With growing population, increasing local food production capacity has become a major challenge for governments at various levels.
One critical level of government, stakeholders feel should address the food security issue, are local government councils.
Experts believe local governments can change the game if they create an enabling environment for the local food production food system, DANIEL ESSIET reports.
There have been so much talks about boosting food production across the country.
The reason for this is not far- fetched – any nation that is not able to feed its citizens cannot claim to have security. Aside this, there is need to prune down the huge foreign exchange depleted yearly on food importation, espaecially when Nigeria has vast arable land.
Increasing local food production has become a major challenge for governments at various levels, but experts say grass root planning of food production should be encouraged. They said the 774 local government areas in the country should be encouraged to boost production.
To this end, farming will strive when the elected bodies charged with administrative and executive duties in matters at the local government levels take farming seriously.
Of the 774 local government areas, 700 are based in the rural areas.
This implies that a larger percentage of the populace lives in the rural areas and therefore depends solely on agriculture for sustenance. However, experts have expressed concern over the poor state of agriculture within the local government councils.
Observers agree that with the poor attention to agriculture developmentin the local councils, growth in the foreseeable future could be threatened.
Project Director, Cassava Adding to Africa (CAVA), Prof Kola Adebayo, has expressed concern over the absence of strategic plans in the agric sector to ensure that local government chairmen commit efforts and resources towards implementing agric projects and programmes.
He said local councils could help to boost food security if they outline a strategic sector plan for agriculture and implement them.
Like the state governments, he said local government, though inadequately funded, should be able to give a clear picture of where they want agriculture to be in the long term.
For this to happen, he said local government councils need action plans, key performance indicators, service delivery standards, monitoring and evaluation systems and time lines in order to realise the integrated strategic plan.
This will also require them to do things differently—with greater speed and urgency and in partnership with farmers, agribusiness, non-governmental organisation (NGOs), and other government departments.
He lamented that inadequate funding still remains the main impediment to successful implementation of agricultural programmes, adding that it is responsible for lack of delivery and implementation of a wide range of government policies, regulations and programmes undertaken at the local government levels.
If properly funded and given sdirection, Adebayo said a local government council’s agric department level, should be able to provide farming inputs, technical assistance and value addition.
He said the quality and efficiency of services delivered by local government councils’ agric department is important in achieving competitiveness in the sector.
For this reason, he said a new service delivery guideline should be drafted in order to increase the responsiveness and accountability of local government councils’ agric department to farmers’ and agribusinesses’ needs.
He also decried the lack of infrastructure in the rural areas. This, he said has resulted in these areas not being attractive for investment. to address this, he called for measures that will lead to briging the infrastructure gaps, adding that attention should be given to rural towns and agric service centres.
A Consultant to the World Bank, Prof Abel Ogunwale, said local population needs more and better roads to improve their lives and help give a much-needed boost to the farming industry.
He decried the trauma farmers go through when it rains, adding that there were instances trucks get stucked in the mud due to poor rural road network.
Ogunwale said the bad state of the roads across farming communities is a national problem that takes its toll on vehicles conveying produce from the farms.
Deterioration of the roads in the rural areas, he noted, has stood in the way of agricultural production, adding that it has hampered plans to expand food production nationwide. He urged local government councils to resolve roads and transportation problems