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2019 polls: Farmers set agenda for politicians

Published by The Nation on Fri, 11 Jan 2019

Ahead of the forthcoming polls, farmers, at an event organised by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) Resource Centre and Voices for Food Security (VFS), presented their expectations to some politicians in Lagos, DANIEL ESSIET reports.Farmers organisations, especially those producing the raw ingredients and their suppliers from across the country, have united to set agenda for politicians aimed at addressing key principles that can help ensure Nigerias success in the supply of food.The manifesto emphasised the importance of the food production and supply sectors.The initiative, which is part of a national food security campaign supported by Oxfam, comes under the auspices of Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) Resource Centre.The farmers group, which comprised All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Association of Small Scale Agro Producers in Nigeria (ASSAPIN), Nigerian Association of Women in Agriculture (NAWIA), Voices for Food Security Campaign (VFS), presented the expectations to some politicians at a Meat Farmers Forum in Lagos.In the manifesto, the groups noted that allocation to the sector have over the five years not exceeded two per cent, whereas there is a Malabo Declaration, which provides for at least 10 per cent of the yearly budgetary allocation to the sector. Nigeria is a signatory to the declaration.They observed that farmers are trapped in poverty due to the combined effects of poor policy implementation, poor markets and infrastructure provision for value addition, lack of credit as well as high cost of business environment which reduce their gross margins and therefore keep them within the poverty trap.The farmers observed that growth in gross domestic product for the agriculture sector was 13 per cent in 2015; 4.69 per cent in the third quarter of 2016 and 5.3 per cent in 2017.They said the overall sectors Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution is about 24 percent, making it one of the largest contributors to the economy. To this end, they noted that the sector needs to be given increased and adequate attention.According to the farmers, incessant dwindling of the budgetary allocation to the sector has continued with debilitating consequences on the funding of key projects and programmes under the various government policies including the Agricultural Promotion Policy (APP).The farmers said access to land for agriculture is still a challenge for them, especially their female colleagues because of the cost of and access to opening land for expansion.The groups noted that agricultural growth could lead to high rates of investment and gains in productivity throughout the economy.According to them,reforms would lead to growth in employment and income, improved income distribution, poverty alleviation, and stronger food demand.The farmers called for increased budgetary allocation to agriculture, especially for small scale farmers.The groups said if Lagos desires to make agriculture a major contributor to her GDP,then adopting the Maputo 10 per cent recommendation is a good starting point.HEDA Resource Centre Management Team Chairman, Suraju Olanrewaju, said the dream of farmers is to make the agricultural sector more competitive.According to him, Nigerias food security depends on increasing production to meet the demand of a growing population with rising income. To do so, he said a productive, competitive, diversified and sustainable agricultural sector will need to emerge at an accelerated pace.He said the group launched the Farmers Manifesto as part of measures to boost economic development and food security in the country.He said that the group is tired of policy failures in the agriculture sector due to the non-commitment of politicians saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that the policies are implemented to the letter and in the interest of farmers.The Executive Secretary, HEDA, Sulaiman Arigbabu, said farmers face challenge of having inputs such as fertiliser, provided in time; hence because of this, he noted farm incomes remain poor.According to him, infrastructure bottlenecks are the main obstacle to Nigerian agricultures capacity to supply domestic market.He explained that poor roads impose high costs on farmers in the agricultural frontier.He said the farmers only ask for increase in budgetary allocation to agriculture, dedication of at least 10 percent of agriculture funding to the small-scale farmers (SSFs) and road map for the resolution of herdsmen-farmers crisis.He said the view of farmers is that they have been continuously short-changed over the years by politicians who only remember them when votes are needed.He said the idea behind the manifesto is to highlight the needs of farmers, for the endorsement of the political class and candidates of various political parties that seek their votes.He decried the continuous neglect by politicians across the country, saying that electioneering manifesto that capture farmers interests would henceforth earn their votes.Responding to the farmers request, the Lagos State Deputy Governorship candidate, All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Kadri Obafemi Hamzat, said his party will ensure that agricultural reform stays on the front burner.He said the nations future growth in agriculture could slow down if efforts are not made to address constraints for farmers,including infrastructure along the food supply chain, and concerns about limited land access.He stressed that large investments in maintenance and expansion of transport infrastructure are needed to keep up with the expected growth in demand, to lower delivery times and costs and to maintain product quality.Hamzat said his party would ensure increasing productivity and expansion of land devoted to agriculture to enable Lagos become a major food supplier.Similarly, the Lagos State governorship candidate of the People Democratic Party (PDP), Jimi Agbaje, said the nations agricultural system still has much potential to supply more agricultural products if it can address financial constraints for farmers, infrastructure challenges along the food supply chain, and environmental concerns about land expansion.The Lagos governorshipl candidate, Action Democratic Party(ADP), Mr. Babatunde Gbadamosi, said the states rising food consumption will require continued increases in food supplies. The challenge for the farm sector, according to him, is to sustain productivity growth to meet increasing domestic demand and, at the same time, maintain its position as a major supplier of agricultural commodities to world markets.The governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party,Dr Adetokunbo Pearse said his party is ready to implement reforms that will restore steady economic growth.
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