History of Agricultural Development Policies in Nigeria


History of Agricultural Development Policies in Nigeria

In order to revamp the agricultural sector, successive governments in Nigeria had embarked on and implemented several agricultural policies some of which are defunct or abandoned, and some restructured while others are still in place.

Nigeria‘ agricultural policy framework has gone through a number of evolutionary processes and fundamental changes that reflected, in a historical perspective, the changing character of agricultural development problems and the roles which different segments of the society were expected to play in tackling these problems.


Read: Challenges of the Effectiveness of Agricultural Policies

History of Agricultural Development Policies in Nigeria

It is equally important to address the history of agricultural development policies in Nigeria. This unit is set to address this.

In retrospect, four distinct agricultural policy phases can be identified in Nigeria, namely:

1. The first phase spanned the entire colonial period and the first post-independence decade from 1960 to about 1969.

2. The second phase covered the period from about 1970 to about 1985.

3. The third phase started from about 1986 in the structural adjustment period.

4. The fourth was what could be characterized as the post structural adjustment era starting from about 1994.


The Pre-1970 period

In the pre-1970 era, the government philosophy of agricultural development was characterized by minimum direct government intervention in agriculture. 

As such, the government‘s attitude to agriculture was relaxed, with the private sector and particularly the millions of small traditional farmers bearing the brunt of agricultural development efforts.

Government efforts were merely supportive of the activities of these farmers and largely took the form of:

i. Agricultural research and extension

ii. Export crop marketing

iii. Pricing activities.

Agricultural research and extension: The following agricultural research institutes were established during the pre-1970 period to help achieve increase in the production of those respective crops, livestock and fisheries.

The 1970 to 1985 Era (period of maximum government intervention)

This phase was characterized by a change of policy from minimal government intervention to maximum in the agricultural sector. The oil boom featured in the era which brought about enormous financial investments in agricultural projects and institutions.

Many agricultural policies and programmes were enunciated and they are discussed below:

1. Agricultural commodity marketing and pricing policy: The major instrument of agricultural commodity marketing and pricing policy was the establishment of six national commodity boards in 1977 to replace the regional, multi commodity boards that had been operating since 1954.

The six new national commodity boards were for:

i.            Cocoa

ii.           Groundnut

iii.          Palm Produce

iv.           Cotton

v.            Rubber

vi.          Food Grains.

The case of the grains marketing board was particularly unique as it represented the first effort ever made to extend the marketing board system to cover food crops.

The National Grains Board handled maize, millet, sorghum, wheat, rice, and cowpea. It administered a guaranteed minimum price policy whereby floor prices were nationally set for each of the six grain crops and the board would intervene as a buyer of last resort if and when their regular market prices fell below the guaranteed minimum.

The board also operated a strategic grain reserve scheme.

Under this policy, the programmes and schemes launched were:

i. National Commodity Boards

ii. National Grains Boards

iii. Guaranteed Minimum Price Scheme

iv. Strategic Grain Reserve Scheme

2. Land use policy: This was promulgated by the Federal Government in 1978 vesting the ownership of all lands on the government as to give genuine farmers access to farmlands.

3. Agricultural extension and technology transfer policy: This is aimed at improving the adoption of improved agricultural technology by farmers with the National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP) and Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs) as implementing agencies.

4. Input supply and distribution policy: This was promulgated to ensure adequate and orderly supply of agricultural inputs notably fertilizers, agro-chemicals, seeds, machinery and equipment as follows:

a. In 1975 Government centralized fertilizer procurement and distribution with numerous agro-service centres nationwide.

b. In 1972 Government created National Seeds Service (NSS) to produce and multiply improved seeds such as rice, maize, cowpea, millet, sorghum, wheat and cassava.

5. Agricultural input subsidy policy: As far back as the 1950s, various regional governments in Nigeria were already subsidizing the prices of key inputs, especially the prices of agrochemicals used in the production of groundnut, cotton, cocoa, palm produce, and other export crops. But in the early 1970s, input subsidy policy became centralized and its application extended to food crops.

The policy instruments adopted comprised the following:

a) Fertilizer subsidy. Between 1976 and 1979, fertilizer attracted a 75% subsidy, wholly borne by the Federal Government. But in 1980, the Federal Government‘s share was

b) Seed subsidy. There was a subsidy of 50% or more on various improved seeds produced by the National Seed Service (NSS).

c) Subsidy on agrochemicals. Rates of subsidy on agrochemicals varied, but were generally over 50%.

d) Subsidy on tractor hires services. Subsidies on tractor hire services that were mostly operated at the state level ranged from about 25% to about 50% of the actual cost of tractor services.

