Unless policy formulation and implementation in agriculture is data-driven, Nigeria’s quest for food security could remain elusive.
Indeed, experts have insisted that the implementation of the National Agricultural Sample Census (NASC) aimed at capturing agricultural households for proper planning is vital in this regard.
The agricultural census is an integrated system of agricultural statistics whose objective is to provide primary data on the structure of the sector, such as the size of holdings, land tenure and others, which do not change rapidly over time.
According to the recommendation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the sample census is supposed to be carried out every 10 years, to help the government monitor the evolution of the agricultural sector, but the reports say it was last performed 29 years ago.
According to reports, there has been a lack of intercensal surveys to update the census, hence the need to address the country’s fragile agricultural situation.
Experts say the NACS would provide farmers with the opportunity to be listed based on the crops they grow and their livestock. But despite the benefits, the country failed to complete the exercise to completion, mainly due to lack of funds.
The General Manager of Green Sahara Farms, Suleiman Dikwa, underlined the importance of the sample census; say without accurate data, there can never be good planning.
He said if the Federal Government is sincere, the sample census would address the challenges facing the sector, lamenting that, as is the case in Nigeria, the operators of the interventions are the architects of the manipulation of the system. .
“A resident community-based approach, which collects information and intervenes at the community level, is the solution rather than a third-party approach for agricultural and other interventions.
“Interventions should help gain access for farmers to remove products from the shelves at the community level, in the same way a farmer purchases other goods and services. The system as it exists is too sophisticated for the rural farmer or the small holder.
The Deputy Director/Head of Agri-Statistics Division, National Bureau of Statistics, Abuja, Bishop Ohioma explained that data collection is having an effect in Nigeria’s quest to achieve food self-sufficiency.
He revealed that there are plans to conduct the NASC in all local councils soon, adding that the train-the-trainer exercise is expected to start this month for a period of 60 days, to screen farming households.
“The other is the National Agricultural Sample Survey (NASS), and it is supposed to be annual. The census is supposed to take place every 10 years as recommended by the FAO, the last time it was fact, it was about 28 or 29 years ago. It’s because of the funds. So immediately after the NASC, we will start with the NASS, which was done eight years ago. We will select the farmers to from the list that we will obtain during the census.
Ohioma revealed that the northern part of Nigeria is always willing to provide information when collecting data, adding that the statistics have a ripple effect in the country’s quest to achieve food self-sufficiency.
“We will also be reviewing the food safety situation in all local state councils and should be able to make recommendations to the government. You know that the government is concerned about the food security situation.
“The statistics are an estimate, it is very easy for us to collect data from the North than from the South. NASC and NASS will enhance food security; the problem we have in Nigeria for policy-making is the data problem,” he said.
Green Sahara Farms CEO Dikwa, however, warned that the exercise may not achieve its objective if the right modalities are not adopted.
He said, “On the other hand, the issue is not the census, but the modality deployed to collect the information.
“If the census is carried out and the same actors who compromise the system are hired to collect the information, then the goal is defeated. The general census will take place next year and I assume that the profession will be one of the information required and therefore can serve the same purpose.