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1.1       Background to Study

Reducing food insecurity continues to be a major public policy challenge in developing countries. Almost 1 billion people worldwide are undernourished, many more suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, and the absolute numbers tend to increase further, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa (FAO, 2008). Recent food price hikes have contributed to greater public awareness of hunger related problems, also resulting in new international commitments to invest in developing countries agriculture (Fan and Rosegrant, 2008). Global Hunger Index (GHI) ranking of Nigeria as 40th among 79 food deficient countries in 2011, 40th again in 2012, 39th in 2013 and 38th in 2014 remains unacceptably high and has indicated that no remarkable progress has been made from all efforts geared towards hunger reduction (GHI, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014). The GHI Report (2012) further posit that rising food prices, malnutrition and deaths as a result of wide-spread poverty is an indication of the prevalence of food insecurity in the country. It is also a sign of extreme suffering for millions of poor people.

Agriculture is however one of the most important sectors of the Nigerian economy, it contributes more than 40% of the total annual GDP in 2010 (NBS, 2012). The sector employs about 70% of the labour force and accounts for over 70% of the non-oil exports and, perhaps most importantly, provide over 80% of the food needs of the country (Adegboye, 2004 and NBS, 2012). Agriculture provided adequate food for the Nigerian populace both in quantity and quality during the era before independence in 1960. Helleiner (1996), showed that in Nigeria, between 1950 and 1960, food production was at subsistence but self-sufficient level. The economy was experiencing rapid growth of 4.5% between 1958 and 1963, the driving force being a booming trade in agricultural commodities export, growing annually at 5.5%. The first decade of Nigerian independence (1960-1970) opened the way to food shortages as a result of declining agricultural production and increasing population growth rate. The increase in population at a rate considerably higher than the rate of increase in food production has continued to widen the gap between domestic food supply and domestic demand. This disparity has led to rising food prices (85-125% increases in many Nigerian cities) and declining foreign exchange earnings from agricultural exports. The interaction of these factors has led to food insecurity and the idea of self-sufficiency is becoming more and more difficult to achieve due to declining agricultural production and inefficient food marketing system (Helleiner, 1996).

In order to ensure self-sufficiency and food security in Nigeria, a number of agricultural development institutions and reforms were embarked upon by the federal government since 1970. These programmes include: National Accelerated Food Production Programme, NAFPP (1973); Agricultural Development Project, ADP (1975); Operation Feed the Nation, OFN (1976); River Basin Development Authorities, RBDA (1977); National Seed Service, NSS (1977); Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme, ACGS (1977); Rural Banking Scheme, RBS (1977); Green Revolution, GR (1979); Directorate of Food, Road and Rural Infrastructure, DFRRI (1986); National Agricultural Land Development Authority, NALDA (1992); National Fadama Development Projects, NFDP (1992); Nigerian Agricultural Cooperatives and Rural Development Bank, NACRDB (2000); National Agricultural Development Fund, NADF (2002); Commodity Marketing and Development Companies, CMDC (2003), Root and Tubers Expansion Programme, RTEP (2002), and the Food Security Thematic Group, FSTG (2009).

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