By Olasunkanmi Akoni
The World Bank has committed a lump sum of N37.5bn ($250million) into the FADAMA III agriculture development project just as it commended the Lagos State Government for its effort in ensuring the project gets to the grassroots.
World Bank Country Programme Coordinator of the FADAMA III project, Poonam Gupta revealed this on Wednesday in Lagos when she paid a courtesy visit to the State Commissioner for Agriculture and Cooperatives, Enoch Ajiboso.
Gupta while commending the initial commitment of Nigeria towards the project at the take off, however lamented that implementation has not been encouraging blaming the situation on the local governmentsâ€™ delay in releasing funds.
â€œNow is the time that the implementation must pick up. This is a very critical time for the FADAMA project. I really hope that everybody must put hands together and ensure that implementation picks up because without implementation there wonâ€™t be the results we are looking forâ€, she said.
She however noted that the trend was not because of the local governmentsâ€™ lack of commitment to the project but the limited resources at their disposal
The problem is not that they are not committed but when the resources are tight, you would want to hold on to the one you have as long as you can.
She however urged the state government to give support to the local governments and monitor closely to ensure the aim of the project is achieved.
She also added that the World Bank was looking towards reducing the evaluation period of the from 2 years to 6_8months saying that Nigeria has what it takes to realise the goals of the project within a short time.
She also charged states facing challenges of executing the project to report to the World Bank adding â€œwe need your support, nevertheless, hold us accountable if we are delivering the right implements to your farmers, thatâ€™s the only way to foster resultsâ€.
Gupta also commended the Lagos State Governor, Mr.Â Babatunde Fashola for spearheading the success story of the FADAMA project in the state adding that the World Bank has huge interest and concern for development in the state.
She recalled Fasholaâ€™s visit to Washington last year, revealing that the world has come to appreciate the value of the development story in Lagos.
Responding, Ajiboso said that the state would continue to give the project all the necessary support revealing that the state governor has made food security top priority in the state.
â€œWe are the smallest state in the federation in terms of land mass, but we have decided to do all we can to boost agriculture, because we believe that if we feed Lagos, Nigeria would be peacefulâ€.
On the challenges at the local government level, the commissioner noted that the attitude of the councils towards releasing funds was not surprising, however expressed optimism that the trend would change with the recent approval of the state counterpart fund by the governor.