Land deals and commercial agriculture in Kwara State, Nigeria

Joseph Ariyo and Michael Mortimore

Alma du Bello University; independent

Nigeria is increasingly been seen as an important motor of agricultural growth in West Africa, and beyond. Contemporary debates about appropriate policy models echo past discussions about the relative merits of smallholder led approaches and large scale commercial agriculture. There is an increasing policy emphasis on the support of large-scale farming, with a range of incentives to encourage acquisition of and investment in land.

High profile efforts include the attraction of Zimbabwean and South African commercial farmers, and the allocation of substantial areas of land on 25 year leases in Kwara state in particular. Zimbabwean farmers in particular have been allocated 1000 ha plots and have started cassava production, aimed ultimately for an export market, alongside dairy farming and other commercial activities.  Such colonist farmers are expected to provide a model for wider uptake by a new business oriented commercial farming elite in Nigeria which will lead a major agricultural revolution, providing food for growing urban populations in Nigeria and the region.

The aim of this study will be to document a series of cases of land acquisition for large-scale commercial farming, both new and old, and compare the experience, performance and impacts of these. The aim will be to situate the study within the larger debate about trajectories of agricultural commercialisation in Nigeria and provide some solid empirical evidence on the potentials and pitfalls of the now much-favoured option of supporting – often with extensive enticements and subsidies – the large-scale farming route for Nigerian agriculture. The focus of the case studies will be the Guinea savannah area of the ‘middle belt’, an area which is suggested to have much unexploited economic potential for agricultural commercialisation. It will focus on Kwara state, and address three trajectories of commericalisation: recent colonist farmers from southern Africa; older Lebanese investors; and new Nigerian commercial farmers.