By Oscarline Onwuemenyi
Small scale farmers in Nigeria , under the auspices of the United Movement of Small Scale Farmers have urged the Federal government to ensure proper and fair disbursement of the N600 billion agriculture intervention fund towards rejuvenating the nationâ€™s comatose agricultural sector.
It also warned against possible â€œhijacking of the fund by so-called big farmers who produce nothingâ€ at the expense of the small scale farmers who actually produce the food and crops that are consumed in the country. The group said this on Tuesday at the public presentation of a research paper, â€œInvesting in Poor Farmers Pays: Rethinking How to Invest in Agriculture, organised by Oxfam International, in Abuja.
The Chairman of the union, Mr. Musa Jatau, who described the intervention as a welcome development but called for a rethink of the disbursement formula, further noted that agricultural activity in the country had suffered due to low investment and poor access to credit bysmall scale farmers.
He said, â€œSmall scale farmers in the country have been at a great disadvantage even though they are the real farmers who have no other business than to farm; they are the ones who are greatly impeded by poor funding and investment in the agricultural sector.â€ Jatau said the intervention fund should be effectively channeled to empower small scale and low-network farmers, as well as the provision of inputs for optimum yields in the agricultural sector.
The UMSSF said small scale farmers, who constitute more than 90 per cent of the farming population in Nigeria , should have access to at least 60 per cent of each of the intervention facilities at federal and state levels as opposed to the 20 per cent earmarked for SSF with 80 per cent for commercial farmers.
The group added that marginalised groups â€“ particularly women â€“ also need to be at the heart of the any new agricultural policy and sustainable economic development.
Jatau further called on the government to set up a national agency for small scale agriculture development which should immediately undertake a national survey of small scale agriculture, needs and capacity assessment of small scale agriculture and design a national response strategy and development plan for small scale agriculture in the county.
In the meantime, the Interim Country Director of Oxfamâ€™s International in Nigeria , Mr. Ayodeji Ajayeoba, has warned that underinvestment and bad agricultural policies by past governments and international donors have exacerbated chronic poverty and hunger for millions of people in the continent.
Ajeyeoba who argued that additional investment must also be spent wisely, noted that, â€œOne in three Africans is now affected by food crises. Investing in agriculture is part of the long-term solution to the food, financial and climate crises.â€ He added, â€œThe economic collapse is changing the way that people suffer from hunger â€“ food is available but it simply costs too much for millions of people to afford. African Union leaders must commit to more investment in small scale agriculture to break the current dependency on the global market.
Oxfam International is a confederation of 13 like_minded organizations working together and with partners and allies around the world to bring about lasting change.