Gombe women farmers advocate inclusion in budget

Rebecca Mu’azu, Gombe

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Small Holder Women Farmers in Gombe State have urged the government to prioritize the provisions for Women and youths in Agriculture, because they both form more than 80% of the population involved in Agriculture, producing about 90% of the food consumed in the state.

The women farmers are particularly advocating for adequate provision for credits and loans, so as to greatly boost their output, food sufficiency, security and self-employment.

Those were calls made at the Women Farmers Annual Review and Planning Meeting in Gombe, aimed at strengthening farmers’ organisations and enable them come up with action plan to move their organisations forward.

They say that the Gombe State Agriculture sector budget has been having low allocation in the last two years, hence the need to focus on a steady and progressive budget allocation to reach the 10% Maputo allocation target.

The discoveries in the budget are that: “Like the previous year 2017, there is no specific mention of Women, especially the small holder women famers organizations in the 2018 Agriculture sector budget, no single provision for Agric loans/credit, there is excess provision for training of 150 Agric extension workers state wide in the budget; 80,000,000 budgeted and that there is provision for purchase of ox and oxen-drawn implements with increased budgetary allocation from 20,000,000 in 2017, to now 30,000,000 in 2018 among others.”

The Women Farmers Annual Review and Planning Meeting in Gombe looked at the budget allocation for Agriculture in Gombe State, which in 2017 and this year stood at 3.6%, far below the 10% allocation target of the Maputo declaration.

It will be recalled that in 2003, African governments launch an ambitious continental programme in Maputo, Mozambique, in which the African Heads of State pledged to devote at least 10% of their national budgets to agriculture and by so doing progressively overcome the public investment deficit that had long been building up in this sector.

However, at the Small Holder Women Farmers review Meeting in Gombe, the women farmers discovered that budget allocation for agriculture at both federal and state levels have been low, hence the need for the Budget Committee, Small Holder Women Farmers Organizations and Associations, as well as and Civil Society Organisations to intensify follow up to ensure releases of the allocated funds.

Mr. Bachama Yusuf, facilitated the review meeting and shares the findings of the Budget Committee and the recommendations.

“We discover that there were so much duplication of budgets, with monies being allocated to the same project and for us, we feel there should be value for money.  And thirdly, there are some budget lines that don’t have specific locations.

So you don’t know where those projects are to be implemented. So, if we are to monitor it, where do we monitor it to assess. So we think that budget lines should be more specific, should be more clear, so that people know where exactly those things are happening. And

also, we also discovered that even the women and the youth are actually out of place because there is no single specific provision for women, neither is there any specific provision for youths.

And for us it’s out of place. And we think there should be specific arrangement or provision for women, because women form over 70 per cent of farmers and they produce over 80 per cent of what we consume. So, if they are that many, I think there should be provision for them,” Mr. Yusuf said.

Some of the small holder women farmers who participated at the review meeting, say the budget review meeting is an eye-opener.

“Our coming here is an eye-opener and a reminder that the budget has been going on without including women. As an eye opener now, we pray that women will be recognized during the budgeting and be carried along. First of all is coming together and becoming a strong organisation, having a voice…… Yes, at least I have learnt a lot.

At least with the awareness of this programme, we know that the women have been left behind, in terms of assistance, in areas of farming. And we have been made to understand that we have a role to play as women. ……. To be sincere, we are very grateful for this SHOWFON (Small Holder Women Farmers Organisation of Nigeria), before, we didn’t understand what is SHOWFON.

What we are going to do now, we shall involve so many women in various local governments to benefit from this. That is women farmers. We want to engage them and support them.”

Mr. Yahaya Atiku, the Programme Manager of the Hope Foundation for the Lonely, the organizers of the review meeting, says the essence of the meeting is to empower small holder women farmers to do more to ensure increased budget allocation and subsequently enhanced food productivity.

“We have the Small Holder Women Farmers Organisations in Nigeria at the state level; we also have at the national level. So, this is a planning meeting for the women farmers at the state level.

This planning meeting is purposely to strengthen the farmer organisations or the farmer federations. And at the same time is an opportunity to even come up with an action plan or the way forward for to move the organisation forward. And also to meet and interact with stakeholders at the state level that will bring up linkages for the women farmers to have access to extension services,” Mr. Atiku said.

The organisers say the focus is on budget because it is what affects the common man and that an increase in the budget allocation for agriculture will go a long way in the mitigation and reduction of poverty at the grassroots, because over 75 per cent of employment is at the grassroots level.

The Hope Foundation for the Lonely, which for now pilots the affairs of small holder women farmers in Gombe State, is being sponsored by the Public Financing of Agriculture, PFA project being implemented by Actionaid Nigeria.

It aims to strengthen the capacity of farmer federations and women’s organizations, enabling them to engage directly with government Agencies and institutions for effective and efficient agriculture budget allocations and utilization that favours small holder women farmers.