NTU-SBF: Nigeria losing over $14bn Yearly to Farmer-Herder Crisis

NTU-SBF: Nigeria losing over $14bn Yearly to Farmer-Herder Crisis

Gilbert Ekugbe

A report by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) Center for African Studies has stated Nigeria is losing over $14 billion annually to the ongoing farmer-herder conflict.

This was obtained from the public presentation of a 10 year roadmap for Nigeria tagged, “Back to Growth: Priority Agenda for the Economic Revival of Nigeria,” launched by NTU-SBF in Lagos.

 According to the report, in 2021, it was reported that more than 300,000 farmers had been displaced and 1,800 killed in the conflict, adding that the threat of violence, murder and kidnapping has forced many smallholder farmers to abandon their farms, resulting in loss of harvest.

The report stated that inadequate post-harvest facilities infrastructure in farming areas is limited where less than 15 per cent of rural roads are in good condition, which limits farm connectivity, maintaining that approximately 45 per cent of the population has no access to electricity.

The report also cited the importance of smallholder farmers, saying that they make up over 80 per cent of Nigeria’s farming community.

It added, “This is partly due to a poor fang tenure system. Most of these smallholder farmers engage in subsistence and non-irrigated farming, which limits the investment capacity of the sector. Additionally, despite the agriculture sector contributing some 40 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP and employment, only 2 per cent of the government budget was allocated to agriculture in 2020.”

On fertiliser use in Nigeria, it stated that 14kg per hectare is low in comparison with the global average 146kg per hectare, also pointing out the shortage of 320,000 metric tonnes of seeds.

“Broken supply chain is largely to blame. Currently less than 10 per cent of cultivated land is planted with improved seed varieties. There are less than 50,000 servicable tractors nationwide. Only 3 per cent of farming is mechanised. That translates to just two tractors per thousand hectares. Moreover, the indiscriminate use of low-quality chemicals such as herbicides pesticides, and veterinary medicine also contributes to poor food quality and reduced agricultural productivity,” the report stated.

It added that a combination of these factors have led to consistently low agricultural yields in Nigeria where more than 78 per cent of smallholder farmers are financially excluded and less than 25 per cent of farmers frequently use financial services.

It lamented that despite the potentials of the agricultural sector, it only receives 2 per cent of the total loans issued by commercial banks. 

“Agriculture in Nigeria is in a state of crisis. Productivity has been declining and the sector remains under threat from both natural and man-made hazards. Conflict and insecurity are considered the primary drivers of acute food insecurity, especially in the northern regions. Several structural challenges have also limited the growth of the sector. Even in stable, more accessible parts of the country, food security continues to be undermined by low levels of production, owing to reliance on rain fed agriculture, smallholder landholding, low productivity due to poor planting material, low soil fertility, land degradation, limited use of irrigation, and limited agricultural extension and advisory services,” the report said.

Listing additional challenges faced by the sector, it said it include limited access to financing and inputs for farmers, restricted access to markets, and inadequate social protection.

“Climate change has made the problem worse. While some parts of the country are experiencing drought, others are hit by frequent flooding. Depletion of water resources and unpredictable rainfall patterns are having a significant impact on production systems, leading to crop failure. Degradation of land is causing irreversible soil erosion, deterioration of biodiversity, and loss of soil fertility. Desertification is creeping south, displacing communities, exacerbating conflict between herders and farmers and fuelling Islamic insurgency. With its population expected to reach 400 million by 2050, it is important for Nigeria to address the numerous challenges facing the agricultural sector,” it advised.

The report said, “Agriculture may not be the biggest contributor to the economy, but it remains the single most important sector and over 60 per cent of the poorest Nigerians depend on it for their livelihood. It contributes 26 per cent to GDP, but accounts for only 2 per cent of exports. Sesame, cashew nuts, and cocoa make up more than half of the nation’s agricultural exports, while the main cash crops are palm oil, cottonseed, cocoa, cashew nuts, and sugarcane. The most important subsistence crops are maize, cassava, sorghum, yam, beans, rice, and groundnut. Agriculture is largely dominated by rain fed subsistence farming, and it has experienced declining productivity in the last decade. Despite decades of state-intervention, Nigeria remains a net food importer, spending as much as $20 billion.”

It also stated that wheat is the third most consumed grain after corn and rice, saying that despite being endowed with favourable weather and soil conditions, most of the wheat consumed is imported into the country.

The report said between 2016 and 2019, Nigeria’s agric imports amounted to N3.35 trillion which is four times its agricultural exports of N803 billion in the same period. 

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