Although the Nigerian economy depends significantly on the oil sector, agriculture remains its mainstay. Agriculture contributed 42 percent of Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008 (National Bureau of Statistics). Agriculture is the second largest export earner after crude oil and the largest employer of rural labor; thus, the sector ranks as a key contributor to wealth creation and poverty reduction. However, despite having grown at an annual rate of 6.8 percent from 2002 to 2006—2.8 percentage points higher than the sector’s annual growth between 1997 and 2001—food security remains a major concern due to the subsistence nature of the country’s agriculture (Nwafor 2008).
Many of the strategies used to improve agricultural growth in the past have failed because the programs and policies were not sufficiently based on in-depth studies and realistic pilot surveys (Adebayo et al. 2009). This can be broadly attributed to two factors. First, policies lack public participation in design, formulation, implementation, and evaluation, and therefore, the extent that policies reflect public interest is questionable. As a result, policies deemed important by sectoral ministries are often implemented without open dialogue and discussions among the stakeholders. Second, efforts to implement policies suffer from a lack of appropriate capacity within sectoral ministries and a poor understanding of the specifics by policy implementers. Thus, it is critical to assess Nigeria’s current policymaking and agenda-setting process in order to devise strategies for improving agriculture and reducing poverty (Adebayo et al. 2009).