How agricultural census can boost food security
Unless policy formulation and implementation in agriculture is driven by data, Nigeria’s quest food security may remain unattainable.
Indeed experts have insisted that implementation of the National Agricultural Sample Census (NASC) targeted at capturing farming households for proper planning is vital in this regard.
Agricultural census is an integrated system of agricultural statistics with the objective of providing primary data on the structure of the sector, such as size of holdings, land tenure and others, which do not change quickly over time.
According to the recommendation of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the sample census is supposed to be carried out every 10 years, to help government track development within the agricultural sector, but reports have it that it was last done 29 years ago.
Nigeria conducted the last round of the Agricultural Census in 1993/94. Since then, the agricultural data situation in the country has slid backward and can best be described as weak.
According to reports, there has been lack of inter-censual surveys to update the census, hence the need to address the weak agricultural situation in the country.
Experts claim that the NACS would afford farmers opportunity to be listed based on the crops they grow and their livestock. But despite the advantages, the country has failed to conduct the exercise as at when due, basically due to paucity of funds.
The Chief Executive Officer of Green Sahara Farms, Suleiman Dikwa, underscored the importance of the sample census; saying without accurate data, there can never be proper planning.
He said if the Federal Government is sincere, the sample census would address the challenges facing the sector, lamenting that as the case is in Nigeria, the operators of the interventions are the architects of the manipulation of the system.
“A community based resident approach, which collects information and intervenes at the community level, is the solution rather than the third party approach to agro and other interventions.
“Interventions should help to have access to farmers to clear off products on the shelves at the community level, similar to how a farmer purchases other goods and services. The system as it exists is too sophisticated for the rural or smallholder farmer.”
The Assistant Director/Head of Agro-statistics Division, National Bureau of Statistics, Abuja, Bishop Ohioma, explained that data collection has effect in the Nigeria’s quest to attain food sufficiency.
He revealed that there are plans to conduct the NASC soon across all the local councils, adding that the training of trainers exercise is expected to commence this month for a period of 60 days, to look at the farming households.
“The other one is National Agricultural Sample Survey (NASS), and it is supposed to be yearly. The census is supposed to hold every 10 years as recommended by the FAO, the last time it was done was about 28 or 29 years ago. This is because of funds. So, immediately after the NASC, we will commence with NASS, which was done eight years ago. We will select farmers from the list we’ll obtain during the census.”
Ohioma disclosed that the Northern part of Nigeria is always willing to yield information during data collection, adding that statistics has ripple effect in the country’s quest to attain food sufficiency.
“We will also look at the food security situation across all the local councils within the states and we should be able to make recommendations to government. You know government is concerned about the food security situation.
“Statistics is about estimate, it is very easy for us to collect data from the North than in the South. The NASC and NASS will boost food security; the problem we have in Nigeria for policy making is the problem of data,” he said.
The CEO of Green Sahara Farms, Dikwa, however, sounded a note of warning that the exercise may not achieve its goal if right modalities are not adopted.
He said: “On the other hand, the issue is not that of census, but the modality deployed to gather the information.
“If the census is conducted and the same players who compromise the system are engaged to gather the information, then the purpose is defeated. The general census is coming up next year and I assume that occupation will be one of the information required and therefore can serve the same purpose.”