- As stakeholders seek improved investment in agric
Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi
The Association of Small-Scale Agro Producers in Nigeria (ASSAPIN), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), has stressed the need to build the capacity of small-scale farmers to effectively engage agricultural policy processes.
This was the main objective of a recent four-day capacity building workshop organised by the association for small-scale farmers, Agricultural Development Programme (ADP) officials, Civil Society Organisations and Media partners, among other participants.
The workshop, held at Balefi, Nasarawa state, was attended by over 50 participants from across 12 states of the federation including Bauchi, Benue, Edo, Katsina, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Plateau, Taraba and FCT and ASSAPIN staff members.
It was designed to strengthen the participants’ advocacy and communications capacity to demand for better policies and increased resource allocation to the agriculture sector to enable farmers key into the federal government’s Agriculture Promotion Policy and ensure food security in the country.
The workshop with the theme ‘Agriculture Budget Monitoring and Advocacy Training’ sought to work towards the improvement in the quantity and quality of public investment to support small-scale farmers, and in the first instance meeting and sustaining the minimum 10 per cent of national budget in public investment in agriculture.
The National President of the Association, Hajiya Amina Bala Jibrin said ASSAPIN also focused on increasing women participation and representation in decision-making at all levels of agricultural governance and production.
Hajiya Jibrin who spoke on ‘Gender inequality in Agriculture’ noted that “Over 80 per cent of women living in rural Nigeria make a living from small-scale agriculture, yet no policies, legislation, or institutional intervention of government have specifically addressed the plight of women in the sector.
Highlighting the various gender disparity and imbalance in economic activities between men and women in terms of access to facilities and ownership of assets in agriculture, she lamented that if small-scale farmers in general have restricted access to input, extension services, information, improved seeds, appropriate technology, credit, land, etc, access is even more restricted for women small-scale farmers, who are key to food security.
THISDAY checks revealed that although small-scale farmers comprise the majority of farmers in the country, accounting for over 80 per cent, because they scattered and isolated, they have faced marginalisation, exclusion and disempowerment over time.
Given this history of neglect coupled with the recent renewed global and national interest in small-scale agriculture and small-scale farmers, the ASSAPIN National President said the time has come for small-scale farmers from across the country to get organised and link up in a national platform which can enhance their voice and increase their capacity to influence policies in the agriculture sector.
“It is in light of this that we have come together under the platforms of ASSAPIN and Voices for Food Security (VFS) campaign to organise and mobilise for actions to hold government accountable to their obligations to Nigerian farmers.
“We therefore call on all fellow small-scale farmers across the country to join hands with us to establish, build and strengthen these national platforms of small-scale farmers and civil society organisations as well as development partners to enable us engage actively and pro-actively with all stakeholders to influence policies agriculture sector”, she added.
ASSAPIN National Coordinator, Mr. Adu Yarima Charles while presenting a paper on ‘The Policy situation on Agriculture in Nigeria’, called on the federal government to accord farmers needed recognition by implementing both the Maputo and Malabo declarations of 2010 and 2014 respectively.
The said document which Nigeria is signatory to, as observed by THISDAY, mandated all the signatory countries to always allocate ten per cent of their annual budget to the agriculture sector.
While calling on government to “work hard in the area of improving agriculture policies” he said the continuous relegating to the background agriculture extension services was uncalled for, stating that “government needs to look into the area of increasing the number of agriculture extension projects in the country.”
“We demand for 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 and small-scale agriculture, with the aim of making small scale agriculture commercially viable, and increasing household incomes of small scale farmers”, he said.
He maintained that “Marginalised groups, particularly women, should be given special consideration in the National Agricultural Policy as well as in any sustainable economic development and investment plans for the agricultural sector. This is essential given the population and central role of women in agricultural production in most African countries in general, and in Nigeria in particular. Women are involved in production, processing and marketing of agriculture produce; and their role needs to be recognised, supported and prioritised.”
Participants also demanded public investment in agriculture and by extension private sector investment must target small-scale farmers and women in agriculture, while being focused on ensuring accessible support with respect to inputs, funds, appropriate technology, research, logistics support, roads, storage facilities, and processing facilities, among others.