Professionals and stakeholders in the agricultural sector have called on other states in the country to emulate the Kebbi State government, which has been working the talking by consistently allocating over 10 per cent of the state budget to the sector since 2015.
The Coordinator of Oxfam International (an international confederation of 20 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) working with partners in over 90 countries to end the injustices that cause poverty) in the state, Olumide Ojo, during activities commemorating the 2018 World Food Day recently, commended the state government for bringing one of the elements of the Maputo and Malabo declarations into reality, breaking the jinx of grossly inadequate resource mobilisation to food production by committing the budget to the sector.
The Federal Government, being a signatory to the declarations, allocates 3.2% of the total 2018 national budget to the agricultural sector despites its claim of making efforts to diversify the economy through the agro-allied resources.
This has attracted criticism to the government, casting a shadow of doubt on its sincerity and political will about investments in the sector.
Oxfam had noted that the “Kebbi government has been consistently committing over 10 per cent of its annual budget to the agriculture sector, from 2016 to 2018.
The state government voted N12.5 billion out of a budget of N109.7 billion to agriculture in 2018.
“In 2017, it voted over N14 billion out of the budget of N139.3 billion to the same sector. Budgetary allocation to the agriculture and rural development sector for 2015 represents 11.4 per cent while that of 2016 represents 10.1 per cent,’’ he said.
The Oxfam coordinator said agricultural investment in the state had also recorded achievements, adding that the state was also noted for increased yearly agricultural production, especially in rice, wheat, sorghum and maize.
“To achieve zero hunger, the stakeholders must work together to raise the level of awareness about hunger, starvation and malnutrition, especially as it affects the rural population in Africa.”
Agric investment declarations
In Mozambique in July 2003, African Heads of State and Government endorsed the ‘Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa.’
The declaration contained several important decisions regarding agriculture, among which was the commitment to the allocation of at least 10 per cent of national budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development within five years.
The AU Heads of State and Government also adopted the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agriculture Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods, in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, in 2014.
The goals to be achieved are recommitment to enhance investment finance in agriculture; a commitment to end hunger by 2025 including; at least a doubling of productivity (inputs, irrigation, and mechanisation) and commitment to halve poverty by 2025 through inclusive agricultural growth and transformation, among others
Calls to work the talks
The President of the National Palm Oil Producers Association, Henry Olujoye, encouraged other state governments and the Federal Government of Nigeria “to buy into what the Kebbi State government is doing, especially at this time that we have a deficit in employment.”
He suggested that to employ more labour, there should be more investments in agriculture and efforts to attract the youth to profitable agribusinesses.
“This,” he said, “will help in mitigating the security risks and urban migration. So, Nigeria will do well to invest more than the Maputo and the Malabo recommendations. If we do more, this will mean that youths will see that there is more money in agriculture and they would want to go back to farming.”
He also urged the government to organise credible off-takers for farm products, saying, “It is one thing to stimulate production, it is another to enable farmers to sell their products profitably.”
The National President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Ibrahim Kabir, also called on the government in other states to allocate at least 10 per cent of their budgets to agricultural development, saying the agreements the African countries signed require no less than that percentage.
“If Kebbi State is devoting 10 per cent and above to the sector, other states should emulate it, because agricultural activities actually take place at the state level. So it is a welcome development and it is worth emulating. I urge all the states of the federation to follow suit and do according to how Kebbi State has done,” he said.
The 10 per cent cannot put food on everybody’s table, but it will go a long way in developing agricultural infrastructure and in creating an enabling environment for farmers to operate, the AFAN boss said.
Though the state is not producing as much as Kano and Kaduna states, Kabir said, the investment could multiply agricultural outputs in the nearest time.
Kabir said if other states could commit such resources to the sector, people would come out of poverty and there would be food sufficiency in the country.
Confirming the commitment, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Budget and Planning, who spoke through the Director of Budget, Alhaji Hussaini Maisamari, said that it was very impressive to know that the Kebbi state government had consistently committed over 10 per cent of its annual budget to the sector. He confirmed that the commitment had commenced since in 2015.
The director, who stated that these investments did not include those of development partners working in food/nutrition security space in the state.
“You see, the commitment demonstrated by the state government has also attracted numerous investments from both public and private sources to the state,” he said.
Regional Coordinator of Africa Rice centre, an international organization based in IITA Ibadan premises, Dr Francis Nwilene, confirmed that Kebbi State has the political will to commit over 10 per cent of its budget to agriculture and is blessed with fertile land.
The two factors, Nwilene said, had made Kebbi to become highest rice-producing state in the country, and had given birth to two giant rice mills, WACOT and the state-owned Labana Rice Mill, which, he said, processes rice even on Sundays.
“The issue now is the political will. The governor sees that the state does not have, but fertile land and human resources. That is why they are able to sustain the supply to the Lagos market.
“Lagos cannot produce much rice, but partners with Kebbi to produce rice. This is the kind of thing we advocate. Let there be the political will to invest in the agricultural sector. Let there be the political will to feed the country and let there be the political will to create jobs and lift people out of poverty,” Nwilene said.