WARRI/Nigeria: The Delta State government, had received a knock on the lack of attention given to Agricultural Development of the state, as it had been noted that allocation to that sector of the economy had been dwindling over the years.
This was the view from a group of Non-Governmental Organisation, who are focused in improving the food security of the state as this had overtime attracted global attention.
The group made up of a coalition of Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs), under the aegis of Budget Committee Group (BCG), promoting sustainable growth in the agricultural sector of Delta state, in partnership with Environmental and Rural Mediation Centre (ENVIRUMEDIC), and other collaborators in the agriculture value chain, have called on the government to increase its budgetary allocation to agriculture, in order to boost productivity in the sector and achieve food security.
The NGOs made the call recently, at a press conference, Warri, headquarters of Warri South LGA, to bring to public domain their findings on the Delta State Agricultural Budget Analysis for the 2020 fiscal year, and suggesting measures to combat teething issues occasioned by the advent of the rampaging novel Covid-19 pandemic.
Presenting the findings in a 4-page document, Chief Monday Itoghor, CEO, ENVIRUMEDIC and National Coordinator of BCG, expressed delight that with huge support from ActionAid Nigeria, the BCG has remained committed in its advocacy to ensure the government of Delta State increases budgetary allocation to agriculture sector in line with the Malabo Declaration (2014), which recommends 10 per cent annual budgetary allocation to agriculture.
He emphasised importance of the agricultural sector in the overall development of the state and well-being of the people, noting that more funds needed to be allocated to the sector to actualize the governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s trumpeted diversification programme.
The document states as follows, “as an organization working on budgets and budgetary allocations, including eradication of poverty, promoting social justice and gender equality, we deem it fit to draw the attention of the Delta State Government to the paltry allocations to agriculture in the 2020 fiscal year, including non-participation of Smallholder Women Farmers in the budgetary process in the state.”
The document further stated that allocation to agriculture in the 2020 budget was 3,511,076,019, representing 0.89% of the entire budget of 395,475,393,669 – a far cry from the 10% Malabo declaration in 2014, and noted that poor funding of agriculture would make achieving critical elements of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as: End Poverty – SDG1; Zero Hunger and Food Security – SDG2; Good Health and Well-Being – SDG3, very difficult.
On the ravaging novel Covid-19 pandemic, the NGOs commended the Delta state government and all stakeholders for their contributions towards containing the spread of the deadly virus in the state.
However, they expressed concern about the difficulties the Smallholder Women Farmers encountered during the lockdown, noting that farmers were unable to transport their products from their farms to the markets in the rural and urban communities. Continuing, the NGOs identified the multiplier effects of the lockdown to include huge losses in staple foods such as cassava, maize, potatoes, yams, including vegetables and fishes.
“Before the advent of Covid-19, Smallholders Women Farmers had difficulties accessing credit, essential inputs, improved seeds and seedlings, organic and non-organic fertilizers, but currently, the spread of Covid-19 has heightened the challenges, and this portends grave consequence with food crisis already looming in the state and the country,” the NGOs stated.
On the spike in prices of foodstuff resulting from the lockdown, the NGOs said, “there is food crisis in the country currently as the poor and vulnerable, including Smallholder Women Farmers contend with hunger and malnutrition. This is worsened by the security agencies and taskforce enforcing lockdown in the states, who were bent on harassing and extorting money from smallholder farmers as they transport their produce to the markets.”
Fielding questions from journalists, Chief Itoghor, said that during the lockdown, ENVIRUMEDIC and the NGO partners of the Budget Committee Group, were involved in a National coalition known as “Covid-19 Emergency Intervention Group” which embarked on human rights violations monitoring exercise, even as he noted various degrees of extortion of money from food stuffs traders mostly women by security operatives.
Continuing, Chief Itoghor said, “following the sudden rise in prices of foodstuffs, the group also embarked on advocacy visits to the Nigeria Union of Journalists office in Warri and Ughelli, including the Chairmen of Uvwie and Isoko north local government areas, to intimate them of the hardship being caused by the sudden increase in prices of foodstuffs. On good note, our intervention triggered the action taken in those Councils including Warri South LGA that reverted the prices of foodstuffs, especially garri to the normal rate.
Commenting on the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) position on the passing into law by Delta State House of Assembly, the Bill for the establishment of the Delta Internal Revenue Service Board without subjecting it to Public Hearing, Chief Itoghor, described the development as unfortunate, saying that the failure of the state’s House of Assembly to avail the public an opportunity of making an input to the proposed bill before making it a law, was undemocratic. He added that the CSOs would take a decision on the development in the days coming and would react to the matter accordingly.