By Chimezie Godfrey
The Small Scale Women Farmers Organization in Nigeria (SWOFON), has appealed to the Federal government not to cut the budgetary allocation made to agriculture in the 2020 Appropriation Act.
In a virtual press briefing on Monday, the National President, Mary Afan expressed concern that budget cut on agriculture will have adverse affect on small scale women farmers in the country.
“SWOFON is most seriously concerned about small scale farmers, especially of the female gender, who will be very negatively impacted by the budget cuts.
“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.
Afan noted that Agriculture is key to Nigeria’s economic recovery, as it contributes 25.2% of Nigeria’s GDP.
She stressed that improved investments and returns in the agriculture value chain in a plethora of crops and animals, will facilitate the diversification of the economy, create not less than a million jobs, and improve revenues for government and citizens.
According to her, small scale women farmers contribute significantly to local food production, and that women farmers constitute over 60% of the agriculture labour force and provide inputs and functions that are critical to improved livelihoods.
She pointed out that the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, which Nigeria is signatory to demands equality in agriculture, not just in terms of laws and policies but substantive equality in results and investment of public resources.
The SWOFON President decried that the 2020 budget contained many vague and inappropriate budget line items, with no clear deliverables which needs to be re-allocated to more pressing areas in this time of resource scarcity.
She therefore cautioned the federal government and National Assembly against attempts to cut the allocation to the ministry of agriculture, and that any further reduction will lead to low food productivity.
“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,” she said.
She urged the National Assembly to reprioritize some of the expenditure items in the 2020 vote to agriculture to make them functional and specific to the needs of Nigerians.
Afan also urged government to organize smallholder women farmers into groups of registered business names and companies to give them formal visibility to participate in formal business activities and benefit from government programmes, among other recommendations.