Agriculture and rural development in Nigeria: a retrospect of the last two decades (1991-2011)

With barely less than four years to the targets year of the Millennium Development Goals to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability and to develop a global partnerships for developments. The prevalence of undernourished people in Nigeria as at 2008 was 6% which is about 9.4 million people (FAO Hunger Statistic, 2011). While literacy rate has gone up from 54.8% in 2003 to 60.8% in 2009 (World Bank data, 2011), but majority of the remaining 39.2% are women. Maternal mortality ratio stood at 260 per every 100,000 live births in 2008 (World Bank data, 2011). Although, the percentage of People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) has gone down between 2001 which was at 5.8% to about 4.4% in 2005 due to awareness campaign and education, a significant estimate of 2.99 million people which about 58% are women still live with HIV/AIDS (Ileuma S.A, 2011).

The percentage of rural population in Nigeria has gone down from 53.3% in 2000 to 49.7% in 2010 (World Bank data, 2011) due to migration and urbanization. Prior to the last two decades that ushered in new paradigm to solving rural and agricultural problems, several programmes and projects were developed to reduce poverty and solve rural problems. For example: National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP) in the 60s; Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) in 1976; Green Revolution Programme (GR) 1979 and Directorate of Food, Road and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) in 1987. However, most of these programmes were bureaucratic and many of them followed a top-down approach (Daneji M.I, 2011) in addressing the felt need of the rural people.

Rural Development in Nigeria in the Last Two Decades (1991-2011)

An Overview of Rural Sector of Nigeria.
The Nigerian rural sector with abundance of human and natural resources accommodate 49.7 per cent of the nation’s population (World Bank data, 2011). Yet, Nigerian rural communities are lacking in infrastructural facilities such as roads, potable water supply and sanitation, energy, communication, health, education facilities etc. It is estimated that 85% of the extremely poor in Nigeria currently live in rural areas. Nevertheless, the rural sector is predominantly agriculture-based (including livestock, forestry and fisheries). It employs about 75% of the labor force and contributes about 40% of the GDP (Nigeria Govt., 2007).

Concept of Rural Development
Gustavo and Kostas, 2007 argued that the definition of rural development has evolved through time as a result of changes in the perceived mechanisms and or goals of development. They further explained that a reasonable definition of rural development would be: development that benefits rural populations; where development is understood as the sustained improvement of the population’s standards of living or welfare.

The last two decades ushered in new approaches or mechanism to tackling rural problems with the development of different theories and frameworks that guide the way development programmes are being carried out.

The popular one is the livelihood of people in the rural areas. A livelihood comprises capabilities, assets and activities and a livelihood is said to be sustainable when it can cope with stresses and shocks and maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets both now and in future, while not undermining the natural resource base (Chambers and Conway, 1992).

Also, the Right Based Approach became prominent among Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). The Right Based Approach voiced the right of the vulnerable, women and children alike in terms of their entitlement to a better life. The Right Based Approach integrates the human rights into the process of development such as the food sovereignty that demanded that each country should ensure its citizens’ right to food.

Participatory Rural Appraisal is a fundamental approach to any development programme because it brings the policy makers and the poor people together. Jennings (2,000) describes participation as the involvement by a local population and at times, additional stakeholders in creation, content and conduct of a program or policy designed to change their live. He opined that citizens can be trusted to shape their own future and that participatory development uses local decision making and capacities to steer and define the nature of an invention.

Agriculture and Rural Development in Nigeria in the Last Two Decades (1991-2011)
The last two decades have witnessed the avalanche of different development programmes and project and Overseas Development Aids (ODA) has also increased. Rural development programmes and projects in Nigeria are more often associated with agricultural development with a difference in the last two decades which witnessed the birth of the community based and people centered approach to rural and agricultural development programmes. The National Integrated Rural Development Policy and Strategy under the auspices of Rural Development strategy for Nigeria (RDSN) is one of Nigeria Government’s policies that aimed at addressing the problem of the rural people. It is a collaborative project with the World Bank that started in 2001. The policy took into cognisance other rural activities and not only agriculture with emphasis on women, children, People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and also the right of people to food. The policy has four main priority areas:

-Enhancement of enabling rural infrastructure.
-Promotion of Rural Productive Activities.
-Support Human Resource Development.
-Special programs for Target Groups.

