Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria, SWOFON, has urged the Kogi state Government to review its 2020 budgetary allocation to favour agriculture sector, and as well accommodate credit and loan facilities to farmers.
Kogi state Coordinator of SWOFON, Hajia Safiya Yahaya, made the call at a news conference organised in collaboration with the Public Financing of Agriculture, PFA Committee in Lokoja.
PFA is a programme of Participation Initiative for Behavioural Change in Development, PIBCID and supported by ActionAid Nigeria, to address issues of budgetary allocations in the agriculture sector.
Yahaya said that the appeal had become necessary to avert the looming food crisis arising from the effects of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hindering farming activities in the state and the country at large.
The Coordinator said the organisation had observed that there was no provision for Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme in the state, adding that the situation was critical, as farmers could barely access Federal assistance and credit as a result of the pandemic.
According to her, “We noticed the downward review of funding of inputs to farmers in the state and we are pleading with the government to reconsider, so as to assist more farmers in this farming season”
“We are also appealing to the government to make provisions for credit and loan schemes to assist farmers during this farming season if we must avert the looming food crisis,” she said.
Programme Officer with PIBCID, Mrs Inikpi Ali, also said Nigeria was a signatory to the Maputo Declaration of 2003, with a commitment to provide at least 10 per cent of its annual budget to agriculture.
Hon. Shigaba Ali, however, regretted that since the declaration by the 13 African countries, Nigeria and its state components, had not met the 10 per cent commitment, with Kogi committing only 4.6 per cent to the Agriculture sector in its 2020 budget.
She advised that if agriculture should serve as a means of diversifying the economy of Kogi State as promised in the ‘New Direction’ blueprint of the state government, allocations to the sector, which has been grossly inadequate should be improved upon.
Also, the Assistant Public Relations Officer of SWOFON in the state, Mrs Esther Audu, noted the devastating impact of COVID-19 on all spheres of human endeavour including food reserves, saying, “If this is not properly addressed the hunger virus that is coming will be more than the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
She, therefore, called for a re-direction of the N80 million allocation in the state’s 2020 budget for the training of Extension Officers at the Agric Training Centre, Ochaja, to the procurement of inputs, including seeds and land clearing, for accelerated food production.