By Emeka Nwokocha
Nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) leading a campaign for sustainable development in the agriculture sector of Delta State, have identified inadequate funding, budgetary shortcomings, and bureaucratic bottlenecks as major hindrance to the growth of agriculture in the State; saying that more allocation of funds to the sector would catalyse unprecedented production of agricultural products and improve food security in the state.
The NGOs made the observation at a one day Stakeholders consultative meeting organised by the Environmental and Rural Mediation Centre (ENVIRUMEDIC), in collaboration with the Budget Committee Group (BCG), and supported by ActionAid Nigeria (AAN).
The meeting was held in Asaba, capital of the state, with a view to repositioning the agriculture sector of the state to enhance productivity and boost economic activities within the agriculture value chain.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the NGOs described the forum as a milestone in development of agriculture in the state and Nigeria at large.
The document noted the agenda of the meeting to include x-raying the challenges of Delta State agricultural budget and budgetary processes; reviewing the analysed 2019 approved agricultural budget and noting the funding gaps in the 2017-2019 budgetary allocations to agriculture with a view to increasing allocation to the sector in 2020.
The communiqué identified some shortcomings in the Delta State budgets in the 2017-2019 fiscal years, noting that allocations to agriculture falls short of the Maputo declaration of 10% of total budgetary allocations to agriculture; even as the Youth Agriculture Enterprise Program (YAGEP) did not fall into any budget line item under Job Creation, a development that hinders efforts to ascertain the amount allocated to it in the budgets. Other observations include insignificant increase in budgetary allocation to agriculture in the order of 0.87, 0.90 and 1.06 in 2017, 2018 and 2019,including a meager allocation to gender based projects/programmes.
The communiqué also advanced measures to boost agriculture in the state as follows: an increase in budgetary allocation to agriculture in harmony with the Maputo Declaration; Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Smallholder Women farmers and other key stakeholders should be actively involved in the budgetary process, while transparency in budgetary processes should be prioritized to ease monitoring and tracking; timely release of approved funds to the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources; fast-tracking the ongoing process in the state agricultural policy formulation; maintaining a standard budgeting procedure of zero budgeting which does not give room for Omnibus and Miscellaneous as budget line items; and timely release of approved funds to the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The stakeholders lauded the NGOs for the initiative, saying it would make a huge impact in boosting production in the agriculture sector of the state’s economy.
Present at the meeting were representatives of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Smallholder Women Farmers Network (SHOWFAN), Small-scale Women Farmers Organization of Nigeria (SWOFON), Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources (MANR), FADAMA, Directorate of SDGs, ENVIRUMEDIC and the Media.