The Federal Government has urged state and local governments to increase their budgetary allocation to the agriculture sector. Speaking at a press briefing in Abuja on Friday, Muhammad Mahmood Abubakar, the new minister of agriculture and rural development, said poor funding has, over years, posed a challenge to the development of the agricultural sector at the sub-national level.
The advocacy by the minister comes as Fred Kafeero, of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO),says challenges associated with conflict, pests and diseases, natural disasters, economy and Covid-19 have exposed over four million Nigerians to severe hunger and malnutrition.
According to the minister, his administration is hopeful that the passage of the Agricultural Trust Fund Bill, which has passed 1st and 2nd reading in the National Assembly, would provide the needed emergency support funding for agricultural activities in the country.
“Our plan is to continue to engage with the states and local governments across the country to be committed to the Moputo/Malabo Declaration, to allocate 10 percent of their budgetary funds to agriculture. This action will increase access to funding at the grassroots and, therefore, increase food production.
“It is on record that the Buhari administration has invested so much in agriculture and provided funding across various food and agriculture subsectors,” he said. He listed other challenges limiting the growth of the sector to include; weak linkages between the agricultural and the industrial sector, lack of consistent agriculture data from the three tiers of government, ineffective capacity for quality control and standard and certification for production/marketing.
He also stated that poor access to quality information as a challenge affects the nation’s ability to attract investors, as it impedes proper investment planning. “As a result of the various governments’ policy initiatives and innovative funding in food and agriculture, the sector has increasingly witnessed growth. It is as a result of our actions in the past three years that Nigeria took a leading role globally in the production of cassava, yam, maize, palm oil and rice.
“Nigeria has become the largest producer of rice in Africa with a production level of over 9 million metric tons from 2019. The aim is for the country to be self-sufficient in rice and other crops that provide food to Nigerians. These are a true testimony of our commitment to boosting agriculture and providing nutritious food.
“It is on record that agriculture was the only sector in Nigeria that recorded marginal growth during the Covid-19 lockdown, spanning through the fourth quarter of 2019 to first and second quarter of 2020 with an average contribution of 24.23 percent to the country’s GDP, (statistic 1st/2nd quarter report, 2020).
To address the challenge of increasing poverty in the country, Kafeero said there was a need for targeted interventions on research and development to make farming more technologically advanced and productive. “We recognise that over four million people go hungry and suffer from malnutrition in this country. This is largely because of the challenges associated with conflict; pests and diseases, natural disasters, loss of biodiversity, habitat destruction; economic challenges (unemployment) and the devastating effects of Covid-19 still with us.
“This year’s theme ‘Our actions are our future: Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life’ aims at raising awareness on the need for supporting the transformation to a more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems,” he said.