Even though more than 80 per cent of the inhabitants of Jigawa State are engaged in agriculture, the state government has allotted only 5.4 per cent of its 2019 budget to agriculture.
This year’s allocation is despite the state government’s much-vaunted claim of making agriculture its priority.
The government’s Change Agenda promises to develop agriculture by strengthening research and extension services.
It also promised to irrigate more land and deepen mechanisation and promote investments and create more opportunities in the sector.
The N8.67 billion out of the N160.1 billion earmarked for agriculture is clearly a continuation of a trend of underfunding agriculture in the last three years.
In 2016, the government budgeted N8.6 billion for agriculture but actually released N1.5 billion.
In 2017, N6.3 billion was budgeted but only N4.4 billion was spent and, in 2018, N10.1 billion was budgeted but only N3.06 billion was released.
More importantly, farmers in the state are finding it increasingly difficult to grapple with the impact of a flood that destroyed their farmlands and crop last year.
Isa Mustapha, the coordinator of Project Monitoring Partners (PMP), told PREMIUM TIMES that with the paltry allocation given to agriculture, the government might not realise the goals of its Change Agenda.
Mr Mustapha, whose organisation works on policies, programmes, and budgetary processes, added that despite the widespread flooding, the government did not make provision for remedial measures neither did it establish inter-agency or inter-government collaborations to curtail the menace in the future.
“Agriculture suffers poor funding which, analysts argue may affect the production output, thus threatening food security in the state.
“Food is different from other commodities because everybody needs it for survival. It is an indispensable factor in the nation’s quest for economic growth and development.
“Unfortunately, most of the food needed in Jigawa in particular and Nigeria as whole is produced by peasant farmers who lack the capital, skills, energy and other viable ingredients to produce large quantity that will meet demand,” he said.
Ado Nasir, a lecturer at the department of extension service, Faculty of Agriculture, Federal University Dutse, said looking at the government’s appropriation for agriculture, it is clear that it is merely paying lip service to its claim of prioritising agriculture.
Mr Nasir said one individual could have up to 300 hectares of virgin land in Jigawa State available for irrigation farming. He said the government could harvest rainwater and even channel the flooding water to positive potentials usage. He said that this would greatly increase jobs opportunities for the populous peasants.
“The government should provide timely and quality seeds to farmers,” he said.
“It is equally imperative to provide the seedling and quality fertiliser in time for the farmers to get prepared for the raining seasons. Jigawa is in dearth of extension workers. In two years, 70 per cent of the serving extension service workers will retire from the state civil service.
“The government should revive the three extension service schools spread across the state, train extension service workers for just two years to bridge the existing gap in the state.
“Also, let’s introduce free e-extension service where the literate farmers can be guided using smart phones, if the government truly wants to develop the agricultural sector,” said Mr Nasir.
When reached for comment, the spokesperson of the state’s Ministry of Agriculture, Zubairu Suleiman, reiterated the government’s commitment towards the development of agriculture. He said the state is investing in mechanised farming and is encouraging the creation of cluster farms.
“The state government has distributed 300 mini-harvesters to farmers and youths under its Cluster Farming Scheme. The state governor, Muhammad Badaru, has also, pledged to link wheat farmers in the state with buyers, in order to encourage more production,” he said.
He also added that the government has clustered over 1,000 youth to cultivate 500 hectares of land for the cultivation of rice in Miga and Kaugama Local Government Areas.
Mr Suleiman further stated that the Jigawa agricultural supply company (Jasco) has all the necessary farming inputs machines needed by farmers at affordable prices.
About N10 million was earmarked for the purchase of breeders, foundation and certified seeds for distribution to farmers.
About N8.5 million for field plot research on crops and problems identification in seeds production.
About N10 million was for the training of 450 extension agents and farmers (N22, 000 per head).
About N55 million was earmarked for cluster farming program support including provision of inputs (seeds, fertilizer, and chemicals) as well as free extension services
SOURCE: PREMIUM TIMES