2023 Budget: Stakeholders in Ebonyi State advocate increased Agricultural Investment
Moses Nwite, Abakaliki.
Stakehokders in Ebonyi state’s Agricultural sector have advocated a scale-up of public investment in Agriculture, particularly in the State Government’s 2023 Budget.The stakeholders made the call recently during a one-day consultative meeting to deliberate on the 2023 budget in Abakaliki, the State capital, while describing it as the surest way of saving Nigeria from increasing hunger and low productivity in the sector.
The Ebonyi State coordinator of the Budget Committee Group, Comrade Matthias Okinya, disclosed this while addressing journalists in Abakaliki, the State capital.
The meeting was organized by a Civil Society Organization, Participatory Development Alternatives (PDA) in collaboration with the Ebonyi Budget Committee Group, State Ministries of Agriculture and Finance, with support from Action-Aid Nigeria.
In a communiqué at the end of the meeting, the stakeholders drawn from the relevant government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, Farmer Organizations, as well as over 20 Civil Society Organizations in the State, observed that the agricultural sector has a huge potential of accelerating growth in the country’s real gross domestic product.They, however, regretted that poor funding, delayed or non-release of funds meant for the sector by the government has impeded growth in the sector over the years.They strengthened the advocacy for the State government to allocate at least 10 per cent of its total annual budget to Agriculture, targeted at specific areas and backed with prompt fund releases for timely activities.While demanding for greater social and gender inclusion in agricultural budgeting processes by the government, the communiqué further called for joint awareness creation by the government and the Civil Society Organizations on the need for all citizens to take interest in the evolution of the agric budget in the State.
“Public investment in agriculture should be scaled up in the specific areas of Extension Services, Access to Credit, Women in Agriculture, Youth in Agriculture, Appropriate Labour-Saving Technologies, Inputs, Post-Harvest Losses Reduction Supports (processing facilities, storage facilities, trainings, market access, etc.); Climate Resilient Sustainable Agriculture/Agro ecology; Research and Development, Monitoring and Evaluation, as well as Coordination.“The yearly State’s agriculture budget should be more gender responsive by providing line items for the implementation of the Gender Policy in Agriculture meant to address specific challenges that affect women farmers, different from men as well as avoid lumping up budget for women farmers and other groups.“State Ministries of Agriculture and other Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) should consistently create budget lines for wider stakeholder consultation in the budget formulation; provide continued coordination and the implementation of Stakeholders Consultative Meeting on the Agriculture Budget annually,” the communiqué partly read.The communiqué advised all relevant authorities, state and non-state actors: Ministries, Departments and Agencies; Legislators; Farmer Organizations and Civil Society Organizations to intensify monitoring of budgeted Agricultural projects in the State using the State-adopted measurement framework of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Progamme, CAADP.It added that the results, when documented, shared and reviewed, would enhance further improvement in budget implementation.The Program Officer, ActionAid-supported Scale Up Public Investment in Agriculture (SUPIA) Project of PDA, Mr. Ugochi Joseph, while discussing the objectives of the meeting, lamented the State’s recurring low budgetary allocation to Agriculture sector.“The State agriculture budget stood at 2.9 per cent, which shows the weak commitment of government to agriculture budget; in both allocation and expenditure.“For instance, the 2021 allocation to ADP captured N7, 900,000 whereas no budget line was released for ADP in 2021 to help support Smallholder Farmers, especially women farmers to implement their program,” said Mr. Joseph.While commending the State Government for increased budgetary allocation to Agricultural Development in the State’s 2022 budget (N96,669,500, being 8.71% higher than the allocation of 2021), she enjoined the government to also ensure release of the fund.“I hope the State Government deems it fit to release the fund allocated to ADP for implementation of projects and programs and not just captured in the budget in order to hype Government.“There is also the need for government to pay attention to the priorities of women farmers in ensuring that specific budget line items are captured in the budget as this will enhance their agriculture work,” Mr. Joseph noted.Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary, State Ministry of Agriculture, Mrs Patricia Okiri, in her comment, stated that the State government has many competing priorities in the budget, and assured that the concerns of the stakeholders would be taken to the appropriate quarters for necessary actions.She, however, maintained that the present administration in the State has introduced many farmer-friendly programmes such as grants, soft loans and input assistance to farmers to boost food production in the state.