3 January 2013

Nigeria: Allocate 10 Percent of Budgets to Agric, Govts Told

Governments at all levels in Nigeria have been told to key into the global practice by allocating nothing less than 10 per cent of their budgetary allocations to agriculture.

Also, the public and private sectors were urged to synergise to promote transparency and accountability in the distribution of fertiliser and other agro allied products across the federation, to ensure better productivity in 2013.

The calls were contained in a policy brief on food security issued by the Christian Rural and Urban Development Association of Nigeria (CRUDAN) South West Zone, faith-based Non-governmental organisation (NGO), and signed by Mr. Adesina Adeduntan.

The policy brief was developed based on the organisation's findings from the programmes it had organised in the last one year with CSOs and CBOs, especially on Policy and Legislative Advocacy Work.

After exhaustive deliberations, the body observed that too often, governments are not transparent and consistent in ensuring input accessibility.

"There is always policy somersault at all tiers of government. This has provided weak institutions that are not able to have a grip on a particular implementation regime on agricultural related issues. The involvement of CSOs in the activities of States Agricultural Development Programme is inadequate.

"There is a serious marginalisation for small scale farmers and women on issues related to accessibility of loans, fertilisers and other key developmental initiatives. Sharp practices and political patronage caused by unnecessary interferences are identified as the major monsters that frustrate efforts at ensuring food security in Nigeria", CRUDAN noted.

Among other recommendations, governments at all levels were urged to ensure harmonisation in policies and free the distribution of agricultural inputs from the interference by politicians, and to make provision for leasing of mechanised farming implements for actual farmers, particularly those who are in the medium and small scale.

CSOs/CBOs in all states of the federation were enjoined to reach out to the legislators and all relevant government MDAs towards ensuring a holistic approach to food security concerns. Governments were also advised to ensure that adequate infrastructure/facilities are in place to increase the processing, marketing and value addition of farm produce and curtail rural/ urban migration.

"Stakeholders should facilitate adequate facility/loan (funding) support to small scale farmers without collateral to strengthen and scale up further interest in agriculture and boost agricultural production. This could also be through the bank or cooperative groups.

"The CSOs and CBOs and all relevant stakeholders should embark on the use of nutritional education as a means of ensuring that healthy food cuts across class and status, thereby securing it and eradicating poverty in the rural communities.

"The government should ensure that standard procedure for fertiliser distribution is in place to actual farmers as well as develop synergy with relevant agencies in ensuring proper accountability in distribution. Government should intensify afforestation as a critical tool to mitigating land degradation and strengthen its tree planting policy", the brief added.

According to the body, government should encourage the use of organic manure along with the conventional distribution of fertiliser. "Nationally, Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs) should develop standard procedure for identifying and training of extension workers in all Local Government Areas. Government should harmonise all existing policies on agriculture and sustain them to ensure agricultural transformation.

"Food security is one of the most urgent issues facing Africa today. The Nigerian agricultural sector is stagnant, and food production, which is mainly subsistence-oriented, lags behind the already low growth of agriculture in general. Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest land and labour productivity rates in the world.

"Support from governments, donors, and international financial institutions is key to promoting the transformation of farmers' practices. Socioeconomic and policy environments must be created to enable farmers to invest in their soils and spur the private sector to invest in input and output market development", the organisation concluded.

CRUDAN has as its members - Churches, Christian Organisations and individuals that are engaged or interested in development work in Nigeria. It began operation in 1991 and was officially registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission on December 7, 1992.

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