1.1 Background Information
Nigeria is a country with great natural and human resource endowments. According to Ayoola (2009), Nigeria is a country that covers 98.3 million hectares with a largely rural population of about 150million comprising 350 ethnic nationalities. The country measures 1200 kilometres (km) from East to West, and about 1500km from North to South. Nigeria is blessed with other natural resources such as petroleum and solid mineral deposits. The water resources consist of large water bodies of surface water (268 billion cubic metres), underground water (58 billion cubic metres) and an extensive coastline coupled with an annual rainfall in the range of 300- 4000milimetres per annum. These features imply that the country is endowed with vast physical and human resources required for accelerated development of its agricultural economy.
However, despite Nigeria’s great resource endowments, Nigerians are among the poorest people in the world (UNDP, 2005; Nsikakabasi and Ukoha, 2010). In spite of oil wealth and revenues amounting to over 300 billion US Dollars since 1970s, Nigeria is still a poor country where per capita income averaged only $1075 in 2009 (Central Bank of Nigeria, 2009). Since non-oil export receipts are small, export revenues are greatly influenced by oil and gas prices. Government’s fiscal policy that depends on oil and gas prices fluctuates in line with these prices. The major challenges facing the country are stabilizing expenditures and ensuring the government’s ability to meet social and human development goals (UNDP,2008). The human development report by the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP (2005) revealed that Nigeria is one of the poorest among poor nations of the world. With a human poverty index HPI-1 value of 38.8%, Nigeria is ranked 75th among 103 developing countries. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (2005), about 52% of Nigerians are living in poverty and about 70million people live on less than 1US dollar a day.
Dauda (2002) reported that poverty in Nigeria, like in other developing countries has a predominantly female face and that women in the rural areas of the country suffer the harshest deprivation and are extremely vulnerable to poverty. According to the author, of the one million adults who have no access to basic education, 60% are women. Furthermore, women are particularly disadvantaged since over 68% of female headed households are living in poverty. The International Monetary Fund (2004) observed that Nigeria has significant gender inequalities in women’s labour market participation, remuneration, health and human capital, with indicators for women being recorded as substantially lower than those for men are. Women in Nigeria are likely to be poorer than men and have fewer options for escaping poverty. Widows are more vulnerable to poverty than widowers as a result of patriarchal property rights and inheritance practices. Furthermore, since women have less formal education than men, they tend to be disproportionately confined to lower return, low productivity, and employment in the informal economy with limited ability to escape poverty through employment. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (2001), more than 50% of the population is affected by HIV/AIDS, and 50million Nigerians majority of them women and children suffer from a combination of protein energy malnutrition, vitamin A deficiency, iron deficiency anaemia, and iodine deficiency diseases. The apparent improvement in growth indices since 2004 is yet to be translated into welfare improvement for Nigerians, a situation that Eboh (2011) termed ‘jobless growth’.
One of the major causes of poverty in Nigeria is the decline in agricultural productivity consequent to over dependence on oil. Prior to the discovery of oil in the 1970s, agriculture was the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, accounting for about two-thirds of the gross domestic product (GDP) and 75% of export earnings (Ayoola, 2009). From the standpoint of occupational distribution and contribution to GDP, agriculture was the leading sector. During this time, Nigeria was the world’s second largest producer of cocoa, largest exporter of palm kernel and palm oil, Nigeria was also a leading exporter of other commodities such as cotton, groundnut, rubber, and hides and skin (Ogen, 2007). With the oil boom, agriculture’s contribution to GDP declined to about 25% by 1980, later moved up to 41% by 2001-2004. Consequently, Nigeria moved from being a large exporter to a major importer of agricultural products (CBN, 2005; Yusuf and Adenegan, 2008). The low agricultural output has led to the poor performance of the food subsector as food demand became higher than food supply. This has induced high increases in the country’s food imports from about N8billion in 1996 to over N183billion in 2005, and increased the prices of major staple crops in the country (CBN, 2005). Other causes of poverty include the insufficient and poorly distributed GDP growth in combination with high population growth and inadequate job creation to absorb the growing labour force, volatile oil revenues, weak governance and corruption which have continually hindered public sector initiatives to reduce poverty(IMF, 2004; United States Agency for International Development, 2007).
In recognition of the critical role of agriculture to the country’s economic development, many Nigerian governments introduced various measures to boost agricultural production and alleviate poverty in the country including the Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs). Most of these programmes have failed to produce the desired results ( Idachaba, 1991; Nnadozie and Nwanu, 2002, Ogwumike, 2009). According to Eboh (2011), in spite of successive progammes, the economy remains undiversified and highly skewed, as crude oil still accounts for more than 95% of total export revenues and up to 80-85% of government revenues, but contributes less than 4% of total employment. Agriculture’s contribution to GDP is presently about 41%. Ogwumike (2009) explained that the major reasons for failure of poverty alleviation efforts in Nigeria include programme inconsistency, poor implementation, corruption of government officials and public servants, poor targeting mechanisms, and the inability to focus directly on the poor ( in terms of identifying the poor and the nature of their poverty). He further explained that sustainable poverty reduction in Nigeria would require the proper identification of the poor (their characteristics and survival strategies) as well as a multi pronged approach in tackling the poverty problem given its multidimensional nature.