BY PETER DURU, MAKURDI
The Middle Belt Small Scale Farmers Network, MIBSSFANET, have cautioned that the country would likely witness food shortages as a result of the recent flood disaster that ravaged substantial parts of Benue state which produces large quantity of the major food crops consumed in the country.
Coordinator of the MIBSSFANET, Mrs. Janet Adejo sounded the warning yesterday in Makurdi at a one day Validation/Consultation of 2017 Benue Agric Budget organized by her organization in collaboration with the National Association of Nigerian Traders, NANTS and Oxfam.
“The flood was indeed a devastation for over 80 percent of Benue farmers, our rice farms, cassava, tomatoes, soya bean, millet and yam farmers including livestock breeders have all been affected. Our barns were all swept away by that flood.
“We do not know how we can get out of the situation we have found ourselves if the Federal Government does not come to assist us with all the needed support because the situation is beyond the state government.
“We all know that the mainstay of Benue economy is agriculture and majority of our farmers are small-scale farmers, who produce for the country and in view of this we are prepared to engage the government to ensure that provision are made in the budget to take care of the needs of small holders farmers who might not be beneficiaries of the Anchor Borrowers Scheme of the Federal government.
“Moreover we are also advocating that our farmers engage fully in dry season farming so that we can produce and augment for part of the losses we incurred in the disaster.
On his part, Godswill Aguiyi of the National Association of Nigerian Traders and led paper presenter at the meeting, lamented that the agricultural sector had suffered neglect hence the need to advocate improved investment and budgetary allocation to the sector.
He said “We are under the Voices for Food Security, VFS, platform with the believe that when we put our voices together we can advocate for change in policy and effective investment in the Agriculture sector.
“The core objective of the project is to improve the quality and quantity of investment in the agric sector.
“We believe that the sector is under funded, therefore we as small scale farmers are canvassing increased investment in the sector. In doing this we want to ensure appropriate targeting of farmers by ensuring that government provides the necessary implements and inputs that would boost the sector.
“We are therefore gathered here and in the course of our meeting we will be doing shadow budgeting in the various zones, and already we have listed some of the priority areas ahead of the 2018 budget so that as we intensify our advocacy, some of the issues raised would be reflected in the 2018 budget.
“We have already done an analysis of the 2017 budget where we highlighted a few things in order to show that the agric sector is not adequately funded. We are advocating that government should prioritize the sector through improved funding.
“We have also touch on a few things like the Anchor Borrowers Programme and some of the things that the people should do on their own including gathering information that will help them go into agriculture fully as a business to improve their livelihood.
“I must state unequivocally that budget implementation even at the federal level has been very poor, state level is also the same. But we know that many states are finding it difficult to pay salaries due to the present economic realities and development is affecting everybody.
“Despite that, we believe that we should have a plan. Government should have an agricultural policy that should ensure the execution of projects in that sector.
“We should also begin to look inwards because if agriculture is prioritized, that would help in driving the sector irrespective of the economic realities.
“We hope that in 2018, most of the uncompleted project that were listed in the 2017 should be taken care of.
“We are also hope that with the full implementation of that budget we will get a one stop shop where farmers can go and get access to inputs. In Benue state farmers are eager to have that.
“It is also disheartening to know that some of the small scale farmers collected loans and could not pay back because most of them had their farms destroyed during the herdsmen crisis.
“These are issues that the Benue government should tackle decisively so that we can have a bigger and better food basket of the nation in this part of the country.
We will therefore intensifying our advocacy to ensure that we enjoy sufficiency in food production in the country.”
On his part, Mr. Abel Ode, Benue state President of Middle Belt Small Scale Farmers Network, lamented that farmers were worst hit by the recent flood devastation in the state.
According to him, “we are yet to quantify the losses we recorded in that disaster but I can tell you that its is in the region of billions of Naira and the fact is that we are faced with a looming food shortages because of the development.
“We are therefore urging the federal government to come to the aid of Benue farmers to help us cushion the adverse effect that came with the disaster because our cassava, yam, rice and several other crops were all washed away leaving us with nothing to fall back to for survival.
Also speaking, the Benue state Secretary of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, AFAN, Alhaji Ibrahim Ndabagi, who described the workshop as apt and timely commended the Benue state government for its rapid intervention to arrest the devastating effect of the flood in the state.
He however cautioned farmers to always take due notice of any farm land they intend to cultivate on, “in order to avert a self inflicted disaster in the advent of torrential rains.”
Ndabagi stressed that his association was already partnering the state government to ensure that farmers enjoyed the benefit of their labour and investment in the sector.
The AFAN Secretary recalled that the 2003 Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa stipulated that10 percent of the total government’s budget a government should be dedicated to agriculture.
“The question is how far have we fared on tthe provisions of that agreement.
“It was for this reason that we are gathered here today. I recall that we recently held a marathon meeting in Benue state where we prepared a policy document for Benue state to ensure that we get it right in the state.
“We therefore laud the state government for taking that proactive step to better position the sector for steady growth and development.” He added.