By Dayo Johnson, Akure
Farmers and other major Agric stakeholders in Ondo state have lamented the failure of the state government to fully implement its budgetary provision for the agricultural sector.
This was contained in a communique released after a Stakeholders Consultative Meeting on the 2024 Ondo State Agriculture Budget organised by Actionaid Nigeria, in collaboration with the Justice Development and Peace Centre, in Akure, thr state capital.
According to them“Uninterestingly, the underfunding and late releases of funds to Agric sector continues to impede the capacity of Ondo State government to drive socio-economic development including food security within the policy thrust of the diversification of the economy towards agriculture
The meeting which brought together 25 different stakeholders in agriculture from different MDAs in the state was held, among other things, to examine the 2023 Agriculture Budget, Achievement and lapses of MDAs in Agric sector under the year in review.
They said that “We observed a marginal increase in agricultural budget allocation in 2023. Even with these allocations, the state is having difficulties in full implementation and the allocation is below the Maputo/Malabo Declaration benchmark of 10%.
“Uninterestingly, the underfunding and late releases of funds to Agric sector continues to impede the capacity of Ondo State government to drive socio-economic development including food security within the policy thrust of the diversification of the economy towards agriculture.
“The insecurity of our farm lands is a red signal and impending danger to the food production in the state. If this not taken care of with utmost attention, it will not only cause reduction in food production but will likewise increase poverty rate and joblessness to the Smallholder Women Farmers in the state.
“We observed that there is lack of proper synergy between the State and Federal Ministry of Agriculture on the issue of storage facilities, processing facilities distribution of fertilizers, training of farmers and ecological year calendar.
The farmers also observed that, “despite government encouragement on clusters farming, still government still finds it difficult to allocate land to Smallholder Women Farmers who are into cluster farming for large scale production of crops and livestock.
“Despite lot of challenges confronting the present-day agriculture we observed critically that the extension service is becoming relegated in terms of recruitment of workers and mobility of the few ones to the rural community where majority of the Smallholder Women Farmers are living and farming.
“Despite RAAMP intervention, we still observed that the rural roads, market accessibility are still under shortfalls, and the need for more rural roads opening for accessibility of agricultural produce out of the rural community to the urban land will bring a drastic change to the face of agriculture in the state.
The farmers therefore recommended that ” the state government and House Committee on Agriculture should make it as a subject of priority by meeting up with the 10% MAPUTO/MALABO declaration and also ensure adequate and timely releases of funds for agriculture in the state which is part of the requirement to support at least 6% growth rate for the sector as postulated in the CAADP framework.
“Ondo State Government should ensure scaling up specific budget lines for Agro-women Farmers, and ensure full access to the budget lines created as strategic approach to increase food production, reduce hunger and poverty and achieve the Maputo/Malabo Commitment.
“Public investment in agriculture should be scaled up in the specific areas of Extension Services, Access to Credit, Women in Agriculture, Youths, Inputs, Post-harvest Loss reductions (storage facilities, processing facilities, access to market etc) and PLWDs in Agriculture.
“The existing relationship between the State Governments and the CSOs should be strengthened in a bid to promote accountability and transparency in public resource management.
“The yearly State agriculture budget should be more gender responsive by providing more funds and releases to the budget line items for the implementation of the State Gender Policy in Agriculture that address specific challenges that affect women farmers different from men as well as avoid lumping up budget for women farmers and other groups such as youths.
They called “on MDAs in the Agric sector to ensure the inclusion of both SWOFON Members and CSOs on Policy Implementation, monitoring and evaluation processes.
“Since most Agricultural activities are seasonal and determined by climatic condition. Therefore, Ondo state Government is hereby encouraged to fund erection of more greenhouses for different crops.
“As part of gender equality captured in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the Smallholder Women Farmers Organization of Nigeria, Ondo State Chapter request that gender friendly machines like Power Tiller should be made available for efficient farming within the state
“State Ministry of Agriculture and OSAEC should increase awareness creation/sensitization of stakeholders on the new agricultural policy as part of effort towards promoting improved citizen participation in budget process.
“Considering the rising insecurity in farms; farm raiding, cattle destructions, and kidnapping, climate and other natural disasters, farmers are not encouraged to continue farm practices in certain communities
“State government should promote the enrolment of agricultural insurance policies for smallholder farmers, and should also strengthen the State Amotekun Security Network Corps on constant security surveillance on different farm lands especially in the rural communities.
“The States government should partner with relevant academic institutions for the production of Labour Saving Farm Implement especially Power Tillers.
“Construction of rural roads to aid movement of people and produce in and out of farms.
The farmers said that ” based on the outdated Agriculture policy in the state we recommend that the government should fast track the review process for the inclusion of gender friendly policy that can promote agriculture development in the state.