How teaching agricultural science began in Nigeria

In the Ten YearThe history of teaching Agricultural science in Nigeria

In the Ten Year Development Plan (1946–1956). The Colonial masters emphasized teaching agricultural science for crop production mainly oil palm, cocoa, rubber, cotton and groundnuts. And The document contained very little or no proposal for increased food production. But the first National Development Plan (1962–1968) sought to increase the level of production and export crops through better seed distribution and more modern methods of cultivation. As well as teaching agricultural science through mechanization will increase the area of cultivation and production. Therefore, farm settlements and cooperative (nucleus) plantations as well as Tractor Hiring Units were established. The component regions were largely autonomous in terms of agricultural policy formulation and implementation. This Plan Period was a success.

The importance of Agriculture at that time

Agriculture was a major sector of the economy, the major source of income and employment to both the Government and the rural people (Agric. Policy, 1988). But the cash crops accounted for about 80% of our total export and 45% of the gross domestic product(GDP). However, no mention was made of the food sector in this plan that had 11.6% capital allocation by both Federal and State Governments to Agriculture (Osakwe and Ojo, 1986). Also, the cocoa plantations suffered serious setback, the cotton and groundnut pyramids disappeared. And hides and skin became food for the embattled Nigerian populace, and the oil palm plantations which were battle fields during the Biafra/Nigeria Civil War died natural death due to neglect. But In 1976, the Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) program was inaugurated. This first major agricultural policy pronouncement and effort by Government generated awareness among Nigerians about the consequences of an empty national food basket

Aims of operation feed the nation

The program focused on building the spirit and dignity of labor and reengaging the idle hands back to land. In the same year, and consequent upon the plan document, Marketing Boards were abolished. And production and Marketing Companies were established such as National Grain Production Company for food grains and National Root Crop Production Company for root crops.

Other programs and policies

Other policy and strategic measures taken by Government during this period were the establishment of River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs), National Seed Multiplication Scheme, Agro-Service Centers, Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs). Along with that Many research and tertiary institutions were established to formulate and implement teaching agricultural science through mechanization and research programs aimed at improving agricultural food production. Unfortunately, even with all these policies, the total Capital allocation to Agriculture by both Federal and State Governments further declined to 7.1% (Osakwe and Ojo, 1986).

This goes further to show that Government was not supporting the teaching agricultural science sector with adequate financial backing for proper execution of the programs. And even though these efforts seemed to have been guided by genuine concerns, they failed to make the necessary impacts in the teaching agricultural science sector because of fundamental structural problems in the education. There was obvious decline in the teaching agricultural science sector about only 20% in the 1981 -1985 Plans period.

The establishment of additional agencies

Agricultural exports dwindled at an alarming rate as well as decline in labor force for agriculture. And In 1986 the Federal Military Government introduced the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP). Also, the Directorate of Food, and  Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) was established to provide the Nigerian rural populace with infrastructural facilities (roads, electricity, water boreholes and pumps, agricultural inputs) to enhance food production, processing and evacuation of their produce to urban markets and to stem rural-urban migration. On top of that, the Directorate of Employment (NDE) was established in 1988 to address unemployment of graduate school leavers, It provided training and some initial take-off grants to participating beneficiaries who wanted to go into teaching agricultural science, crop production as well as animal production and processing. Experience from the above three Plan Periods convinced Government that there can be no alternative to well-designed and articulated teaching agricultural science policies as instruments for promoting agricultural growth and development in Nigeria (Igbeka, 2003). But In 1988, the Federal Government published the first ever teaching agricultural science policy document for Nigeria aimed at redressing the underdevelopment of agriculture, streamlining policies in all tiers of government and ensuring policy stability (Opara, 2006). Again, the implementation of this policy ran against many problems including poor funding and poor state of infrastructure, poor administration of government support to agriculture and abandonment of projects midstream due to political reasons, poor private sector participation and investment in agriculture due to inconsistency and instability of macroeconomic policies which tend to discourage medium and long term investments in agriculture, lack of appropriate technology to reduce drudgery in agricultural production. And processing and inadequate availability of inputs such as improved seeds and breed stock. However, Despite these problems, agricultural production in Nigeria increased steadily at the rate as high as 6.4% annually between 1988 and 1992.

Creation of more agencies

The National Land Development Agency (NALDA) was established in 1992 to provide support for land development for agriculture. The National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) was established in 1992 to establish and nurture an appropriate and dynamic Science and Engineering Infrastructure. Also, some of the facilities (staff and machines) at the various NASENI Centers can be used for the manufacture of agricultural machines and for empowering Small and Medium Enterprises(SMEs) in agriculture (Onwualu and Pawa, 2004). But these are meant to stabilize the economy and make it more productive ensuring that the era of subsidies and over-protection of key sectors of the economy including agriculture is over. With regard to post-harvest agricultural activities, clearly the days of expensive government involvement in most agro-processing facilities are past. And future emphasis will be very much on commercial involvement by the private sector (Van Otterdijk, 2005). Thus In 2001 a New teaching agricultural science Policy and the Integrated Rural Development Policy were initiated to ensure national food security, attain self-sufficiency in basic food production, enhance employment opportunities and achieve high growth rate for the economy. And all these were to be achieved through the introduction of use of mechanization in teaching agricultural science and adoption of improved technology, efficient utilization of resources by the farmers and a broad based organization and mobilization of the rural masses so as to enhance their capacity. But In order to fast track the gains of the 2001 New teaching agricultural science Policy, there came the Presidential Initiatives in Agriculture (PIA)(2004) and the National Special Food Security Program (NSFSP) and FADAMA II (2005).The PIA gave priority to four different crop-based expansions of production and utilization programs (e.g. cassava, rice, tree crops and vegetable oil) and livestock and fisheries programs with a view to curtail the huge foreign exchange expended in their importation and their importance in the revival of industries based on their raw materials. And In 2006, the National Agricultural Development Fund was established with a takeoff capital of N50 billion with a view to address the problem of inadequate funding of teaching agriculture science on a sustainable basis.

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