Stakeholders and experts in the agric sector have been advised to engage states and the Federal Government on budget accountability, as the sector touches all lives.
This was the position of Oxfam in Nigeria in its Agriculture Budget Trends Analysis Report, where it emphasised the need for the country to bridge the gap in some critical areas in public investment at national and subnational levels, if it is to fulfill its vast potential in a key sector.
Country Director of Oxfam in Nigeria, Constant Tchona, said it is important to examine public investment in agriculture, because as much as 70 per cent of agric production comes from smallholder farmers.
He commented that government finance programs and support schemes often do not reach the intended farmers. Whereas, many of these smallholder farmers need government to bring them up to a level where they can contribute meaningfully to their local economies.
He said: “Agriculture is a central part of Nigeria’s economy and source of livelihood for a significant percentage of the population. The agriculture sector in Nigeria accounts for over 40 per cent of Internally Generated Revenue from the country’s total economic activities – employing a little above 60 per cent of the working population. When you account for inflation, however, the contribution of agriculture to the GDP is only about 24.43 per cent. This makes the challenge posed by our low levels of agricultural productivity abundantly clear.
“However, the Federal and State Governments in the country do not budget enough for agriculture and often do not spend up to what is allocated for the sector. The federal level investment in agriculture especially has not exceeded five per cent budgetary allocation over the past four years, a far cry from the 10 per cent committed to under the Africa-wide Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and food security. This helps to explain why smallholder farmers throughout the country remain at subsistence level: the sector sees the lowest levels of access to finance in all sectors in the country..,” he said.
He added that the need for improved agricultural productivity in the country is urgent, especially given the changing climate patterns that affect rainfall and speed up erosion and desertification through the country.