I read an article recently on job creation through agriculture and I just want to add a couple of points to the suggestion. It is clear that agriculture should be the foundation for any future growth in Nigeria but why is that agriculture has not taken and just what should be done to kick start that growth. I’m going to suggest two things which I feel need to change for any sort of progress to be made in agriculture.
Firstly, the system of land tenure in the rural areas needs to change. According to the Land use act rural lands are still largly under the control of local governments aka customary practices. The implication of this is that rural land is still distributed primarily through inheritance or ethnic ties and in minute fractions. It is almost impossible for a business to acquire land in substantial quantity from local governments without being a local. The future of agriculture is commercial and secure land rights is the main catalyst for that. There were murmurings of reform to the land tenure system during the Yar Adua era. I don’t know how that turned out.
The second issue is in the actual size of land used for agriculture. The ability of a farm to boost productivity depends largely on its ability to invest in agricultural technology and its access to credit. Small scale rural farms are not big enough to enjoy the benefits of scale or the access to credit that they need. On of the key factors given behind the algerian agricultural program is the law which limited the division of land to 700 hectares. Big enough to make farming not a pass time activity but a business venture.
There are probably lots of other ways to boost productivity in agriculture but these two seem like good places to start. I should point out that throwing money at agriculture in the form of subsidies and grants and free fertilizer does not work. We have tried that for the last couple of decade with no real improvement. Real progress involves a lot more than signing cheques.