BY PETER DURU, MAKURDI
The Middle Belt Small Scale Farmers Network,MIBSSFANET, has commended the Benue state government and the State House of Assembly for enacting the Open Grazing Prohibition Bill to tackle the herdsmen menace in the state.
The Network noted that the law was the panacea to the persistent clashes between pastoralists and farmers adding that it would also ensure the safety of rural dwellers and farmers who were always at the receiving end of such crisis.
Speaking yesterday when the leadership of the Network led by the State Network Coordinator/General Secretary of MIBSSFANET, Mrs. Janet Adejo paid an advocacy visit to the Chairman of the Benue State House of Assembly Standing Committee on Agriculture, Mr. James Gbande in Makurdi.
Mrs. Adejo observed that Benue State was the food basket of the nation with agriculture being the bed rock of the economy of the state.
“Hence the Small Scale farming population constitutes about eighty percent of the total population of the state which produce the foods available in the country, this makes it important to have the law in place to safeguards the teeming farming populace.
She stated that “MIBSSFANET Benue, is a Non-Governmental Organization, established by Oxfam GB in 2004. She has been supporting small scale farmers in areas of Inputs and Micro Credit between 2004-2007.
National Association of Nigerian Traders also supports Small Scale Farmers across the state in Grain Banking and Micro Credit from 2010 till date. Membership of the Network consists over 2,000 farmers across 23 Local Government Area of the state.
“The Network therefore appreciates Benue State House of Assembly and the Governor Samuel Ortom led administration for enacting the grazing law which will ensure the safety of our esteem farmers and their farm produce.”
She however lamented that decades of neglect of the agricultural sector in state had led to poverty among the farming population.
The Network appealed to the government to put some measures in place to tackle the challenges facing small scale farmers in the state including a deliberate policy that would take into consideration the needs of farmers “because farming is no longer subsistence but a business that is used to fight poverty through increased productivity.
“Though we congratulate the Governor Samuel Ortom led administration for achieving over 6.8 percent budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector in the 2017 budget we pray that in future the agricultural budget of the state should be above 2003 Maputo Declaration of ten percent of the state’s total budget.
“We are also requesting for the availability of appropriate affordable and accessible machineries such as Tiller Machine, Planters, Harvesters, etc to reduce drudgery and to improve our farm output and income.
“Though we acknowledge the encouraging level of inputs availability and accessibility in the 2017 planting season. We plead that these inputs should be made available throughout the year so that dry season farmers and early rain farmers could access them as the need arises.
“We appeal that land grabbing for other sectors development should be curtailed, Land Development areas of the state should remain intact and be allocated to especially women farmers as they do not have land right for long term farming.
“Extension services needs to be looked into urgently, more extension workers should be employed so that Small Scale Farmers could benefit from their services to improve and engage in innovative farming methods for improved productivity which increases yield, reduce poverty and ensure food security for Nigerians.
“Government should also provide good road network across the state for easy movement of farm products to markets and warehouses, good health facilities in rural areas and good schools that children of farmers could attend is also of utmost importance to farmers.
Continuing, Mrs. Adejo said “accessible credit facilities should be made available to farmers without much bottle-necks, to enable real farmers benefit from such facilities and at one digit interest rate.
“Irrigation farming also needs the attention of the government, facilities such as water pumping machine should be made available and accessible to farmers at prices that they could afford.
“We urge that dry season farming should also be encouraged so that food production could be carried out throughout the year. This will also mitigate climate change effects as delay and early stoppage of rainfall is noticed all the year round.
“Provision of Ware Housing/Marketing Board for Small Scale Farmers’ products should be made available to farmers in the state and to encourage Commodity Exchange for export of farm produce.
“We want state unequivocally that members of the MIBSSFANET want to partner with the state government and the House of Assembly in order to ensure food availability and security for the state and Nigeria as a whole.
To this end MIBSSFANET has initiated awards for the Governor of the State, his Deputy, the Speaker of the State Assembly and his Speaker, the Chairman State Assembly Committee on Agriculture and the State Commissioner of Agriculture for the bold steps taken to enact the open grazing prohibition law in the state.”
Mrs. Adejo also appealed the to the State Assembly to assist the Network tackle some of its challenges including looking into the organisation’s inability to pay its office rent for four years and to facilitate field visits to render extension services to farmers in the a Network.
In his remark, Mr. Godswill Aguiyi of the National Association of Nigerian Traders, NANT, commended the state government for the bold steps taken to enact the grading law.
Aguiyi said, “we have taken time to talk to farmers in Benue state and they were all of the view that the law was one of the best things to happen to the state since its creation.
“The Voices for Food Security, VFS, NANT and other groups and working and partnering to canvass improved food production which is a human right, we therefore solicit the cooperation of the Benue state government.
“We are also advocating improved investment and budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector which is the only way we can achieve food sufficiency and also endure growth in the sector.”
On his part, the Head of Programmes, National Association of Women in Agriculture, NAWIA, Tavershima Torhemen lamented that though women constitute majority of farmers in the country, they were yet to receive commensurate support to encourage their efforts.
He urged the government to put in place the requisite agricultural policy to ensure proper coordination of agricultural activities and business in the state.
“With an agricultural policy in place, all the necessary structures will be put in place and the funding for the state would witness a huge scale up required to galvanize the sector.” He said.
Also speaking, Dr. Mike Ella, of the Department of Food Science and Technology of the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi and the Middle Belt chapter chairman of Nigerian Institution of Food Science and Technology, noted that the activities of farmers in the country lacked improved coordination.
“We are partnering them to help check the huge post harvest losses recorded by our farmers every year by availing them the framework to improve agricultural value chain in the country.”
Receiving the team, the House Committee Chairman noted that the grazing law recently enacted in the state was a product of the wishes and aspirations of the people of the state “and as a listening government the Legislature partnered the Executive to ensure that the desire of the people were met.”
Represented by the Secretary of the Committee, Mr. Daniel Gever, he assured the team that the state was at the verge of enacting an agricultural policy that would ensure growth in the sector, he enjoined members of the Network to support the government in its quest to properly reposition agricultural practices in the state.
“I can also assure you that all the requests you have tabled before us today will receive adequate attention and due consideration though we must also confessed that the present economic situation has limited the government’s ability to deliver on some of its set targets but as things improve we will