The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) organized a one Policy Dialogue to Enhance Advocacy for Increased Budgetary Allocation Farmers in Benue State with support from Oxfam and Trust Africa. The dialogue was attended by participants representing Ministries of Agriculture, Environment and State Planning Commission, Media, Legislature, Farmers’ Associations, Private Sector Operators, representatives of Civil Society Organizations and the Academia. There were 20 participants in attendance. Presentations centered around ‘Efficient Public Investment and Increased Budgetary Allocations & Releases to Farmers as a Panacea to Guarantee Food Security’ and ‘Agenda Setting for Budget Monitoring and Reporting to Farmers’ After exhaustive deliberations on the issues, the following observations and recommendations were made:
- Public budget provides the foundations upon which to build effective, capable and responsive state, it does not only determine the government’s capacity to implement policy and manage public resources through its own institutions, but also enabling it to fulfill its responsibilities and deliver basic services to citizens.
- There has been an annual fluctuations in the budgetary allocation to the Agriculture sector in Benue State in the past five years, budget implementation and performance has been relatively poor and it has not reflected meaningful development that impacts on small scale farmers
- Agriculture is undoubtedly the most important sector for a broad-based economic growth and development. It is the largest sector of the economy and the largest employer of the workforce in Benue State involving about 90% of the rural population.
- Weak growth in the sub-sector has been due mainly to traditional practices of cultivation, processing and storage and there is low level of mechanization, poor land management and high cost of agricultural inputs.
- The rural farmers also face problems of low returns to agricultural processing and micro-rural enterprises due to non-availability of financial and technological support, hence the relative lack of value-addition and low product quality.
- Benue Agricultural & Rural Development Agency is constrained by insufficient and poorly motivated staff; inadequate funding and poor logistics to reach out to farmers. The local governments which are closer to the people and should play significant roles in agriculture and rural development do not have the capacity to perform this role.
- The farmers in Benue State have resolved to use the power of votes to elect officials that are committed to empower farmers through a social contract to boost farmers’ wellbeing through efficient public investment come 2015.
- Government should develop an Agricultural Policy linked to the annual budget that provides a direction for all stakeholders in the agricultural sector as a roadmap to reduce food deficiency from the current level of 47% by 5% in December, 2014; 10% by December, 2015 and 12% by December, 2016.
- Government in collaboration with the organized private sector and community development associations should reactivate and expand the land development schemes at Daudu, Ogobia, Ichama, Ushongo, Katsina Ala and establish new ones in LGAs that do not have one currently and make provision for them in the annual budget.
- The Legislature should strengthen oversight on the Executive to ensure that budget allocations to agriculture is critical in measuring government’s performance in meeting the human rights obligation as well as campaign promises and economic blue prints.
- The Media and Civil Society Organizations should put process in place through which government prioritizes and allocates the scarce resources to fulfill the needs and rights of its citizens through a transparent, participatory and accountable process.
- CSOs, farmer groups, the media and other non-state actors should make efforts to be informed on budget issues, build additional capacities and collaborate more for effective, constructive and proactive engagement of the budget in Benue State.
Stakeholders at the dialogue expressed appreciation to CISLAC, Oxfam and Trust Africa for putting together a timely event. CSOs, media and farmers’ groups have committed to use the budget reporting template to monitor the agricultural sector in Benue State in 2014. They also committed to strengthening their tracking and monitoring of budget implementation and increase advocacy with policy makers to further entrench synergy for an improved healthy relationship. They expressed gratitude to the organizers noting that the engagement was revealing and indeed an opportunity to begin to create bigger conversation amongst players in the agric sector.
Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre