The allocation to agriculture in 2017 was about two percent of the budget. However, Nigeria made a commitment under the Maputo Declaration to dedicate not less than 10 percent of her budget to agriculture. Considering other urgent demands on the public purse, not less than five percent of the overall budget should be dedicated to agriculture in 2018.
Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the federal government are in the top gear of preparations for the initiation of the 2018 federal budget estimates. This is, therefore, the time to take stock of issues, challenges, successes and lessons learnt from previous agriculture budgets and use this reflection for improving the executive estimates. This is done against the background of the policy, plan and budget continuum. Thus, the estimates should be guided by policies and plans in the sector. For agriculture, the relevant policies include the Agricultural Promotion Policy (APPA), the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) arising from our commitments under the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
The allocation to agriculture in 2017 was about two percent of the budget. However, Nigeria made a commitment under the Maputo Declaration to dedicate not less than 10 percent of her budget to agriculture. Considering other urgent demands on the public purse, not less than five percent of the overall budget should be dedicated to agriculture in 2018. The proposed increase is justified by a plethora of reasons. Top of the ERGP’s priorities include achieving agricultural transformation and food security; in stabilising the macroeconomic environment, it proposes to accelerate non-oil revenue generation, of which agriculture will be a veritable source. Again, agriculture leads to an increase in job creation, as well as providing the raw materials for the manufacturing and processing value chain. If medium and small scale industries must germinate and survive in sufficient numbers, the agriculture sector holds the key in this direction. The sector contributed 21.35 percent of the overall GDP in the first quarter of 2017 and employs not less than 25 percent of the population. Even though it is mainly a private sector driven activity, government ought to invest more resources in the sector that employs the greatest number of Nigerians.
The bulk of the increases should go to capital expenditure which drives improvements in agriculture yield and sustainability of the agriculture ecosystem. But the sector should stop the sequestration of a huge part of capital funds in the headquarters of the Ministry. Alternatively, it should send them to agencies and parastatals that need them. Procurement of goods and services is best done at the level of the agency or institution that needs them. The utilisation of renewable energy in agriculture should be increased. This will include solar boreholes, solar lighting, drying, the development of automated solar powered agriculture machines, including planters, harvesters, etc. This is cheaper in terms of fuelling in the long run and the whole life cycle costs will also be cheaper. It also has the prospect of generating more jobs in the localities where they are sited. Again, development of crops for renewable energy including sorghum, jathropha plants, etc. should be incentivised. We need to diversify the sources of energy for our cars and plants. This will increase the demand for these crops, leading to more jobs to satisfy the demand. Also, research and development for climate change adaptation, mitigation and building resilience should be specifically provided with full details of the intended outputs and outcomes.
…it should capture the contributions of development partners in the budget. This facilitates transparency and accountability of the budgeting process and makes budgeting inclusive and reflective of all available public funding.
The Ministry should emphasise the procurement and use of organic fertilisers and promote organic agriculture. The need for sustainability in our farming practices dictates that we invest more in producing organic fertitlisers and farm inputs. Beyond making the soils less acidic over the medium to long term, the process of making these fertilisers will create jobs, reduce biodegradable waste that has become a challenge to city managers, as well as convert these to wealth in a win-win scenario for all. The sector needs massive tree planting and afforestation projects, with targets and locations stated in the budget. This is necessary for desert, erosion and flood control and for the promotion of carbon sinks. Real investments are needed if we are to reduce desertification, stop massive flooding and erosion. In the process, we will create jobs that ensure that the trees survive through appropriate nurturing. Erosion and flood control projects should come with their actual sites in the budget. The idea of putting money in the budget for erosion control without the sites being listed promotes corruption, embezzlement and stealing of the money. It does not promote accountability and transparency in the budgeting process.
Extension services for dissemination of new knowledge should be prioritised. So many research institutes funded at the public expense have generated knowledge, products and services that should be made available across the country to increase agricultural yield. However, these products and knowledge remain on the shelves of these institutes. There is the need to disseminate the information and knowledge, including the recently concluded soil map of Nigeria, the need to stop bush burning, etc. With the rapid deforestation taking place in Nigeria, extension services should provide knowledge and capacity for farmers to embark on investments in agroforestry. The Ministry should be keen on introducing new varieties of crops, seeds and animals that are more resistant to pests, droughts, etc. and yield more and better produce in terms of quality and quantity per hectare, more meat and milk, etc. More yields per hectare and more resistant crops will increase productivity for the same energy and economic resources invested. Also, efficient use, management and conservation of water have become imperative. It is imperative to state that water is a finite public good that needs to be conserved before it becomes extra scare and this will lead to more dryness, desertification and famine.
Working in concert with states, the Ministry should promote dedicated pastures for grazing through ranching to increase meat and dairy production and reduce farmer-herdsmen clashes. The Ministry should also use extension services to promote animal feeding models that produce less greenhouse gases, whilst increasing production. The Ministry should take steps in collaboration with other MDAs to increase the number of households transiting from kerosene to cooking gas (LPG) to 20 percent by 2020 and increase the number of households replacing kerosene lanterns with solar lamps by 20 percent by 2020. It should also promote solar cookers. This is cheaper in the long run because of the skyrocketing cost of kerosene. This will also help in reducing deforestation that is done for the purpose of getting firewood for cooking.
In the spirit of promoting the full value chains arising from agriculture, the Ministry should promote public-private partnerships for the reduction of post-harvest losses; to develop cold hubs for fruits, vegetables and tubers, and small scale processing plants. Finally, it should capture the contributions of development partners in the budget. This facilitates transparency and accountability of the budgeting process and makes budgeting inclusive and reflective of all available public funding.
Follow me on twitter @censoj