The Small-Scale Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria (SWOFON) on Monday urged the Federal Government to allocate more funds to agriculture as a critical sector, as it reviews the 2020 budget.
SWOFON’s President, Mary Afan, made the call in a virtual briefing with newsmen.
Afan noted that with the shortage of revenue occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic and the drop in global price of crude oil, the review was necessary.
“We also know that increased public investments in critical sectors such as agriculture, are required to lift the binding constraints on the poor and more importantly on women farmers’ productivity.
“This will better position the economy on its path to resurgence from the imminent recession.
“We are saying, therefore, that reducing the agriculture budget by any margin at all, is the wrong option.
“Rather, government should undertake a reprioritisation of sectors in a way that involves reprogramming funds to critical sectors such as agriculture,” she said.
Afan said, “We recall the proposal by the executive arm to amend the 2020 federal budget and the cut in the vote of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
“The proposal seeks to reduce the recurrent vote of the Ministry by N721million from N58.686 billion to N57.964 billion, while the capital vote will be reduced from N124.395 billion to N79.012 billion, being a reduction of N45.382 billion, representing 36 per cent reduction.
“Overall, the sector will suffer a vote reduction from N183.081 billion to N136.977 billion, a variance of 25 per cent, amounting to N46.104 billion.
“Essentially, from the proposed amendment, agriculture’s vote as a percentage of the overall appropriation will be a paltry 1.3 per cent.
“This is a reduction from the original proposal in the 2020 budget, which was 1.73 per cent of the overall budget.
“In the review and prioritisation of programmes for the 2020 federal budget, it is imperative that the government should not reduce the appropriation to the Ministry of Agriculture.”
She said the reprogrammed funds should be used to meet the various needs of the Smallholder women farmers, whose contributions were critical to food security in the country.
Afan noted that there should be a review of the COVID-19 intervention fund criteria for women farmers, to be able to access it.
“It should be taken through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, who knows the farmers, especially the Smallholder women farmers.
“None of the women farmers who are Smallholders across the 36 states have benefitted from the intervention credit facility to cushion the effect of COVID-19 by the government through the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“We are still hopeful, and so, we will press on till we can access the loans,” she said.
The group advocated the implementation of affirmative action and gender mainstreaming among other demands, to address the challenges facing its members. (NAN)