The Neighbourhood Initiative for Women Advancement (NIWA) has called on the Ebonyi government to increase budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector by at least five per cent to enhance agricultural productivity for food security.
Mrs Nancy Oko-Onya, the Lead Director of NIWA, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) made the call on Monday in Abakaliki when she led a coalition of Civil Society Organisations to an advocacy visit to the Ebonyi State Ministry of Finance.
Oko-Onya noted that the budgetary allocation to the agric sector in Ebonyi was grossly inadequate with just a little above one per cent according to the 2021 budget and called for an increase in the state’s annual budget to the sector to guarantee food security.
“We are on an advocacy visit to the state ministry of Finance to discuss the agric budget and also create awareness on the project we are working on, on the ‘Agric Plus’ cluster.
“The project is a United States Agency for International Development/Palladium funded project and the cluster has five organisations in it working in three states of the South-East namely; Imo, Abia and Ebonyi.
“The organisations are CARA International foundation; NIWA, CYDI, HOPE alive foundation and Cad consultant.
“The cluster is just to harness our strength from the organisations at the state level and to also pull resources together and address issues of budgeting in agriculture.
“Having looked at the agriculture budgeting in Ebonyi, we discovered it is grossly inadequate, just a little above one per cent so we are asking at the state level that the agriculture budget should be upped to at least five per cent.
“We discussed also the Maputo ceiling for agriculture project but, we want to start small and we will be working with the Finance and agricultural ministries just to increase agric allocation by five per cent,” Oko-Onya said
She said that the engagement would enhance agricultural productivity; food security, and food availability and called for support from all relevant stakeholders to achieve the objective.
“From the outcome of our interface, the ministry requested that we do not look at the budget alone but, also monitor budget implementation,” she added.
Meanwhile, Mrs Mfom Christian, Permanent Secretary applauded the organisation for the visit promising partnership with the organisation.
She said that the state had attained the five per cent budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector.
She noted that the state government was committed to the diversification of the state economy through investing in agricultural development and called for collaboration with stakeholders to achieve the initiative.
Mr Chijoke Ogbodo, the director of Planning in the ministry in an interview with our correspondent commended the group for the visit stressing that the call for the upscaling of budgetary allocation to the agric sector was the way to go.
However, Ogbodo noted that the ministry had exceeded the five per cent allocation advocated by the ‘Agric coalition.
“I can beat my chest and say that we have even exceeded the five per cent budgetary allocation being canvassed, so, we are already there unless they are saying we should go beyond the five per cent,” Ogbodo said
According to him, Nigeria must look toward the agricultural sector if it must diversify its revenue base stressing that agriculture was the beacon of the nation’s economy adding that agriculture was there before oil was discovered.
He said that the dwindling fortune in oil revenue has made it imperative for the country to look back and find means of developing the agricultural sector.
“If we must make a headway in our revenue diversification, then we must turn to agriculture and be intentional in funding the sector to enhance commercial and mechanised farming,” he added.