Dearth of irrigation systems, lack of political will, policy inconsistencies and paucity of funds have been identified as some of the major factors militating against all-year round farming in Nigeria.
Agriculture experts say the country could attain all-year round farming if the available resources are harnessed.
An agriculturist, Ike Ubaka, listed such resources as vast arable lands, favourable weather and abundance of water and river basin resources, all of which he said could stimulate and facilitate all-year round farming activities.
He described as unfortunate that despite the advantages, the country predominantly engages in rain-fed agriculture and one seasonal farming period, which according to him, cannot guarantee food security.
Ubaka said: “Lack of rain during the dry season hinders agricultural production, while the lack of water management systems across the country hinders the ability of farmers to work all-year round.
“The improvement of the irrigation systems and access roads would boost agricultural production and encourage mechanised farming.’’
The agriculturist blamed the absence of the vital instruments to promote all-year round farming on the lack of political will to implement policies and the failure to adopt modern farming technologies to speed up crop multiplication.
“The challenges also include shortage of labourers, inadequate markets, natural disasters and ecological challenges such as desertification, among others,’’ Ubaka said.
He cited the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) report which indicated that over 3.6 million hectares were seriously affected by desertification in about 100 countries, including Nigeria.
According to him, desertification was having a negative impact on biological diversity, soil fertility, hydrological cycle and crop yield, as well as livestock production.
He noted that the River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs), which were created by the Federal Government to harness water resources and optimise its agricultural resources to attain food self-sufficiency, have all failed to lived up to their expectations.
Ubaka said that the 11 RBDAs, which were established on August 27, 1976 to promote fishery development, both commercial and small-scale, have also failed in that regard.
He explained that the main goals behind the establishment of the RBDAs have largely remained unfulfilled 42 years after, as the units have not lived up to their expectations to contribute to the nation’s food security.
“Besides, the river basins have not reduced the country’s dependence on rain-fed agriculture to stimulate all-year round farming,’’ Ubaka noted.
The RBDAs include: Sokoto-Rima Basin, Sokoto; Hadejia-Jema’are Basin, Kano; the Lake Chad Basin, Maiduguri; the Upper Benue Basin, Yola; the Lower Benue Basin, Makurdi and the Cross River Basin, Calabar.
Others are: Anambra-Imo Basin, Owerri; Niger Basin, Ilorin; Niger Delta Basin, Port Harcourt; Benin-Owena Basin, Benin City and Ogun-Osun Basin, Abeokuta.
Also speaking, World Bank’s FADAMA Team Leader, Dr. Adetunji Oredipe, underscored the need for Nigeria to engage in all-year round farming in order to feed its growing population.
He, however, suggested the adoption of long-term strategies and new methods of working with partners, private sector agencies and other stakeholders to improve all-year round agriculture.
Oredipe attributed the inability of the country to attain food security to the lack of faulty policies and comprehensive strategies for land management operations.
He said: “The operations include efforts to strengthen policies and capacity to raise farm yields, promote market access among farmers and improve overall management of the country’s rapidly expanding agriculture industry.
“Nigeria has an enormous opportunity to promote a vibrant, competitive and technology-propelled agricultural sector, which today employs 70 per cent of its population.”
He noted that paucity of funds has also prevented most farmers from going into commercial agriculture and all-year round farming.
He emphasised that most banks often fail to consider the gestation periods of agricultural production when giving loans to farmers, adding that this had been a major impediment.
The FADAMA team leader said that financial constraints like off-putting collateral for loans and high-digit interest rates on loans have forced many farmers to engage in a single round of farming every year, adding that the lack of good access roads to farms has forced many farmers to be at the mercy of exploitative middlemen who choose to buy produce from the farmers at give-away prices.
The National Coordinator of Zero Hunger Commodities, Dr. Tunde Arosanyin, identified the Land Use Act as one of the factors discouraging all-year round farming.
According to him, most of the country’s crop growing ventures take place on small parcels of land which are cultivated by smallholder farmers who produce over 90 per cent of the country’s food output.
Arosanyin said that the smallholder farmers habitually adopt traditional manual methods of farming and have little or no means to invest in fertilisers, irrigation facilities or equipment that would facilitate their efforts to go into all-year round farming.
He said: “The nation’s 50 million farmers have only around 30,000 tractors between them; they are, therefore, unable to produce enough food to feed Nigeria’s huge population.’’
Arosanyin, who noted that the consequences of climate change were a major challenge facing efforts to engage in all-year round crop growing, urged the government to collaborate with local and international agencies to come up with improved crop varieties to boost food production and ensure food security.
Another expert, Mr. African-Farmer Mogaji, said that even though Nigeria has long been recognised for its two farming seasons, the government has yet to re-establish this and encourage all-year round farming.
He underscored the need for the government to invest in projects aimed at correcting the country’s infrastructural deficits in order to put in place a conducive environment.
Mogaji, who is also an agricultural consultant, said that if the country’s infrastructural deficits are duly rectified, agriculture will become more attractive to the citizens, particularly the youth.
He added that it will also stimulate more people’s interest in agriculture and value chain development projects.
“The government must develop value chain systems and institutions that can drive competitiveness and job creation in the agricultural sector by using a market development approach.’’
Mr Obasanjo Fasunla, identified soil infertility, paucity of infrastructure and reliance on imported foods as some causes of strains on local farmers.
He said that the inability of most farmers to have sufficient funds to engage in farm expansion or mechanised farming projects has also affected agriculture and food production in the country.
He says that certain factors such as unstable power supply, inadequate farm machines and bad road networks are also affecting agricultural production.