Less than two per cent of Nigeria’s 2019 budget was allocated to fund capital projects in the agricultural sector, an official has said.
The budget officer, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development(FMARD), Okosor Oyere, disclosed this in his presentation during the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ consultative meeting on the 2021 Agricultural Budget.
The meeting, which held in Lagos from September 23 to 24, was jointly organised by ActionAid Nigeria (AAN), ONE Campaign, Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) and the Department of Agriculture & Water Resources of the ECOWAS Commission.
It featured 163 participants.
Mr Oyere said the inadequate capital funding has resulted in huge outstanding liabilities committed on critical projects.
He added that the development is at variance with the 10 per cent agreed upon by African Heads of State in the 2014 Malabo Declaration.
According to the organisers, the meeting was called to help the public understand Nigeria’s agriculture promotion policy and its connection to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) targets.
“It is also to strengthen citizens’ participation towards making 2021 Agriculture budget responsive towards food security and wealth creation and to support effective biennial reporting by Nigeria to the African Union Heads of States and Government in line with the Malabo Declaration and Commitments of 2014,” a communique endorsed by fifty organisations at the end of the programme stated.
In June 2014, Heads of State and Governments adopted a set of concrete agriculture goals during the 23rd ordinary session of the African Union Assembly in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, to be attained by 2025.
According to the AU, the “Malabo Declaration” on accelerated agricultural growth and transformation for shared prosperity and improved livelihoods is a set of new goals showing a more targeted approach to achieve the agricultural vision for the continent, which is shared prosperity and improved livelihoods.
The summit reconfirmed that agriculture should remain high on the development agenda of the continent, and that it is a critical policy initiative for African economic growth and poverty reduction.
A PREMIUM TIMES analysis had shown that despite repeated assurances by successive governments, Nigeria has consistently underfunded its agricultural sector, leaving the country at the risk of food insufficiency and slow economic growth.
The country has the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, according to the world poverty clock in 2018. With very low income and insufficient food, Nigeria also has a high number of malnourished children.
Agriculture is recognised globally as one of the most effective tools of reversing this trend. With proper financing, more people can be lifted out of poverty, the country’s GDP will grow faster and the country can easily meet its food needs for its over 200 million people.
However, successive Nigerian governments have failed to invest substantially in agriculture despite calls by experts and international organisations.
Between 2000 and date, Nigeria’s agriculture financing was at its best only during the Yar’adua government, the review by PREMIUM TIMES shows.
In 2008, that administration budgeted N2.92 billion for agriculture which was 5.41 per cent of the total budget, and in 2009, it budgeted N3.101 billion again for agriculture, about 5.38 per cent of the total budget.
“Untimely release of allocations is a hindrance to timely provision of inputs to farmers for effective yield, since agriculture is a time-bound activity, late planting of crops will result in a poor harvest,” Mr Oyere said.
He said the overhead cost in 2019 is 0.26 per cent of the total budget which is not adequate to implement the capital budget and pick up operation bills of the ministry.
While also presenting, FMARD Director, Agricultural Land & Climate Change Department, Ibrahim Mohammed, recalled that Nigeria carried out the 2019 Second Biennial Review on the implementation of the Malabo Commitments and the Africa agricultural transformation scorecard which was presented at an AU summit in February 2020.
He said the review was carried out to evaluate the country’s performance in achieving agricultural growth and transformation goals in Africa based on 47 indicators under seven thematic areas and 23 performance categories
Mr Mohammed said 49 Member States including Nigeria reported on progress in implementing the Malabo declaration during the 2019 biennial review cycle, and that the benchmark set for the 2019 BR cycle for a country to be on track is 6.66.
He said Nigeria’s overall country score was 5.18 and the overall progress was tagged “Not on track”.
In his remarks, Innocent Edache, One Campaign’s Communications and Advocacy Manager, said “we have seen increasing public attention towards agriculture and the food system, and there has been a boost in local rice production.”
He added that the development of another policy that will replace and improve on “the agricultural promotion policy” is in progress.
Mr Edache also said with the incidence of COVID-19, the state of food security could get worse, as new challenges have emerged for the country’s agri-food system.
According to the endorsed communique, some of the key issues observed which needs to be addressed in the 2021 agriculture budget include; the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown on access to markets, as farmers experienced massive post-harvest losses on fruits, vegetables, fresh products, and other perishables.
Parts of the observations made were that those engaged in livestock farming, especially poultry, were faced with lack of access to poultry feeds while fisheries and aquaculture farmers were also affected by the closure or low patronage of hotels and skeletal operations of restaurants.
It was observed that before the emergence of COVID-19, smallholder women farmers were already faced with low and difficult access to credit, essential inputs, improved seeds and seedlings, organic and non-organic fertilisers.
By implication, the spread of COVID-19 has now further compounded the situation as many now have no access at all.
The organisers said with the widespread of the COVID-19, and with Nigeria being a signatory to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), “there is an urgent need for massive and unprecedented investment in the agriculture sector for domestic consumption, rural infrastructural development and export promotion”.
They also recommended that for 2021 and subsequent years, “agriculture budgeting and other policymaking processes, leaders of women farmer organisations and other smallholder farmers, vulnerable groups such as farmers living with disabilities, and CSOs should be invited to every stage of the budget.”
The organisers noted that there should be a political will to allocate at least 10 per cent of annual budgets and actuals of revenues to the agriculture sector with appropriate budget lines in order for Nigeria to be on track in the next biennial report to the AU, among others.