The Agric Budget Plus Cluster (ABPC), a coalition of non governmental organisations (NGO), has called on the Ebonyi government to prioritise agriculture in the 2024 budget to enhance food security and poverty reduction.
The coalition funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) ipartnership with Palladium made the call on Thursday in Abakaliki during an advocacy visit to the Ebonyi House of Assembly Committees on Agriculture and Appropriation.
The coalition comprises Community and Youth Development Initiatives (CYDI) based in Imo state; Neighbourhood Initiative for Women Advancement (NIWA), Ebonyi, and Vicar Hope Foundation (VHF) in Abia state.
Other members are; Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Consulting, an IT Specialist organisation, and CARA Development Foundation, the anchor organisation based in Imo state.
Mrs Nancy Oko-Onya, the Executive Director of NIWA who led members of the organisation to the visit regretted the dwindling state of agricultural activities in the state which was noted for food production.
She explained that the team was at the House of Assembly to demand an increase in budgetary allocation to the agric sector from the current 2.7 per cent to five per cent.
According to her, all that the Agric Budget Plus Cluster is demanding was an additional 2.3 per cent rise in the agric budget to make it five per cent.
She said: “Our interest is to request that the agric budget is increased to five per cent in the 2024 budget, the little work we have done in the political economy analysis of the state, we discovered that the budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Agriculture is 2.7 per cent.
“So, we are asking for an increase to five per cent; we are not asking for a five per cent increase but, we are saying that 2.3 per cent should be added to what is already in existence.”
Oko-Onya explained that the purpose of the advocacy was to solicit the support of the lawmakers to ensure that budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector was increased to five per cent in the 2024 appropriation that was already in progress.
“We are also requesting the Ministry of Agric to find viable opportunities that will help the state accept their request for that increase.
” So, what we are asking of you is that when it comes, you support that that particular budget on agriculture is passed.
“Looking at what is happening, it’s like we are not farming anymore and from the discussions we have had so far, we have discovered that people’s interests in farming are waning for one reason or another.
“The young people are not getting into agriculture and the old men and women who are doing agriculture are having challenges farming on large scales.
” The demand for mechanisation, the demand for effective processing and storage among others have come up through the process of the engagement of,” she added.
She insisted that making funds more available to farmers through proper budgetary allocation would address food insecurity, poverty reduction as well as stem hunger and starvation.
Responding, Mrs Ann Agha-Okoro, Clerk of the House Committee on Agriculture assured that the lawmakers were committed to ensuring food security in the state adding that the legislators would not reject any appropriation bill seeking to increase allocation to the agric sector.
“If the Ministry of Agriculture comes for budget defence, the lawmakers will not refuse to approve their budget proposal neither will the amount proposed in their budget be cut down because the agric sector is always given priority,” she said.
In her remark, Mrs Cecilia Nwankwoegu, Clerk, Finance and Appropriation Committee said that the Ministry of Agriculture usually collected all the allocations approved and released to it every fiscal year.
“Knowing that our state is an agrarian state, we normally give the agric sector consideration by ensuring that budget proposals from the ministry are given due attention,” she said.
Our correspondent reports that Agric Budget Plus Cluster is a five-member organisation partnership, advocating to increase the budgetary allocation to agriculture to five per cent in the South-East states of Imo, Abia, and Ebonyi.
The project is being implemented under the Strengthening Civic Advocacy and Local Engagement (SCALE) in partnership with Palladium and with support from USAID.