By Sylvester Thompson
Stakeholders in the agriculture sector say the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA) by President Muhammadu Buhari calls for urgent and massive investment in the sector.
They emphasised that massive and unprecedented investment in the sector would boost domestic consumption, rural infrastructural development and export promotion with many opportunities for the country to exploit.
The stakeholders made this known in a communiqué on Monday in Abuja issued from the two-day Stakeholders Consultative Meeting on the 2020 Agriculture Budget that ended in Lokoja at the weekend.
Organisers of the meeting included Action Aid Nigeria, Oxfam in Nigeria, the Ecowas Commission and CAADP Non State Actors Coalition (CNC), in collaboration with Ministry of Budget and Planning.
They called for allocations to the Comprehensive Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) in the 2019 Agriculture budget to be released 100 per cent.
They said the money would support the coordination of the agriculture sector and knowledge building on the CAADP and Malabor performance indicators.
They recommended that the CAADP and Malabor indicators should be adopted and used at state level and build the capacity of state level stakeholders on the CAADP and Malabor performance indicators.
Among various recommendations, the stakeholders said the gains made by the sector’s MDAs should be sustained and improved upon in the 2020 agriculture budget.
They requested that the budget should be increased to address the input gaps experienced by smallholder farmers, especially women.
According to them, a strategy for involving and mainstreaming the concerns of smallholder farmers should be developed for 2020 and subsequent years of agriculture and policy making processes.
“For example, leaders of women farmer organisations, other smallholder farmers, vulnerable groups such as farmers living with disabilities and CSOs should be invited to budget preparatory meetings before release of Budget Call Circulars.’’
“At least 10 per cent of annual budgets and actualisation of revenues in the agriculture sector should increase the realisation of the Maputo and Malabor benchmarks for agricultural investment.
“Buffer funds from sources such as Natural Resource Funds and Climate Resource Funds may also be considered, given the strategic importance of the sector,” the communiqué said.
It said given the time-bound nature of farming activities, agricultural budgets must be released on time and fully to enable farmers plant in due season.
According to it, women and youth are not homogenous groups; therefore their budget should be separated to ease implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
The communiqué said the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), succession plan should adopt provisions and recognition of food as a human right issue as contained in the Agriculture Promotion Policy (APP).
“There should be a scale up of investment, types of public spending that has been shown by evidence to yield better economic outcomes.
“This includes support for smallholder farmers, especially women and youth in agriculture, promotion and development of value chains, agricultural finance and credit, agricultural insurance, growth enhancement etc.”
The stakeholders also recommended that the implementation of agricultural projects should be monitored by all relevant stakeholders such as using an adapted CAADP, results measurement framework and reports documented for improved budget implementation.
“There is need to ensure that FMARD, relevant state ministries and NSAs continue to engage in the CAADP, Ecowas and the National Agricultural Investment Plan (NAIP) process.
“The 2020 and subsequent years agricultural budget should be gender sensitive and responsive by providing line items that address specific challenges that affect women farmers and other groups such as youth.”
The communiqué was accompanied with the proposed budget and advisory notes developed by the stakeholders and endorsed by all organisations, ministries, departments, agencies and institutes that participated in the meeting.