New Agriculture Policies Drive Agricultural Transformation in Benue and Niger States
Rural development is critical to economic growth and development in emerging economies like Nigeria, where agriculture employs 36% of the working population and represents the largest portion, 23%, of the country’s GDP￼.Recognizing the importance of rural development, the Government of Benue State, a north-central state in Nigeria known locally as the food basket of the nation, instituted its first-ever policy for rural development with support from USAID through the Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity.
In 2021, the Benue State Government—through its Ministry for Rural Development—partnered with the Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity, which works at the local, state and national levels to build confidence in the agribusiness sector by facilitating improved policies, laws and regulations and strengthening the enabling environment for agriculture sector investment. Together, over an 18-month period, they initiated the development of a framework for rural development in Benue State. The Activity and the Ministry designed the new policy from inception to approval, ensuring that the process was inclusive by coordinating several stakeholder engagements and validation workshops along the way.
Governor Samuel Ortom signed the Rural Development Policy into action on December 19, 2022, at the Government House, Makurdi, making it the first policy to focus on rural development in Benue State. He lauded the efforts put into the process, describing the policy as key to curbing rural-urban migration. “This government, under my watch, is interested and deeply concerned with the issues that affect our rural areas where the majority of our people live. This policy will help us tackle the problems of rural-urban migration,” the Governor stated, adding that the policy also helps provide a framework to drive rural transformation, particularly leveraging on the abounding opportunities in agriculture.
In a similar development, the Government of Niger State, another north-central state in Nigeria, approved a state Aquaculture Policy with support from the USAID-funded Activity. Governor Abubakar Sani Bello approved the policy on December 21, 2022, during the executive council meeting in Minna, Niger State, the third agricultural policy instituted by the state with support from the USAID Activity.
Haruna Dukku, the Commissioner for Livestock and Fisheries who spearheaded the partnership with the Activity in collaboration with state-level aquaculture industry actors highlighted the importance of the policy saying, “The aquaculture policy provides a framework to boost aquaculture investments in the state. The policy will ease fish business and showcase the aquaculture potential of the state.”
Acknowledging the progress so far, the Activity’s Chief of Party, Olumide Ojo, noted that the Activity has facilitated over 50 consultative policy and regulatory processes to date, which have strengthened confidence, improved the enabling environment and contributed to the development of 12 approved agriculture-related policies, surpassing the set target of 10. Moving forward, the Activity will continue to support government efforts to provide a conducive regulatory environment that stimulates private-sector growth and ultimately leads to increased access to finance and investments.