This study assessed the capacity for designing and implementing agricultural and rural development policies, strategies, and programs in Nigeria. Data for this study were derived from initial consultations at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources (FMAWR), Federal Ministry of Women affairs and Social Development (FMWASD), and the Federal Ministry of Environment (FMEnv) early in 2008. Two consultation workshops were also held, one for relevant staff in the ministries, parastatals, and NGOs; and the other for relevant university professors and researchers. This was followed by a review of relevant literature and a more detailed survey of institutions and individuals. A sample of relevant institutions and individuals were purposively selected from the Federal Capital, Abuja, Oyo, Kaduna, Enugu Ogun, Benue, and Abia States. At each location, trained data collectors compiled a list of state and federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and universities where 32 institutional questionnaires were administered, of which 29 were valid for further analysis. Similarly, 320 individual questionnaires were administered, of which 183 were valid for further analysis. The null hypothesis that job satisfaction and institutional incentive was independent of selected background information (gender, position, years spent on job, nature of institution, and level of formal education) of the experts was tested using the Chi square analysis.
The respondents were mostly male (23 of 24) and were either heads of departments (10 of 24) or directors, their deputies and their equivalents (12 of 24). Most of the respondents (22 of 24) exhibited an indifferent perception to the general environment and processes involved in policymaking. Reported capacity- strengthening efforts (for 13 of the 24 institutions surveyed) amounted to an average cost of US$76.98 per person per day for the 1-3 weeks training provided. While the practice of strategic planning was widespread, mission statements were widely used in only two-fifths of selected institutions; near-term strategies were widely used in about one third; and long-term visions were widely used in a little more than one third. Even the practice of participation in planning from a broad range of personnel within the institution was only widely used in one third of the selected intuitions. Similarly, written guidelines were widely available (22 of 24), but fully disseminated in less than half of the selected institutions. However, respondents claimed that the financial guidelines were being followed strictly, but half of the respondents (12 of 24) did not know the frequency of receiving reports from the accounting system. Most of the selected institutions had both a human resource management unit (70.8 percent) and dedicated staff training centers (54.2 percent), but about half of the respondents neither knew the regularity of review of staff training needs nor when last staff training needs were assessed. The implication of this is that the extent to which the training exercises match the skill gaps of staff and capacity requirements of the institutions were unknown. Between 75–80 percent of the selected institutions engaged in some collaborative programs and linkages with other government institutions, relevant NGOs, international development partners, training institutions, and research institutions. These collaborative ventures worked mainly through cost sharing, exchange, joint engagements, and sharing of reports.
Over 70 percent of the individual respondents (experts) had at least a Master of Science (MSc) or its equivalent. The majority (79.7 percent) were male who had spent more than 10 years on the job. About half of the experts worked with universities, compared to 13.1 percent in the ministries and 37.7 percent in parastatals. Their expertise cut across a broad range of subjects relevant for designing and implementing agricultural and rural development policies— more than one quarter were experts in agricultural economics, extension, communication, rural development, and rural sociology. The most frequently mentioned (51.4 percent) person responsible for agricultural and rural development programs, policies, and strategies was the officer-in-charge, but the list of stakeholders was long and varied.
Over 60 percent of the respondents stated that at least some consultation was done with stakeholders through face-to-face communication at stakeholder fora, meetings, conferences, summits, and talks. According to the respondents, the major concerns of stakeholders about agricultural and rural development policies, programs, or strategies were the extent to which they achieve stated goals. More than half of the respondents claimed that research evidence such as the achievements of previous and on going programs, results of fresh surveys, and extension and On farm Adaptive Research (OFAR) reports were used to support the development of agricultural and rural strategies, policies, and programs. This evidence was obtained mainly from agricultural institutions and universities as well as available reports, journals, and publications. The respondents stated that the major sources of funds for the process of agricultural and rural development policy were the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), The World Bank, state and local governments, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). They also stated that the various agricultural and rural development policies, strategies, and programs largely benefited the poor (52.5 percent). It was noteworthy that respondents preceived that the number of women at the ministerial and research levels of agricultural and rural development was less than 1 percent. Even at the level of rural farming communities, only 15.3 percent of the respondents felt that there were more women. Furthermore, only 27.4 percent of the experts incorporated environmental issues in their work and only 20.4 percent undertook environmental analysis in their work.
Finally, 91.3 percent were indifferent to their job, meaning that it would be difficult for them to perform to the best of their abilities without allowing them greater freedom in the performance of their jobs and work out a reasonable and acceptable reward package for the job done. The results of the Chi square tests showed that the experts’ perception of job satisfaction and institutional incentives is independent of all the background variables considered. The main capacity gaps for designing and implementing agricultural and rural development policies in Nigeria included 1) the need to entrench democratic principles and transparent leadership and 2) to bridge the gap between universities, research institutions, and policymaking and implementing entities. There was also a limited understanding of the relationships between institutional, human, and material resources versus impact of policy on target end-users at every level in the policy design, planning, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. Finally, there was a need for the institutionalization of effective measures for tracking changes in the role of evidence in strategic, gender-sensitive planning, through regular monitoring and evaluation, impact assessment, adequate documentation, and commitment to utilize the results of the exercise. Efforts should also be targeted towards improving the quality, gender sensitivity, timeliness, and circulation of policy-relevant evidence.