Small scale women farmers kick against reduction of agriculture budget

The Small-Scale Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria (SWOFON) have kicked against the plan of the Federal Government to reduce the budgetary allocation to the agriculture ministry.

Recall that the Federal Government had approached the National Assembly, seeking the reduction of the 2020 budget following the crisis on the global economy as a result of COVID-19 pandemic and crash in oil price.

SWOFON said Nigeria being a signatory to some international declaration know food production is obliged to take steps, to maximize available resources, guarantee freedom from hunger for citizens, improve agricultural productivity as well as improve livelihoods.

Addressing journalists through Webinar, the National President of SWOFON, Mary Ishaya Afan said SWOFON was concerned about small scale farmers, especially of the female gender, who will be very negatively impacted by the budget cuts.

“We recall the proposal by the Executive Arm to amend the 2020 Federal Budget and the cut in the vote of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

“The proposal seeks to reduce the recurrent vote of the Ministry by N721million, from N58.686billion to N57.964billion while the capital vote will be reduced from N124.395billion to N79.012billion, being a reduction of N45.382 billion representing 36% reduction.

“Overall, the sector will suffer a vote reduction from N183.081 billion to N136.977billion, a variance of 25% amounting to N46.104billion.

“Essentially, from the proposed amendment, agriculture’s vote as a percentage of the overall appropriation will be a paltry 1.3%. This is a reduction from the original proposal in the 2020 budget which was 1.73% of the overall budget.

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“We further recall that Nigeria’s Agriculture Policy 2016-2020 provides for increased budget investment and political support for gender mainstreaming and affirmative action in agriculture in the period 2018-2020. Nigeria is a signatory to the Maputo and Malabo Declarations and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme with commitments to dedicate not less than 10% of the budget to agriculture.

“Nigeria is obliged to take steps, to the maximum of available resources, to guarantee freedom from hunger for citizens, to improve agricultural productivity as well as improve livelihoods. Between 2010 and 2020, Nigeria under-invested in agriculture and committed an average of 1.57% of the overall budget to agriculture while actual capital releases averaged 59.72%”, she said.

While expressing fear for the small scale farmers, Mrs Afan said “it will be unconscionable to cut those specific expenditure line items which will benefit small scale women, farmers, especially now that the country is likely to enter a recession.

“In the circumstances, our plea is for an increase in the allocation to agriculture to at least 5% of the overall budget which is 50% of the Maputo commitment. This will amount to not less than N201.1billion. Where this is not possible, then the original proposals in the 2020 budget for Agriculture must be protected”.

She said small scale women farmers contribute significantly to local food production. She noted that women farmers constitute over 60 per cent of the agriculture labour force and provide inputs and functions that are critical to improved livelihoods.

She, however, recommended that “in the review and prioritization of programmes for the 2020 Federal Budget, it is imperative that FGN should not reduce the appropriation to the Ministry of Agriculture. At 1.73% of the budget against the Maputo Declarations’10%; any further reduction will lead to decreased food productivity.

“The National Assembly should increase the allocation to agriculture to at least 5% of the overall budget which is 50% of the Maputo commitment. This will amount to a vote of not less than N201.1billion. Where this is not possible, then the original proposals in the 2020 budget for Agriculture should be protected/maintained.

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