Small-scale farmers are said to be facing challenges in accessing and benefiting from government agricultural policies and practices despite that they account for over 80 per cent in the country.
The President, Association of Small-Scale Agro Producers in Nigeria (ASSAPIN), Bauchi state chapter, Alhaji Ahmed Jalam, who made the observation when he led members of the Association on a courtesy visit to Bauchi State House of Assembly Committee on Agriculture said that ‘’because our members are scattered and isolated, they have faced marginalisation, exclusion and disempowerment over time’’.
While appealing to the federal and state governments to place high premium on increasing their budgetary allocations to Agriculture, Jalam noted that ‘’in view of the continuous nose-diving nature of budgetary allocations to the agriculture sector, the 2003 AU Maputo Declaration of a minimum of 10 per cent of national budget for agriculture cannot be over emphasised.’’
‘‘The same declaration is binding on states and local government. After analysing the 2015 and 2016 Bauchi budgets for Agriculture, the finding is 5.8 for 2015 and 6.9 for 2016, ASSAPIN wish to commend the present government for the increase of 1.1 per cent, however more needs to be done in terms of budget implementation.’’
He also urged that at least 60 per cent of Agriculture funds/facilities be dedicated to Small-scale farmers, emphasising that ‘‘60 per cent of the agriculture investments in budgets as well as in any intervention facilities at federal and state levels to be earmarked for small scale farmers (SSFs) and small-scale agriculture, with the aim of making small scale agriculture commercially viable, and increasing household incomes of small scale farmers.’’
According to him,‘‘ The small-scale farmers should be involved in policy dialogues and actively participate in decision making and implementation processes that affect their livelihood. While a national agency for small scale agricultural development which should be set up by the government to undertake a national survey of small scale agric, capacity assessment of small scale farmers and in turn design a national response strategy and development plan that would improve and sustain the growth of small scale farmers and agriculture as a whole.’’
In his remarks, the chairman, House Committee on Agriculture, Hon Auwal Hassan said that with its status as the largest employer of labour in the country and with its huge potential to become an alternative foreign exchange earner, governments at all levels should now take a serious look at the agriculture sector.
The chairman, who commended the initiative of the association in their quest to empower small scale farmers through mobilisation, capacity building and support to improve agriculture for sustainable development of the nation expressed the support of BAHA for the actualisation of the 2003 AU Maputo Declaration of a minimum of 10 per cent of national and state budgets for agriculture.