Some farmers in Nigeria have faulted the replacement of the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme with the Agricultural Implements and Mechanisation Services (AIMS).
GES was introduced by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan through his Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Akinwunmi Adesina.
The current minister, Audu Ogbeh, on May 10 announced the replacement of GES with AIMS.
But farmers, who spoke with NAN in Abuja on Wednesday, faulted the change.
Daniel Okafor, Vice President of Root and Tubers of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), expressed regret that government continues to formulate policies without seeking views of end-users.
“There is always a policy somersault. This government will bring this one and when another person comes, they will bring another one whether it is good or not.
“If we continue waiting for the government, we might not farm. We cannot continue waiting for policies but if they want to make any policy, let them carry farmers along.
“The most important thing is to know why the scheme was changed and what they are trying to achieve.
“We will rather prefer the government to amend what the previous government did instead of bringing a new one.”
He, however, appealed to the federal government to involve them in the implementation of the new scheme, AIMS.
“Are farmers going to benefit from AIMS in terms of mechanisation services and distribution of inputs? If yes, then, there is no problem. What we need is for them to implement it and carry farmers along,’’ he said.
Tunde Arosanyin, National Coordinator, Zero Hunger Farmers Association of Nigeria, described the electronic wallet system of the GES scheme as fantastic, but noted that it recorded some gaps in the area of farmers’ capturing.
He recalled that under that system, old women farmers from Kwara, Kaduna, Imo and Oyo States got text messages on their phones requesting them to come and collect inputs in some centres without knowing any of the officials.
Mr Arosanyin, also the National Technical Adviser of AFAN, called for the modification of the GES scheme during the AIMS programme implementation.
“How will the percentage of the subsidy be captured, how will they identify farmers, are they going to use the initial platform of the GES?
“While coming up with a policy, it should be bottom top approach, when you make policies, you should involve farmers.
“Farmers should have been involved in a roundtable on the modification of input subsidy scheme.
“People cannot just sit in their offices and make a policy for a farmer in Damaturu, Abakaliki, Oyo, Gboko. You have to engage them to know the best way to do things,’’ he said.
Noble Adaelu, National President, Concerned Youths Empowerment Association of Nigeria (CYEAN), also expressed regret over the sudden replacement of the GES scheme, which he said impacted the lives of many farmers across the country.
Mr Adaelu called for a holistic approach to tackle challenges in the agriculture sector.
Nkiruka Nnaemego, the Chief Executive Officer, Fresh and Young Brains Development Initiative, suggested that AIMS should address identified challenges of the GES.
Mrs Nnaemego, who said that small scale farmers were being faced with mechanisation challenge, expressed optimism that the new programme will address the challenge.
“If AIMS is strengthening GES and not starting a different programme, it will be very good. The GES was actually helping farmers with agricultural input and fertiliser.
“The AIMS will be good if it is implemented.
“The challenge of small scale farmers, especially for youth and women, is mechanisation. My advice to the government is to continue in the strength of the GES. There were certain things that worked well during the GES scheme.
“There was a Public Private Partnership (PPP) approach but I didn’t see more involvement of the young people in GES.
“I will expect that with the mechanisation services of AIMS, will involve young people. The government needs to look at the pros and cons of the previous scheme to see how they can strengthen it now,’’.
Mr Ogbeh had said AIMS would include the distribution of quality and subsidised inputs to farmers at various centres at the local government level, as well as mechanisation services to farmers.