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Nigeria’s agricultural sector still dominated by subsistence farming; as farmers call for more

Abuja, Nigeria. November, 2016 –Latest public opinion poll results released by NOIPolls Limited has revealed that more than 9 in 10 Nigerians regard agriculture sector as one of the most viable means of driving the nation’s economy positively and pulling it out the current recession. It is unarguable that Nigeria’s economy is tied to accruable revenue from the oil sector, but with the current free fall of crude oil prices, diversification is necessary for the revival of the country’s economy and agriculture has been tipped as one of the sectors with great potentials.

Nigeria with its abundant arable land and over 160 million people, combined with its ability to grow a broad range of agricultural produce can become a leading agricultural power in the continent. Although 78 percent of respondents disclosed that they or their immediate family members engage in farming, only 15 percent indicated that they are involved in commercial farming. Additionally, 35 percent specified that they are engaged in subsistence farming while 50 percent mentioned that they are involved in both subsistence and commercial farming. The implication of this is the unavailability of cash crops like groundnut, cocoa, rubber, palm oil produce, etc. for export purposes.[1]

Furthermore, out of the 78 percent who said that they are involved in farming, 83 percent stated that they grow staple crops, 28 percent say they grow vegetables, while 20 percent engage in poultry farming. This could be ascribed to the large number of people who are currently combining subsistence and commercial farming due to the high demand and consumption for staple foods.[2]

Despite being endowed with abundant natural resources and substantial agricultural potentials, the Nigerian farmers are faced with enormous challenges as revealed in this survey. Lack of fertilizer is tipped as one of the major challenges farmers face as stated by (61 percent) of the respondents, lack of agricultural loans (35 percent) and high costs of farm inputs (21 percent) were also mentioned as issues hindering their efforts. To cushion these effects, 51 percent opined that farmers should be provided with enough incentives in form of fertilizers, improved seedlings, etc. and 48 percent advocated agricultural loans to farmers while 13 percent encouraged the provision of mechanized farming equipment to farmers to enhance the growth of agriculture in Nigeria. These were some of the key findings from the Agriculture Poll conducted in the week of November 1st, 2016.

Brief Background

Agriculture encapsulates all farming activities, crops, poultry and livestock and before Nigeria discovered oil, agriculture was the major hub of the country’s economy providing more than 70 percent of employment and resources in the country, 75 percent of our foreign reserve was also derived from agriculture[3]. Agriculture played a dominant role in the economy of Nigeria in the past but the discovery of oil in 1958 created a shift and a loss of interest, leading to a neglect of the agriculture sector[4]. With the dwindling oil prices across the globe, coupled with Nigeria’s economic afflictions, stakeholders have advised that the nation’s sources of income be diversified listing agriculture as one of the viable means of the economic diversification goal.

Nigeria’s agricultural capability equips it as a strong contender in the global agricultural market place nevertheless its vast potentials remain untapped. Although there have been concerted efforts by successive Nigerian governments to ensure consistent food production and introduce modern technology into the agricultural sector, as well as reforms (the Operation Feed the Nation, the Green Revolution and the Structural Adjustment Programme) aimed at increasing productivity in the agricultural sector, a lack of sustainability has made it impossible to achieve these goals. Millions of Naira has been disbursed for the introduction of modern technology into the Nigerian agricultural sector with the purpose of improving food, livestock and fish production so as to make sure that food production in Nigeria is boosted but this dream was short-lived as it failed to keep pace with the growing population of the country.

In view of this, NOIPolls conducted a survey on agriculture in Nigeria to ascertain the level of Nigerians involved in agriculture activities and to measure its viability as one of the alternatives regarding the nation’s economy diversification.

Survey Findings

The survey results revealed that a large proportion of the respondents (78 percent) admitted that they or their immediate family members engage in farming and residents from the North-East zone accounted for the highest number of respondents (88 percent) who asserted to this statement. This could be attributed to the assistance given by the World Bank and other international agencies for the improvement of agricultural activities in the area.[5] On the other hand, 22 percent claimed that they are not engaged in farming.

Furthermore, out of the 78 percent who engage in farming activities, 35 percent stated that they are involved in subsistence farming; respondents aged 60 years and above had the largest proportion in this category, implying that it is mainly senior citizens or retirees who have a form of garden around their homes where they grow crops mainly for consumption. Also, commercial farming was mentioned by 15 percent of the respondents and the South-South zone had the highest percentage (21 percent) in this category. The South-South region of Nigeria is covered by a body of water from the Atlantic Ocean makingthe land very fertile and also providing abundant aquatic resources which creates sufficient prospect for agricultural activities to flourish.[6] Nigerians aged between 36 – 60 years were the majority who stated that they engage in commercial farming. In addition, 50 percent of the respondents stated that they engage in both subsistence and commercial farming.

Subsequently, the survey sought to find out the kind of agricultural activities Nigerians are involved in and the largest proportion (83 percent) of the respondents reported that they grow staple foods. This is followed by 28 percent who stated that they grow vegetables, suggesting that most people who are engaged in subsistence farming combine staples and vegetables which are in high demand and therefore quite marketable. Other agricultural activities that were mentioned include poultry farming (20 percent), livestock farming (15 percent) and plantation farming (12 percent) among other assertions.

