disrupt production and discourage private sector investment. There is need therefore, to set up conflict resolution mechanisms to handle farm-level conflicts between individuals and communities. There should be effective development of the grazing reserves and stock routes to ensure availability of forage and opportunities to transform pastoralists to livestock ranchers. This should greatly reduce the pastoralist – crop farmer conflicts.

Value Re-orientation
There is need to re-orient the values of the populace, especially youths, on work ethics and value for money. The old idea of farmers and farming being associated with old and poor, uneducated and unkempt members of the society needs to be reversed. The benefits of agriculture as a vibrant and enterprising sector with demonstrable indicators should be portrayed.

Opportunities for Sector Performance Improvement and Growth
In order to fully identify, assess and evaluate the various growth opportunities in the agricultural sector, a ‘value chain’ approach (see Figure 5) has been adopted. This approach will enhance a comprehensive assessment of all the possible opportunities across the value chain i.e. from the upstream to the downstream segments of the sector and applying same to each sub sector.
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