A civic group, ActionAid Nigeria, has called on government at all levels and banks in Nigeria to increase their funding of the agriculture sector and to ensure early release of funds to farmers.
This was the consensus on Monday at a stakeholders meeting in Lagos on the 2019 Agriculture Budget. Participants at the meeting organised by the Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning, ActionAid, Oxfam and ECOWAS agreed that the current two per cent of the federal budget allocated to the sector is inadequate.
The allocation is below the 10 per cent benchmark recommended by the African Union at a summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in June 2014.
At the summit, Heads of State and Government adopted a set of concrete goals to be attained by 2025 in the agriculture sector in the continent.
The summit reconfirmed that agriculture should remain high on the development agenda of the continent, saying it is a critical policy initiative for African economic growth and poverty reduction.
Speaking at the meeting in Lagos on Tuesday, ActionAid, a civic group, advocated an increase and early release of funds to farmers.
The group said sustainable increased funding will have a multiplier effect on agricultural production and help reduce poverty level.
According to the group, agriculture is a sector that helps in fulfilling the fundamental human right to food.
Fielding questions from journalists after the meeting, the International Project Manager, Public Finance for Agriculture of ActionAid, Constance Okeke, stressed the need for consistent funding in the sector.
“If you don’t allocate enough public finance to agriculture at the same time not giving the citizens the right to provide food, it is like an infringement on their fundamental human rights,” Ms Okeke said.
She said Nigeria is not on track on achieving the Malabo benchmark of 10 per cent budgetary allocation to the sector, noting the nation only allocated two per cent to the sector.
“Each country is expected to have a 3.9 average benchmark for being on track for the seven thematic area of Malabo’s target. The recently reviewed biannual review shows that Nigeria scored 3.4 and currently not on track. Out of the 7,we are doing well in two and we are doing well in Africa intra trade ” Ms Okeke said.
Also speaking, Manson Nwafor, an economist from the ECOWAS Commission, said there is no justification for government to allocate two per cent to three per cent to the sector.
Mr Nwafor said there is need for farmers to have access to agriculture loans, while noting that commercial banks as at 2016 gave only three per cent of their loan facilities to the sector.
“The funding of the sector is too low when we consider that poverty is our major problem. 60 per cent of the poor are farmers. So it is impossible to eradicate poverty and neglecting the farmers,” Mr Nwafor said.
A director from the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Sam Eloho, said the meeting was another landmark at ensuring food availability and security for Nigerians.
Mr Eloho, who was represented by Sola Oloyede, said the government target is to ensure that no Nigerian goes to bed hungry.
“Indeed , the target is making Agriculture a commercial or business activity through science,” he said.