The poll result also revealed that a vast majority (61 percent) of Nigerians, irrespective of the type of farming they engage in, cited lack of fertilizers as one of the major challenges disrupting their farming activities. The North-East (84 percent) and the North-West (83 percent) zones had the largest proportion of respondents who disclosed this. News reports revealed that the military placed restrictions on the movement of urea fertilizer for security reasons due to the activities of the Boko Haram insurgency in some North-Eastern and North-Western states as the product was one of the ingredients used in the production of explosives.[7] The second major challenge mentioned is the lack of agricultural credit mentioned by 35 percent of the farmers. In the course of this survey, most farmers asserted that they lack the collateral needed to borrow from the agricultural loans available, especially the small holder farmers. The South-South zone had the highest number (59 percent) of respondents who attested to this as the zone is prominent for huge commercial farming like Oil Palm and Rubber plantation farming which would requires a lot of money to finance. Other hindrances that impact the agricultural activities according to the respondents were cost of labour (21 percent) and lack of access to mechanism (15 percent) amongst others.

Respondents’ awareness was assessed on agricultural programmes within their locality and the findings showed that 71 percent of Nigerians are not aware of any agricultural programmes in their area. However, 29 percent claimed to be aware some agricultural programmes in their area.

In ascertaining the view of Nigerians on the effect of the agricultural sector on the country’s economy, responses revealed that almost all the respondents (94 percent: 39 percent + 55 percent) agreed that the agricultural sector can boost Nigeria’s economy and this is buttressed by the evident leap in the sector. The Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) in one of its recent report stated that the agricultural sector’s contribution to Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) has increased from 23.86 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 to 24.18 percent[8] in 2016. They therefore opined that agriculture is generally providing good returns on investment and should be given a special focus to salvage the nation’s economy.

Lastly, the opinions of Nigerians were gauged on best possible methods to nurture the growth of agriculture in Nigeria and findings revealed that incentives in the form of fertilizers, seedlings etc should be given to farmers as stated by a majority (52 percent) of respondents. It can be inferred that the shortage of fertilizers earlier mentioned a challenge faced by 61 percent of farmers could be one of the reasons most of the respondents advocated for this.

In the same vein, 48 percent were of the opinion that there should be agricultural loan provisions to the farmers to enable them increase their inputs and boost their harvests. Also, 13 percent advocated for the provision of mechanized farming tools which have been proven to enhance high yield. The loss of farm produce, especially the perishable goods was also mentioned as 5 percent of the respondents stated that storage facilities should be provided.

In conclusion, the recent poll results revealed that 78 percent of Nigerians are involved in one farming activity or the other with 50 percent of them engaging in both subsistence and commercial farming. The report also showed that a majority of Nigerians (94 percent) are of the opinion that agriculture is capable of rescuing Nigeria from its current economic recession, boosting the economy by producing jobs and adding to nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) predicament thereby returning the country to its leading agricultural power.

In summary, 61 percent of Nigerian farmers have pointed to lack of fertilizer as one of their major challenges, therefore, a large percentage (52 percent) of the Nigerian populace had advocated that incentives like seedlings and fertilizers should be given to farmers while 48 percent support a form of loan to farmers, especially the small holder farmers.

With a nation currently in recession and looking to diversify and a looming global food shortage, combined with vast arable lands and the ability to produce various crops from different regions in the country, Nigeria is primed to become a world contender in the agricultural space if adequate measures as highlighted above are put into place. Favorable policies must be formulated, implemented and enforced to enable the nation harness its agricultural potentials, drastically reduce the dependence on oil, provide desperately needed jobs and generally improve standard of living. The impending coordinated investment in the sector is capable to transform Nigeria into a major global agriculture hub.

Survey Method

The opinion poll was conducted in the week of November 1st 2016. It involved telephone interviews of a random nationwide sample. 1,000 randomly selected phone-owning Nigerians aged 18 years and above, representing the six geopolitical zones in the country, were interviewed. With a sample of this size, we can say with 95% confidence that the results obtained are statistically precise – within a range of plus or minus 3%. NOIPolls Limited is the No1 for country specific polling services in West Africa. We conduct periodic opinion polls and studies on various socio-economic and political issues in Nigeria. More information is available at


This press release has been produced by NOIPolls Limited to provide information on all issues which form the subject matter of the document. Kindly note that while we are willing to share results from our polls with the general public, we only request that NOIPolls be acknowledged as author whenever and wherever our poll results are used, cited or published.

NOIPolls hereby certifies that all the views expressed in this document accurately reflect its views of respondents surveyed for the poll, and background information is based on information from various sources that it believes are reliable; however, no representation is made that it is accurate or complete. Whilst reasonable care has been taken in preparing this document, no responsibility or liability is accepted for errors or fact or for any views expressed herein by NOIPolls for actions taken as a result of information provided in this report. Any ratings, forecasts, estimates, opinions or views herein constitute a judgment as at the date of this document. If the date of this document is not current, the views and content may not reflect NOIPolls’ current findings and/or thinking.

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