The issue of post-harvest losses remains an immense challenge impacting the agricultural sector of Nigeria, persistently eluding resolutions over the years. Currently, estimations indicate that the annual losses amount to N3.5 trillion, with each state and their Local Councils, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), losing about N94.5b yearly. In light of this, stakeholders at the recent National Stakeholders Consultative Meeting on the 2024 Agriculture Budget, held in Lagos, pushed for the implementation of Community Grain Bank (CGB) as a strategic measure to mitigate the widespread issue of post-harvest losses throughout the country.
A community grain bank is a facility where harvested grains are preserved for later use as planting seed by participating farmers. The banks are overseen by farmers and could as well help reduce the frequency and severity of seed shortages experienced by farmers in rural areas if properly managed. In times of drought, it could also serve as a seed bank. Stakeholders at the meeting suggested that, since larger Staple Crops Processing Zones (SCPZ) are unlikely to reach remote areas, the 2024 agric budget and subsequent years should enhance the promotion of small modular processing and storage facilities in communities as an innovative approach to lowering post-harvest losses.
There is a need to increase production for the initiative to work.
Majority view the initiative as a perfect move, depending upon if the governments at all levels adopt it, as it has the potential to bolster the nation’s ambitions for food security. The former Chairman, Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) – Agric Sector/Managing Director of Bama Farms, Prince Wale Oyekoya, affirmed that the initiative would effectively tackle the prevalent issue of post-harvest losses, which had been a challenge for most farmers. CGB is a kind of storage facility akin to silos, specifically for grains such as maize, sorghum, rice, and various others. However, for the initiative to work, Oyekoya said there is a need to increase production.
This is because there is intense competition for the limited supply of grains on account of both human and animal use. Poultry birds, for example, consume an excessive amount of cereals like maize compared to other animals. Poultry farmers are struggling to make ends meet due to the skyrocketing cost of maize (now at N550, 000 a tonne, up from the average cost of N45, 000 two years ago). This is attributable to the breakdown of several government’s policies in the last two years and a lack of people-oriented policies.
It can be feasible if the government is genuine about it.
He bemoaned the fact that insecurity remained another huge issue for farmers, as many have fled their farms out of fear of being attacked by herders. CGB has the potential to end the country’s food crisis if it is adequately channeled and supplemented with better crops, technology, and fertilizers. When production increases, the country may stockpile more food in silos and grain banks, Oyekoya added. Furthermore, if the government, particularly the state governments, are genuine about this initiative, it is feasible. According to the Land Use Act of 1978, the state government has the authority to control and reserve certain areas for farming use.
Successful implementation of the project requires that state governments and local councils take the lead role. He argued that farming activities should take place locally and in the rural community. According to Mr. Mobolaji Olusola, a farmer in Osogbo, Osun State, who sees this as a positive system that should be welcomed, “it’s been a good success in other countries as farmers are sure of basic sales if they can’t sell their harvests to private sectors with huge cash.” He reaffirmed that the adoption and implementation of grain banks may end the country’s food crisis.
Track record of failed govt policies is a threat to the initiative.
Olusola noted that the banks should be set up in at least every major local council in each state. Any deviation from that, even in the form of bad logistics, would diminish the desired outcomes. However, he voiced concern that the initiative may not be feasible in the country due to the track record of failed government policies and the politicization of government policies in the sector. He predicted that political considerations would kick in, farmers would be owed money, the project would be a white elephant, and a government-private partnership in which the government holds little administrative authority, whereas a single majority stake might be problematic.