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Cross Section of Participants at the event

 

By Emeka Nwokocha

Frontline nongovernmental organisation committed to strengthening food security through consistent advocacies for an increase in public investment in agriculture in Delta state, Environmental and Rural Mediation Centre (ENVIRUMEDIC), in collaboration with Budget Committee Group (BCG0, has called on Delta State government to allocate more funds to agriculture to boost production in the sector and promote food security in the state.

This call was made via a communiqué put together at end of a one-day consultative meeting of stakeholders in the agriculture sector in Delta state, convened by ENVIRUMEDIC and BCG, on Thursday 22, in Asaba, capital of Delta State, with support from ActionAid Nigeria.

The communiqué stated that the meeting was a forum for conversations among key stakeholders who in turn would make an input into the 2023 agriculture budget. Other objectives of the meeting include: Strengthening citizens’ participation towards making 2023 Agriculture budget responsive for food security and wealth creation; Provide stakeholders, especially smallholder women farmers the opportunity to participate in agriculture policy and budget making processes, and generate key budget line items that support smallholder women farmers.

The communiqué commended Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for their commitment in collaborating with non-state actors, noting that such collaboration improved the civic space and enabled new relationships to thrive, including practical, innovative, and sustainable solutions for the sector. It called for sustainability to ensure more inclusive and responsive agriculture policy and budget-making processes in the state.

Key observations by the communiqué include the following:

“Budgetary allocation to Agriculture in terms of percentage has been below 1.0% which goes to show that allocation to agriculture has never met the Malabo declaration of 10% of total budgetary allocations from the year 2018 – 2022.

“The Nigerian food sector is confronting new emerging challenges such as on-going Ukraine – Russia war with huge effect on prices and availability of staples such as wheat. Other challenges such as increased armed banditry, farmer-herder clashes, climate change, flood, hazardous pesticides, and gender inequality persist without deliberate rethink of our practices and approaches towards our food and nutrition security.

“Despite the challenges facing the Nigerian agricultural sector, the sector remains the largest contributor to Nigeria’s GDP in 2nd quarter of 2022 at 23.3%; beyond the contributions of Trade (16.8%), Telecommunication (15%), Manufacturing (8.7%) and the Oil and Gas sector (6.3%).

“The agricultural sector has the largest potential to lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty.  But regrettably, the late release of fund to the agriculture ministry continues to impede the capacity of the ministry to drive socio-economic development including food and nutrition security within the policy thrust of diversification of the economy around agriculture.

Stella Egedi, Director of Planning, Research and Statistics at Delta State Ministry of Agriculture (left), and Mrs. Martha Onose at the event

“Nigeria’s agricultural sector is largely conventional farming that depends largely on toxic pesticides which are highly hazardous to humans, the environment, and biodiversity and causing a loss in foreign revenue resulting from food export rejection.

Beyond the observations, the communiqué recommended as follows:

“The State Governor and State House of Assembly should Scale Up Public Investment in Agriculture and ensure timely consideration, passage, and total budget releases being a strategic approach to increasing food production, reducing hunger and poverty, and achieving the Maputo/Malabo Commitments.

“As approved by the 44th National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development (NCARD); the three tiers of government should commit 10% of their annual budget to the agriculture sector to meet the 10% Maputo/Malabo Declaration required to support at least 6% growth rate in the sector as postulated in the CAADP framework.

“The Delta State Ministries of Agriculture and other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) should consistently create budget lines to ensure wider stakeholder consultation in the budget formulation and provide continued coordination.

“The 2023 and subsequent years agriculture budget should be gender sensitive and responsive by providing line items for the implementation of the National Gender Policy in Agriculture that addresses specific challenges that affect women farmers as well as avoid lumping up budget for women farmers and other groups such as youths.

 

“The State governments should allocate more public investments to the agriculture sector to address the strategic areas of investments that would increase the agricultural GDP to at least 6%. These strategic areas of investments include: Extension Services, Access to Credit, Women in Agriculture, Youth in Agriculture, Appropriate Labour Saving Technologies, Inputs, Post-Harvest Losses Reduction Supports (processing facilities, storage facilities, trainings, market access, etc.), Climate Resilient Sustainable Agriculture (CRSA)/Agro ecology, Research and Development, Monitoring and Evaluation, as well as Coordination.

“Given the time bound nature of farming activities, agricultural budgets must be released on time and in full to enable farmers plant in due season.

“Delta State Ministries of Agriculture should create a yearly Strengthening Access to Credit budget line: This funding should focus on getting consultants or consultancy firms to support women, youths and living with disability, and cooperatives to be able to navigate the cumbersome access to credit in Nigeria.

“The Delta State Ministries of Agriculture should create a yearly budget line of Support for smallholder women farmers.

“Small modular processing and storage facilities in communities based on different commodities should be a good approach to reducing post-harvest losses in the 2023 agriculture budget and subsequent years.

“Considering the agricultural risk; rising insecurity in farms; farm raiding, cattle destructions, and kidnappers, climate and other natural disasters, farmers are not encouraged to continue farm practices without risk covers. Hence, the state government should promote the enrolment of agricultural insurance policies for smallholder farmers, while challenging the poor security issues that threatens our farms.

Chief Monday Itoghor, Executive Director, ENVIRUMEDIC, speaking at the event

“Delta State should develop its own Agricultural Investment to enable the efforts at the states and local government levels to be recognized in the overall determination of the country’s commitment to the CAADP and enable accurate data for the Biennial Review (BR) Reporting.

“The Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources should begin to develop pesticide policies and legislation that ensure that the most toxic pesticides are prohibited, and phased out in Nigeria, and a significant shift made towards sustainable farm systems like agroecology. To achieve this, the government needs to develop a safe sustainable food strategy that reduces the use of highly toxic synthetic chemical pesticides by 50% by 2030; 25% by 2040, a maximum of 5% by 2050 and support should be given to farmers in their transition to agroecology.

“There is need to strengthen the monitoring of implementation of Agricultural projects in the budget by all relevant stakeholders using an adapted CAADP Results measurement framework and reports documented, shared, and reviewed to enhance learning and improvement in budget implementation.”

25 participants actively participated in the event, including the Commissioners in the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Economic Planning; Permanent Secretary; Director of Planning, Research and  Statistics of both ministries, State House Committee on Agriculture, Director, Crops, Program Manager, Delta state Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (DARDA); State Coordinator Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), the Manager, Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC); representatives of Small-Scale Women Farmers Organization in Nigeria (SWOFON); and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).

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