6. Agricultural research policy: The policy was aimed at coordination and harmonization of agricultural research and extension linkage. Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) was established in 1971. The 1973 Decree empowered the Federal Government to take over all state research institutions. The 1975 reconstitution by the Federal Government of the Nigerian Agricultural Research Institute network led to the establishment of 14 institutes which were later increased to 19 and the creation in 1977 of the National Science and Technology Development Agency to coordinate all research activities in Nigeria. Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) coordinates the research institutes under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Nigeria now.

7. Agricultural co-operatives policy: The following were the major instruments:

a) In 1979, a department of agricultural cooperatives within the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources and Rural Development was created to actualize this policy aimed at encouragement of farmers to form co-operatives.

b) The use of agricultural cooperatives for the distribution of some farm inputs as well as imported food commodities.

c) The provision of necessary encouragement for the establishment of cooperative farms and other cooperative enterprises.

8. Water resources and irrigation policy: The major instrument of the water resources and irrigation policy was the establishment of eleven (11) River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs) in 1977 charged with the responsibility of developing Nigeria‘s lands and water resources.

RBDAs had the mandate for:

i. Land preparation

ii. Development of irrigation facilities

iii. Construction of dams, boreholes and roads.

iv. The distribution of farm and fishing inputs.

v. direct agricultural production through large-scale mechanized farming under the civilian regime between 1979 and 1983.

9. Agricultural mechanization policy: The policy was instrumental to:

a) The creation of the Ministry of Science and Technology

b) The establishment of some Universities of Science and Technology

c) The operation of Tractor Hiring Units in all the states of Nigeria

d) Reduce import duty on tractors and agricultural equipment and implements

e) generalized and liberalized subsidies on farm clearing

f)  Launch a machinery ownership scheme in 1980 under which the Federal Government provided half of the purchase cost of farm machinery to be owned and used by farming cooperatives or group farms, and establishment of a National Centre for Agricultural Mechanization (NCAM).


Read: Meaning and Types of Agricultural Policy Instruments

Post-Structural Adjustment Period (SAP) period

With the adoption of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in 1986, government admitted the failure of past policies to significantly improve the economy and reverse the declining trend of production in the agricultural sector.

The Structural Adjustment Programme relied most especially on the agricultural sector to achieve the objectives of its far-reaching reforms on diversification of exports and adjustment of the production and consumption structure of the economy. Critically with SAP, agricultural sector did not register significant overall growth for several reasons.

i. SAP had more of an impact on the distribution of farm incomes than on agricultural growth and productivity.

ii. On average, real producer prices of tradable goods did not change significantly after the policy reforms.

The decline in output of the export crop subsector contributed to a reduction in foreign exchange earnings that could affect the foreign exchange requirement of the agricultural sector. As a result of this reduction and subsequent loss of export earnings from crops, the country‘s dependence on crude petroleum export earnings between 1988 and 1992 increased substantially.

In this phase also, which marked the SAP period:

1.   There was lower agricultural and economic growth with high rates of unemployment.

2.   Export earnings declined to less than 5% as well as widening gap in food supply and demand.

3.   Food prices increased from 2.6% in 1970 to 1979 period to almost 20% during 1980 to 1989.

4.   The environmental implications of these policy reforms were quite significant, namely:

i.     During this period, there was increased deforestation with adverse impact on biotic resources, loss of biodiversity, increased desertification in arid areas and flooding in lowland areas.

ii.    There was also evidence of increased use of chemicals and abuse of fertilizer use which led to soil degradation in certain agro-ecological zones.

5.   With respect to the index of real agricultural sector GDP between 1985 and 1990, it was fluctuating over these years. It was negative (0.13 and -1.56) in 1985 and 1986 and positive (36.45,36.35,5.30 and 18.43) in 1987 to 1990.


Read: Guiding Principles of Agricultural and Food Policy Formulation

Conclusion on history of Agricultural Development Policies in Nigeria

 In this article you have learnt about the history of agricultural development policies in Nigeria especially concerning the four distinct phases. We have learnt the four distinct agricultural policy phases can be identified in Nigeria, namely:

a)   The first phase spanned the entire colonial period and the first post-independence decade from 1960 to about 1969

b)  The second phase covered the period from about 1970 to about 1985

c)   The third phase started from about 1986 in the structural adjustment period

d)  The fourth was what could be characterized as the post structural adjustment era starting from about 1994.

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