Transformation from Subsistence to Commercial Agriculture in Nigeria: The Effects of Large-Scale Land Acquisition on Smallholder Farmers

Transformation from Subsistence to Commercial Agriculture in Nigeria: The Effects of Large-Scale Land Acquisition on Smallholder Farmers

Abiodun E. Obayelu (Federal University of Agriculture – Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7405-9.ch021
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Agriculture is in critical state in Nigeria with domestic food production being less than the growing population. The chapter analyzes the ongoing transformation of subsistence agriculture to commercial in Nigeria and the attendant effects of large-scale land acquisition on small-scale farmers. It uses both theoretical and empirical research designs with direct interviews of relevant stakeholders and case studies. It reviews past and present policies and programs aimed at transforming agriculture from subsistence to commercial in Nigeria. The results reveal that large-scale land acquisition and farming is not new in Nigeria. Acquisitions of land by foreigners has always been with the help and consent of government, unlike the case when it involves indigenous investors. Acquisitions have in most cases been characterized by conflicts between the landowners or tillers and investors. To transition successfully from subsistence to commercial agriculture, there is a need for strong collective actions between the depraved land owners, government, and investors.
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Nigeria having over 170 million people is an agrarian country largely dominated by non-commercial farming (Otilola, 2010, NBS/CBN, 2006). Agriculture occupies a priority status in the national economy acting as a driver of growth, wealth creation and poverty reduction (Ogbalubi & Wokocha, 2013) .The country has a long standing agrarian policy to transform the entire peasantry of smallholders who cultivate less that 5 hectares into modern commercial farmers producing for export and national food security (Ariyo & Mortimore, 2011). Agricultural commercialization entails the production of crops and livestock for sale, for widespread distribution to wholesalers and retail outlets, storage, processing, export and local market and enterprise development. The process of transformation of agricultural sector which is dominated by poor small-holder farmers who are solely engaged in subsistence production to commercial agricultural production in Nigeria has led to acquisition of vast tracts of land by wealthier foreign and private investors. Large land acquisitions became widespread in developing countries such as Nigeria after 2007(Ojikutu et al., 2012) and the phenomenon has now become a subject of global discourse (Von Braun & Meinzen-Dick, 2009; Cotula et al., 2009; Zoomers, 2010; De Schutter, 2011). Africa countries are the most targeted region where over 60% global foreign land deals have taken place (Brüntrup, 2011; Deininger et al., 2011; Osabuohien, 2013) even though empirical studies on large-scale land acquisitions are just emerging (Osabuohien, 2014; Cotula, et al., 2009,). The newness and the secrecy surrounding land acquisition deals make it evaluations difficult (Hallam & Cuffaro, 2011). A study notes that 29 million of the 56 million hectares of land (51.8%) sought after by foreign investors globally is located in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) (Deninger et. al., 2011). Countries in SSA are characterized by abundant but uncultivated land; poor records of rural land tenure, lacking institutions to protect the vulnerable groups are attracting the most interest (Deninger, et al., 2011).

Past administrations in Nigeria after her independence in 1960 have made series of agricultural revival strategies and programs targeted at different activities in transforming the agricultural sector in a manner that makes the country self-sufficient in food (Monye-Emina, 2009) but with little success. As part of government intervention programs to transform agriculture from subsistence to commercial, foreign investors are encouraged by the state and federal government to come and invest in the country. As a response, many companies, private individuals and foreigners acquired large areas of arable land from the rural poor in different parts of the country for agro-fuels and food production (Land Matrix Portal, 2012). At present, there appears to be widespread concern over how some states in Nigeria are colluding with foreign investors to dispossess the people of their land for agro-fuels and food production (Attah, 2013).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Land Grabbing: The large-scale acquisition of lands between 10,000 and up to 500,000 hectares through lease, concession or outright purchase by the public or private enterprise or individual from the locals in the name of promoting agricultural investment, provision of housing estates and industrial revolution in an unfair manner.

Land Deals: Commitments on investment on land during acquisition.

Potentially Available Land: Is currently non-cultivated area suited for cropping that is non-forested, non-protected, and populated with less than 25 persons/km 2 .

Land Law: The form of regulation that deals with the rights to use, alienate, or exclude others from land.

Foreign Investor: A person who is not a citizen of Nigeria; a company in which more than 50 percent of the shares are held by a person who is not a citizen of Nigeria; [or] a partnership in which the majority of partners are not citizens of Nigeria.

Land Governance: A process and institution by which land, property and natural resources are managed.

Large-Scale Land Acquisitions: Acquisitions (whether purchases, leases or any other means) of land areas over 1,000 ha.

Land Matrix: A global and independent land monitoring initiative that promotes transparency and accountability in decisions over land and investment.

Rural Lands: These are areas containing farms, forests and scattered houses, exclusively outside of the Primary Service Area, where a lower level of public service delivery exists or where utilities and urban services do not exist and are not planned for the future.

Subsistence Agriculture: A self-sufficiency farming in which the farmers mainly focus on growing enough food to feed themselves and their families’ .and sold just little left.

Commercial Agriculture: A large-scale farming geared toward production of crops and livestock for commercial purposes with widespread distribution to wholesalers or retail outlets.

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