Mitigating COVID-19 effects on farmers: The role of commissioners of agriculture in Nigeria
In Nigeria, agriculture plays a critical role in the economy and remains the key to the country’s economic diversification plan. However, the agricultural sector is facing numerous challenges such as climate change, widespread insecurity, price volatility, poor government policies and the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the already existing problems. This paper reviews the state of the COVID 19 pandemic in Nigeria and its effects on the agricultural sector and outlines the role of commissioners of agriculture in mitigating the effects of the pandemic on farmers with a view to catalyzing sustainable agricultural development in Nigeria. When the first case of COVID-19 was reported in February, 2020, the Federal government of Nigeria took some measures to help curb the spread of the virus. Although, these measures were critical to saving lives, they also significantly caused a disruption in agricultural activities and food systems in several ways such as decline in availability of farm labour and mechanization, limited availability of agricultural inputs, decline in food imports and exports, reduction in food supply, decline in household income and food consumption, increased food insecurity, panic buying and sharp price spikes. This paper suggests that commissioners of agriculture have important roles to play to help mitigate these negative impacts on agricultural livelihoods and food systems. These include a push for a bill to integrate social protection mechanisms into the Nigerian legal framework, lobby for increased budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector, formulation of good agricultural policies and provision of adequate infrastructures, organization of these farmers into farming clusters to help stimulate agglomeration economies by integrating agricultural value chains and development strategies, and frameworks and initiatives that will ensure a seamless transition from emergency response to resilience building.
Key words: Coronavirus disease, government interventions, agrarian development, food production