Land Deals and Commercial Agriculture In Nigeria

Land Deals and Commercial Agriculture In Nigeria: The New Nigerian Farms in Shonga District, Kwara State

Joseph A. Ariyo and Michael Mortimore

Nigeria’s long standing agrarian policy was to transform the entire peasantry of smallholders in the country into modern farmers producing for export (palm oil, cocoa and groundnuts) and national food security (the ‘subsistence’ sector). This was a common thread linking a succession of interventions in the agricultural sector under both colonial and post-colonial governments (Mustapha and Meagher, 2000). The oil boom, however, together with an over-valued exchange rate, brought about the collapse of groundnut and palm oil exports. Official statistics appeared to show a decline in the output of staple foods during the 1970s, indicating a ‘crisis’ in food sufficiency, thought to have been provoked by cheap food imports. But projections of mounting deficits were brought into question by evidence that production kept pace with population growth from 1970 to 1982, and that urbanization and the growth of internal markets were responsible for this (Forrest, 1993). This contradiction in perspectives has continued since the introduction of structural adjustment in 1986 and the implementation of numerous interventions (e.g., ‘Operation Feed the Nation’) by military governments. The strategies involved the provision of rudimentary rural infrastructure, skeletal extension services, education through radio and television broadcasts, occasional credit schemes (of very meagre amounts) and annual rituals of input distribution (in pitiable quantities). In a few places irrigation projects were established and targeted at specific communities (linked in government rhetoric with the need for drought adaptation). Rhetoric and intentions were only rarely matched by the persistence and scale of interventions.

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