Also, National Special Programme for Food Security (NSPFS) which was collaboration between the FAO and the Government of Nigeria was based on food sovereignty, a concept that national human rights institution recognizes as right of every citizen of a country to food (Nigeria Govt., 2007). Recently, the Second National Fadama Development Project (NFDP-II) is also a collaborative programme with the World Bank on rural development that is based on the capabilities of the rural populace. The project provided demand-driven extension services, increased local capacity to resolve conflicts over natural resources, developed rural infrastructure such as roads, and increased the capacity of beneficiaries to manage economic activities (IFPRI, 2008).

Nigeria is part of the 189 countries that signed the Millennium Development Goals in 2000 and responded to it by developing the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategies (NEEDS) in 2002, which is a replica of the MDGs. The NEEDS piloted in several agencies like Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme which provides loan for the farmers, Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation which provides risk cover in case of crop failure, natural disaster and loss of livestock, and Small and Medium Scale Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria to (SMEDAN) which provide micro credit (Nigeria Govt., 2007).

In 2003, Community Based Agriculture and Rural Development Programme (CBARDP) which was collaboration between the Federal Government of Nigeria and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) took off. The programme aimed at improving the livelihood and living conditions of the rural communities with emphasis on women and other vulnerable groups within the programme area. This is being pursued through two main components namely awareness and capacity building; and community Development (Nigeria Govt., 2007).

HIV prevalence was estimated 5.8% in 2001 and AIDS has killed more than 1.7 million people and orphaned 1.5 million children. Majority

of those affected are within the economically active population (AFDB, 2003). National Action Committee on AIDS (NACA) was established in 2001 to take an emergency action to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS since it was estimated that HIV/AIDS accounted for 0.5% drop in the economic growth rate (AFDB, 2003). The NACA was a four year strategy and as metamorphosed into the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) which is now an institution that coordinates policies, programmes and projects directed at the AIDS issue, provide leadership and monitor the progression of the epidemic.

This paper has attempted to discuss the rural development processes in Nigeria in the last two decades. It highlighted the approaches and also the shift in paradigm from the top-down and bureaucratic approaches to the right based, participatory and livelihood approaches of solving rural problems.

Despite the vast achievement from these approaches in the last two decades on food security, women empowerment, HIV/AIDS control and policy design and implementation, 6% of the population which is about 9.8 million people is still undernourished and poverty level is about 54.7% with majority of them in the rural sector. Also, a significant percentage of the economically active population lives with HIV/AIDS, while maternal health still poses a challenge to household livelihood and literacy level among women is still low.

Rural development processes in Nigeria face myriads of wicked problems with an example in the uprising religious sect called “Boko Haram” which believes western education should be prohibited in the Northern part of the country where poverty incidence is recorded highest. Also, the problem of corruption has also impaired the outcome of many intervention programmes and project.

Conflict of interest among public office holders who are responsible for coordinating different development programmes and projects has also contributed it failure in Nigeria and many interventions are still bureaucratic.

Africa Development Bank (AFDB), 2003. Appraisal Report on Community Based Agriculture and Rural Development Project of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2003). Available at: PDF. Accessed on: 25th November, 2011.

Nigeria Government, 2006. Nigeria – National Report. Paper presented at International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development organised by FAO (2006) in Porto Alegre. Available at: Accessed on: 25th November, 201.1

World Bank, 2011. World Bank data. Available at Accessed on: 25th November, 2011.

AVERT, 2011. History of HIV and AIDS in Nigeria. Available at: Accessed on: 25th November, 2011.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 2011. Food Security Statistics. Available at: Accessed on: 25th November, 2011.

Gustavo A. and Kostas S., 2007. Rural Development and Poverty Reduction: Is Agriculture still Key? Available at: Accessed on: 25th November, 2011.

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