Research is a critical enabler to economic growth and development with its relevance cutting across the policy process. Its role cannot be over emphasized especially as a developing nation with a rapidly increasing population where agriculture plays a vital role in the economy, not only because it employs about 70% of her total population but also due to its position as the bedrock of the economy, more importantly, is its resources needed for agro industries to run. Research assists in ascertaining and finding out varying inputs, adopted technologies tools, techniques in addition to newest ways to combating issues relating to pests and diseases as well as coming up with pest, disease and drought resistant crops in addition to new techniques in biotechnology derived from agricultural products. Thus to attain a state of sustainable agriculture is to utilise the role of research and its results as a source of information and regulation needed to formulate a policy.
The most current Agricultural policy is the Agriculture Promotion Policy (APA), a four-year plan (2016- 2020) which was initiated to close notable gaps that existed in the previous plan of Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) which was in place from 2011-2015. Significantly, most of the initiated policies and plans all placed research in its initiation, planning and implementation stage. However, gaps such as short policy lifespan, military coups leading to a lack of continuity, corruption from embezzlement, misappropriation of fund, low and unpredictable research budget, shortage of technical staffs, lack of continuity and undefined research objectives have often truncated past agricultural policies which in turn leads to the need for further research. Consequently, there are fifteen research institutes established to come up with induced policies which further corroborated the need and importance of research in the agriculture sector.
New policies usually stem up from the weakness and gap that exist from previous policies because planning, initiation and execution are usually carried out without involving the stakeholders. For instance Anyanwu (1997) observed that most of the government policies on agricultural have failed to address the issues of land tenure system, provision of adequate agricultural facilities to farmers, access to micro agricultural credits, access to markets for the sale of agricultural provision of agricultural education to rural farmers on mechanized farming, among others. Eze et al. (2010) also noted that access to credit is a problem for all farmers and is particularly acute for a poor farmer. This can vividly be attributed to inadequate research processes adopted as well as the inability to carry respective stakeholders along.
The first process in formulating an agricultural policy is to develop the required policy agenda that is unique to gaps identified in previous policies. The role of research here will entail identifying case study scenarios, ascertaining key stakeholders, field experiment planning, primary and secondary data source, survey methods, quantitative and qualitative methods to adopt, review of research and its cost benefit.
The second process will comprise identifying the specific policy objective. The role of research here involves identifying and classifying existing problems to formulate objectives that will guide in the process of coming up with a policy. This can only be achieved by carrying out intensive reconnaissance survey and field study which will involve all stakeholders within the agricultural value chain. Identified objectives are further evaluated to arrive at a specific scope of research. Afterwards, research on selecting key stakeholders, key informant and results from expert judgment will be used in making two recommendations to be forwarded to policy and law making bodies such as the country’s national assembly for possible passage of the law.
After legislation and enactment of policy, it is sent to the executive arm for immediate implementation. At this stage, the policy is formulated to provide agricultural communities and other decision makers with needed recommendations and actions geared at resolving all agricultural problems.
The last process is monitoring, evaluating and carrying out an impact assessment on end users of the formulated policies. The role of research in this process is very critical as it involves establishing the true situation on the ground. This will only authenticate the viability and success of the policy being formulated. Here, feedbacks from farmers, agricultural institution and other stakeholders in the entire value chain will determine the impact assessment level of the agricultural policy.
Amongst all other things, the role of research in agricultural policy process involves multiple stakeholders from farmer groups, investors, processors, lenders, civil servants, academics amongst others. The framework enables identified stakeholders to provide detailed input, commentary, and support necessary in narrowing down gaps in previous policies.
It is worthy of note that problems usually trigger the need for research. Nigeria as a developing country has been faced with energy problem which has lingered over time. Fortunately, research in the agricultural sector has been able to provide a solution with the advent of biotechnology in the area of biogas and biofuel as an alternative energy source from agro biodegradable biomass in which my work fits into.
Since the current Agriculture Promotion Policy (2016-2020) is based on four go-forward federal priorities which are; food security, import substitution, job creation and economic diversification with a partnership with the various State Governments. Hence, alternative source of energy owing to the non-utilization of agro wastes and over dependence on hydro-power and gas for power generation is expedient. This is possible as related research reveals that abundant animal wastes generated can be converted to useful products using anaerobic digestion which represents a strategically vital step away from reliance on fossil fuels whilst contributing to the development of a sustainable energy supply and enhanced energy security in the long-term which can be integrated in formulating policies aimed at encourages alternative energy source and economic diversification.
Anyanwu, J.C. et al (1997) The Structure of the Nigerian Economy (1960-1997). Onitsha: Joanee Educational Publishers Ltd.
Eze, C.C., Lemchi, J.I., Ugochukwu, A.I., Eze, V .C., Awulonu, C.A.O and A.X. Okon (2010). Agricultural Financing Policies And Rural Development In Nigeria. A Paper presented at the 84th Annual Conference of t he Agricultural Economics Society, Edinburgh 29th To 31st March
About the Author
Kehinde Richard Fashua is a graduate of geography, passionate citizen, writer and an environmental enthusiast whose imagination often gets stirred up by nature’s dynamism. His driving point is whatever contributes to the development of humanity.