By Charles KUMOLU
VOICES for Food Security, VFS, has called on Acting President Goodluck JonathanÂ to direct the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources and other relevant agenciesÂ to draw up a contingency plan to mitigate the impact ofÂ lower rainfall asÂ predicted by the National Meteorological Agency.
It also maintained that public investment in agriculture meets the minimum 10 per cent benchmark of national budgets contained in the Maputo Declaration, saying it would ensure food security in Nigeria.
In a statement by its National Coordinator Mr. Osaro Odemwingie, the group restated the need for the enactment of a Right to Food/Food Security legislation and inclusion of a Right to Food clause in the ongoing review of the 1999 constitution.
According to VSF, â€œUse your good offices to cause the necessary Ministries, Departments and
Agencies of government (including the Ministries of Finance and the Budget Office) to undertake an upward review of the provisions for agriculture under the 2010 budget.
Given the importance of agriculture and food security to the 7 point agenda of this administration, Vision 202020 and the MDGs, conduct a comprehensive assessment of the performance and capacity of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources and its departments and agencies.â€
In addition VFS said, â€œ the recently released report from the National Meteorological Agency titled: â€˜2010 Seasonal Rainfall Forecastâ€™. The report forecasts that rainfall will generally start late and end early this year, and that the volume of rainfall on the average will be lower than normal. There are grave implications in this for agriculture and in particular for small scale agriculture.â€
The group however stressed the need to discontinue direct involvement of government MDAs inÂ conjunction with organisations of small_scale farmers agricultural activities, such as procurement of hardware, noting that they restricted to providing the enabling environment for genuine investors, including smallholder farmers.
â€œWe want guarantee access to inputs, credits, fertilisers, equipment, seedlings, extensions
services, climate change adaptation and mitigation information and support services, and markets for small_scale agricultural produce within a harmonised, integrated and comprehensive policy framework,â€ it stated.
Continuing, the group said, â€œThe Voices for Food Security group is also calling for the establishment of an agency to cater to the specific needs of smallholder farmers in particular and small scale agriculture in general.
From various research studies, sponsors of the VFS campaign have broad perspectives on the challenges of food security in Nigeria. These have come from a study on national agriculture budget and studies localized to a limited number of states, namely: Kano, Katsina, Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Ekiti, Oyo and Ogun states.â€