Following the impact of flooding in some parts of the country, farmers under the umbrella of Smallholder Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria (SWOFON) have advised the federal government to take deliberate steps in key areas to ameliorate the effect on farmers.
National President of SWOFON, Mary Afan who gave the hint yesterday in Abuja at an event organised by International Budget Partnership warned that failure of relevant agencies to improve security and financial aid for farmers will amount to a high cost of food for Nigerians, increased hunger and worsened food security status for the country.
“The implication of this massive flooding is that the prices of food will be yet to higher owing to its unavailability. This will deal a great blow to the over 90 million Nigerians currently leaving below the poverty line and the over 21million Nigerians currently experiencing acute hunger.
“At the moment, Smallholder Women Farmers have lost everything. There are no seeds to plant during the next farming season. While some farmers are gradually returning to their homes as the water recedes to pick up whatever is left of the destruction, others cannot go back home or to their farms. Some have lost the courage to start all over and others have totally lost hope.
Noting that women farmers have lost all they planted, Afan lamented that there was no seed for farmers to plant during the next farming season. She called on the government at all levels to give a waiver on all agricultural loans and debts owed during the wet season farming.
The waiver, she said, would raise farmers’ morale and motivate them to start cultivating in the dry season. Stressing the need to swiftly procure farm inputs and equipment, especially fertilisers and water pumps for farmers during dry season farming.
“These flooding happened at a time when many farmers were either getting ready to start harvesting their crops or just commenced harvest. Words cannot express the gravity of the farm losses. These losses have brought psychological trauma on women farmers, many of whom took loans, rented lands, hired equipment and are now unable to repay their debts.”
Afan called on the federal government to prioritize agriculture in the 2023 budget and increase allocation to it, warning that failure to act quickly was equivalent to agreeing to Nigerians being hungry and paying exorbitant food prices.
Also speaking, Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Prof Ben Akabueze, urged the farmers to raise a referendum and send to the national assembly based on the issue they have raised for consideration.
According to Akabueze, the budget office has implemented a number of reforms aimed at deepening citizens participation through the implementation to monitoring and evaluation, assuring SWOFON of a more rewarding engagement to improve their performances.
International Budget Partnership Country Manager, Nigeria, Austin Ndiokwelu, said the organisation is a community that engages the fiscal government system and budget of public financial management system. “We’ve been doing this to ensure that the budget is transparent, participatory and used to better the lives of the people.
“We believe that citizens have a right to have a say in how their revenues are raised because it is called public budget and public revenue. They have a right to know how priorities are determined and how the government actually disburses and spends money efficiently and effectively.
“We started working globally over two decades ago, but we set up office in Nigeria about five years ago. In our work globally, we have been supporting budget analysts, think-tanks to engage the budget system. After 20 years of work, one of the things we learnt was that incrementally transparency and participation were gradually improving in Nigeria.
According to Ndiokwelu “In Nigeria, we have some initiatives like SPARK – Strengthening Public Accountability For Result and Knowledge. SPARK is a programme that helps connect the technical budget work with the service delivery aspect of it. So we set out to look out for service delivery gaps. The SPARK model allows us to look out for people that are already engaging around these issues and people that have legitimacy. We work directly with those directly impacted by the challenges, working with them to engage the fiscal governance and budget system that contributes to those service delivery gap.
Also speaking, IBP Senior Program Officer, Imaobong Akpan said SPARK project started in 2018. “When we started, we set out to work with community groups who were already agitating around their own issues, we identified groups that were working on primary healthcare, agriculture and we wanted to get them into budget decision-making spaces so that they can tell their own stories and talk about their realities.
“Some key success we’ve seen from all the work we have done is that spaces are opening up for women farmers as well as other community group members to be involved in budget decision-making. For instance, we have SWOFON which is on the committee task to implement national policy on gender in agriculture,” she said.