As Nigeria faces serious poverty challenges, Hon Obidike Chukwuebuka, Chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, said two out of every three Nigerians live below the poverty line of $1 per day in income. Poverty in Nigeria is concentrated in rural areas.

It is said that rural people’s incomes are lower, infant mortality rates are higher, life expectancy is shorter, illiteracy is more widespread, malnutrition is more prevalent, and greater proportions of people lack access to clean water and improved sanitation services.

Obidike who made this statement in an economic summit in Lagos on Friday, said, “for the foreseeable future, the welfare of rural populations in Nigeria will be tied to agriculture. Agriculture is the backbone of the rural economy, generating about 35 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and providing by far the largest source of rural employment. Growth in Nigeria’s agricultural sector, while better than the growth achieved in many other African countries, has fallen short of expectations. Value added per capita in agriculture has risen by less than 1 percent per year for the past 20 years, and food production gains have not kept pace with population growth, resulting in rising food imports and declining levels of national food self-sufficiency.

“Blessed with abundant land and water resources, Nigeria’s agricultural sector has a high potential for growth, but this potential is not being realized. Productivity is low and basically stagnant. Farming systems, which are mostly small in scale, are still predominantly subsistence-based and for the most part depend on the vagaries of the weather. The country’s vast irrigation potential remains largely unexploited. Most farmers produce mainly food crops using traditional extensive cultivation methods, while commercial agriculture based on modern technologies and purchased inputs remains underdeveloped. The capacity of the agricultural research system has eroded in recent years, as has that of the extension service, so, even when improved technologies are available, often they fail to reach farmers. Farmers’ lack of technical knowledge is compounded by deficiencies in input distribution systems, which limit the timely availability of improved seed, fertilizer, crop chemicals, and machinery.

“Where inputs are available, farmers’ ability to use them is often compromised by a lack of credit, because rural financial institutions are in general poorly developed. Farmers who produce surpluses frequently lack access to reliable markets, and the high cost of transporting produce to distant buying points over bad rural roads reduces their competitiveness. Getting agriculture going in Nigeria will require a coordinated strategy comprising policy reforms, institutional restructuring and well-targeted strategic investments to upgrade degraded rural infrastructure, boost productivity, and stimulate increased competitiveness (World Bank 2005).

“Recognizing these challenges, the Federal Government of Nigeria has identified the modernization of the agricultural sector as a major priority. Former President Obasanjo, one of the founding members of the New Economic Partnership for Africa (NEPAD), has repeatedly expressed a commitment to meeting the NEPAD goal of investing at least 10 percent of the national budget in agriculture and related activities. The National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) also explicitly recognizes the strategic importance of the agricultural sector and lists a number of special initiatives that the Federal Government intends to pursue in promoting increased food and agricultural production. Current President Yar’Adua also identified food security and agriculture as one of its seven-point agenda. The current government intends to diversify the country’s resource base and also to increase the level of export of primary products with some emphasis on adding value to primary products.

“While there is interest in modernizing agriculture, there is insufficient knowledge about the growth potential of the agricultural sector in Nigeria. Some still ask if it is appropriate to focus on agriculture and source of growth in Nigeria In this paper we have applied the most recent version of the GTAP framework to estimate the growth potential of agriculture in Nigeria. Recently the 1999 Nigeria Input-Output statistics was included in the GTAP database.

“Agricultural investment can be as profitable as investment in any other sector of the Nigerian economy. We show that (after adjusting for size) some agricultural subsectors (e.g. cattle, fruit and vegetables) outperform some of the oil and manufacturing sectors in terms of returns to investment. Therefore, the discrimination against agriculture should disappear and significant investment should be channeled to agriculture because it has a very high potential for employing people, providing food security and earning (conserving) foreign exchange.” Obidike concluded

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