President Muhammadu Buhari recently said at an interactive session in the USA that Nigeria’s agricultural revolution has created over 13 million direct and indirect jobs.
However, employment in the country’s agricultural sector as a share of total employment has been decreasing since 1991, according to data from the World Bank.
The most recent data from the World Bank shows that employment in the sector as a percentage of the country’s total employment slowed from 37 percent in 2015/2016 to 36 percent in 2017/ 2018, and down to 35 percent in 2019.
Similarly, Nigeria’s unemployment rate is at 33.3 percent as of Q4 2020, based on data from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), up 220.2 percent from the 10.4 percent that it was in Q4 2015, an indication that it has been on the rise.
“First, I don’t know how they got the metrics. The sector’s trajectory has been going down, and prices have been rising. All the indices are not right, so I don’t know where the jobs are,” African Farmer Mogaji, CEO of X-ray Consulting said. “Are they online jobs?” he asked.
According to Mogaji, the president has again been misled about the true activities of the sector, as they have been giving him wrong data and misinformation from reality for a long time.
“President Buhari has meant well for the agric sector and Nigeria’s food security, but unfortunately, his presidency has been surrounded by people who have continually misled him,” Mogaji added.
The main programme of the Buhari-led administration to revamp the sector is the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP).
The scheme, targeted at making Nigeria self-sufficient in rice, fish, wheat, palm oil, and other commodities has been heavily linked with corruption.
The sector has remained the biggest employer of labour in the country, however, the jobs are yet to make a substantial economic impact and transform farmers’ lives.
The sector hasn’t created jobs to the tune of 13 million as claimed by the president and the ones created are mostly petty jobs – which are jobs that are unable to lift farmers out of poverty and drive growth and development.
This is evident in the sector’s growth over the last eight years which is slowing down.
At the end of 2016, the first full calendar year of the Buhari’s presidency, data from the NBS showed that the agric sector grew by 4.11 percent, but the following year, 2017, growth rate slowed to 3.45 percent, and in 2018, slowed even further to 2.12 percent.
In 2019, the agric sector grew by 2.36 percent; it slowed to 2.17 percent in 2020 and further slowed to 2.13 percent in 2021. Experts expect the growth for the sector to further decline when the full year for 2022 is released.
The sector grew by 1.34 percent (year-on-year) in Q3 2022, which represents a marginal increase of 0.12 percent from the corresponding period of 2021.
The continuous slow sectoral growth, however, implies that the government’s intervention has not been effective enough to yield the required outcomes, and analysts say a major impediment is their inability to address lingering issues limiting productivity.
“We have good policies, but implementation is the problem,” said Ibrahim Kabiru, national president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria.
According to experts, lots of people who came into the sector owing to the renewed focus by the Buhari’s administration have since exited due to lingering challenges limiting productivity in the sector.
David Ibidapo, head of market data and research at AFEX Commodities Exchange, said the country’s unemployment rate is still high and may become worse owing to inflation and the projection of a slow growth of the global economy.
Data from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) show that Nigeria has failed to make appreciable efforts in increasing its farm yields, as Africa’s most populous nation still records the lowest yields per hectare among its peers.
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For rice, the average yield per hectare in Nigeria is 1.93 metric tons (MT), whereas Kenya is 7.28MT, Ghana – 2.97MT, South Africa- 2.84MT, and Ethiopia- 3.33.
Similarly, for maize, which is the most consumed grain on the continent, Kenya’s average yield (1.52MT) is lower than Nigeria’s (2.12MT) while Ethiopia’s average yield for the crop is 4.24MT per hectare, Ghana, 2.69MT, and South Africa’s average yield is 5.41MT per hectare.
Also, for potatoes, which is the most well-rounded and nutrient root crop, Nigeria’s average yield per hectare is 3.81MT, Ethiopia- 13.43MT, Kenya- 9.82MT and South Africa- 37.2MT.
Folorunsho Olayemi, lead consultant and chief executive officer at Sammorf Agro-Consult Limited, said that figures on employment do not corroborate with the reality on the ground.