By Peter Okutu – Abakaliki
Representatives of Ebonyi State Public Financing for Agriculture, PFA Budget Committee, Participatory Development Alternatives (PDA), and the Small-Scale Women Farmers Organization in Nigeria, SWOFON, weekend called on Ebonyi State Government to immediately address the challenges facing smallholder Women farmers in the 2022 budgetary allocation or through a supplementary budget in 2021.
The group which carried out a vivid analysis of the 2021 budgetary allocation as it concerned the Agricultural sector enumerated the challenges of the women farmers to include lack of access to credit facilities, poor extension services, lack of access to land, inequality in labour conditions, and access to opportunities.
Briefing the newsmen on “Enhancing Food Security in the State with support from ActionAid Nigeria”, at Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, SMEDAN’s, office, Abakaliki, Mrs Nmenna Nkama, Secretary, SWOFON, Ebonyi Chapter emphasized that the challenges facing the women farmers had “undermined their very high level of productivity” in the State.
She further recommended that: “Considering the immense contributions of smallholder women farmers in the agricultural sector, it is important the State Government create specific budget lines for them, allocating not less than 15% of the total agricultural budget to them.”
According to her, “Findings from the analysis of Ebonyi State 2021 Agriculture Budget show that the percentage allocation to agriculture sector decreased from 4.3% in 2020 revised budget to 1.61% in 2021 thus, making a percentage reduction of 2.7%. This is far from the 10% Malabo Commitment of 2014 and attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1 (End Poverty) and SDGs – 2 (Zero Hunger and Food Security.
“However, the spread of COVID-19 has further worsened the situation of women farmers, as they are left to suffer the adverse effect of COVID-19. Since planting season for farmers is approaching, it is important for the State Government to provide the required support to smallholder women farmers for them to produce food in order to avoid the looming food crisis.
“There should be a political will to allocate at least 10% of annual budgets and actual of revenues to the agriculture sector to increase the realization of the Malabo benchmark. Moreover, given the time bound nature of farming activities, agriculture budgets should be released on time and fully to enable farmers to plant on time.
“There should be a scale-up of investment in types of public spending that has been shown by evidence to yield better economic incomes. These include support for smallholder farmers, especially women and youths in Agriculture, Promotion and Development of Value Chains, Agricultural Finance/Credit, Agricultural Insurance, Growth Enhancement (GESS).
Grants, credit, essential inputs, early maturing livestock, improved seeds and seedlings, and fertilizers – preferably organic, should be provided for smallholder farmers especially women to avert the looming food crisis.”
Representatives of Smallholder women farmers from Abakaliki, Afikpo North, Afikpo South, Ebonyi and Onicha Local Government Areas of the State including, Civil Society Organizations, CSOs from Initiative for Social Change in Africa (VOFCA), Loving Hands Initiatives (LHI), CHAD Initiative and Activista graced the occasion.