2022 Budget Analysis: Ebonyi NGO’s Committee Seek more Funding For Smallholder Women Farmers.

By Oswald Agwu, Abakaliki

Ebonyi State Government has been urged to increase Agricultural funding for smallholder women farmers and youths as a means of increasing food production and combating the looming hunger in Nigeria.

The recommendation was given by Ebonyi State Budget Committee Group, EBSBCG, during a press briefing on its Analysed Ebonyi 2022 Agriculture Budget held in Abakaliki, the State capital on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.

The event was organised under the platform of a nongovernmental Organisation, Participatory Development Alternative, PDA, with support from ActionAid Nigeria.

The group, led by its State Coordinator, Mathias Okinya, during the briefing, lamented the poor budgetary allocation to Agriculture in the State which has continued to grossly fall short of the 10% Malabo declaration by African heads of states and government in 2014.

They further raised the concern that Smallholder women farmers who constituted 60% of agriculture labour force, providing inputs and functions critical to livelihoods were not adequately carried along in the budgeting process, neither were they adequately provided for in the budget.

The group therefore, called on the State Government to create specific budget lines for the small holder farmers, especially women, allocating not less than 15% of the total agricultural budget to them, in line with the National Gender Policy in Agriculture.

The group explained: “The trends of percentage allocation to agriculture from 2018 to 2022 shows that commitment to agriculture funding in the state is very poor and there is a great need to increase funding in agriculture in line with the 10% Malabo Declaration of 2014 and attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals: SDGs 1 (End Poverty) and SDGs 2 (Zero Hunger and Food Security).

“Considering the immense contributions of smallholder women farmers in the agricultural sector, it is important that the State Government create specific budget lines for them, allocating not less than 15% of the total agricultural budget to them.

“There is a need to bring more smallholder women farmers to the front of the budget planning discussion at state levels.

”Women need to be brought side by side with their male counterparts in the discussion and planning of the agricultural budget and its implementation.”

The group, while commending the State government for the improvement brought into the 2022 budget for agriculture, made particular reference to increased investment in the Ebonyi State Agricultural Development Programme with budgetary allocation of Ninety-Six Million, Six Hundred and Sixty-Nine Thousand, Five Hundred Naira (N96,669,500.00) which is 8.71% higher than the 2021 allocations.

They also noted with delight that the 2022 Agricultural budget captured allocation for Climate Resilient Sustainable Agriculture CRSA/Agroecology, Capacity building for women and youths in Agriculture as advocated in 2021, as well as budget lines for purchase of labour saving technologies.

The group however, regretted that funds allocated to those items were very small considering the number of farmers in the State, and urged the Government to not only find ways of increasing Agricultural funding generally, but to always ensure that approved funds were timely released for Agricultural activities.

The group further urged the government to channel more investment to provision of Agricultural storage and processing facilities to combat postharvest losses bedevilling the sector in the State.

“Ebonyi suffers from huge annual post-harvest losses with a share out of the national estimated losses of N3.5 trillion annually.

“Smallholder women farmers in Ebonyi State have access to only 14.09% processing facilities and 10.49% storage facilities.

“This is a big gap and needs to be filled urgently with massive investment in cottage processing and storage facilities” the group observed.

Others who spoke to newsmen at the event, including the Executive Director of PDA, Chidimma Arukwe; the National Secretary, Small Scale Women Farmers Organization in Nigeria (SOWFON), also a committee member, Mrs Nnenna Ibiam, and the Media representative in the Committee, Mr. Oswald Agwu, extolled the invaluable contributions of women in food production.

They charged government agencies to ensure that agricultural inputs and equipment; grants, subsidies and other facilities provided for agriculture get to the real farmers, especially the women, without being hijacked by politicians.

The PDA Program Officer in-charge of the ActionAid supported Scaling Up Public Investment in Agriculture (SUPIA) project, , Ugochi Joseph, in her remarks, urged the media to continue to collaborate with the committee and other partners to attract greater patronage for Agriculture in the State budget.

The Ebonyi Budget committee was formed by Participatory Development Alternatives with support from ActionAid, under its SUPIA Project in Nigeria.