Farmers lament as poor funding mechanism stifle agriculture

=By Funmi Falobi=

Though Nigeria, the acclaimed giant of Africa is one of the countries thriving in agriculture in the continent, inaccessible funding opportunities largely hampers food production and agro allied investments by budding farmers and entrepreneurial agricultural investor.  This was the outcome of interaction with a number of agric entrepreneurs by sdnonline.

It would be recalled that one of the cardinal programmes of President Muhammadu Buhari, when he assumed office in 2015 was to improve the agriculture sector in order to ensure food security in the country. In this stead, the federal government therefore earmarked billions of naira to the sector in order to assist farmers increase food production in the country and eventual exportation of farm produce. Comparatively, there had been an increment in the budgetary allocation to agriculture as the agriculture sector received an allocation of N92 billion and N118.98 billion in the 2017 and 2018 appropriation act, respectively.

However, as laudable as government initiative is, farmers especially grassroots and budding agric entrepreneurs lament that they do not have access to the loan that will help them in their farming activities to boost and increase production. To many of these farmers, accessing loan in the banks is still a major problem as the interest rate is not encouraging. As a result, many of the farmers still engage in manual labour instead of mechanized farming which is the global standard for result oriented farming.

According to Mr. Vincent Amakudi, a farmer, who specializes in crop farming, funding is a major issue affecting farmers in the country. He notes that whether it is manual or mechanized labour, “Farmers will be able to do a lot when there’s funding.”

Mr. Femi Oke, Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Lagos chapter, explained that the challenges facing farmers are enormous including finance. He noted that though the Bank of Industry (BOI) is expected to grant N250,000 minimum to farmers, but he queried, “are they complying?”.

“Although Federal Government budgeted money for agriculture but BOI can only give those that are into processing. We were told that they will recapitalize BOI that it will not be under the Central Bank of Nigeria, but the bottleneck is still there. Many farmers are not accessing this loan, we are just hearing it.

“In machinery, we are still using manual methods but things have gone mechanized. Bulldozer is very necessary for those in crops before using hoe and cutlass but an average farmer can’t afford it. We want government to come to our aid. Government should come, let’s discuss how to collaborate,” he said.

Buttressing the need for accessible funding, an anonymous entrepreneurial farmer who is into poultry, piggery and fishery explained that getting loan in Nigeria is still very difficult.

“When I approached a bank for loan; I was told I would pay 20 percent interest. Then, how much would remain for farming?, she queried.

“Government is not encouraging research in agriculture. Accessing loan is still difficult. Federal Ministry of Agriculture does not get to the grassroots. Federal government should help the state governments because grassroots farmers are in the states,” she noted.

“Government should subsidize feeds for livestock farmers and encourage more trainings for students. A nation that can feed itself is self sustainable,” she added.

It would be recalled that before the advent of crude oil, the country relied mainly on agriculture for its Gross Domestic Profit (GDP). However, the discovery of crude oil changed the narrative and today, the nation depends majorly on crude oil for its revenue as the massive cash flow from the exportation of crude oil resources by Nigeria over the past fifty years has led to the reckless abandonment of the once vibrant Agro-allied Sector of the economy.

However, as the government is advocating more citizens’ participation in agriculture in order to ensure food security and combat poverty and with the rate the population is increasing in Nigeria, it is evident that a lot still needs to be done to make the agric sector attractive, especially in the area of financing and subsidy support in acquiring machinery for mechanized farming.

 

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When IPC/Actionaid brought citizens to interface with LASG officials on inclusive participation

=By Funmi Falobi=

Nigerian citizens have again been encouraged to participate in governance and engage the government in order to ensure development at the grassroots.

This was the summation at a stakeholders’ policy dialogue on “Community Development Charter as a Tool to Enhancing Citizens/Inclusive Participation in the Electoral Process, Governance and Grassroots Development in Lagos State. The dialogue, which brought about 120 community stakeholders from six local government areas in Lagos State – Lagos Mainland, Somolu, Amuwo-Odofin, Ifako/Ijaiye, Ikorodu and Surulere to interface with key officials of the Lagos State government on using community development charter to enhance grassroots development, is an initiative by the International Press Centre (IPC) with support from ActionAid and UKAid as part of a project to strengthen citizens’ participation in electoral process.

In his remark, Mr.  Lanre Arogundade, Director, IPC, explained that the project which has been running since 2014 has been able to produce community charters on development challenges of communities in the select six local government areas.

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Arogundade

“There is no doubt Lagos State is the centre of excellence but a lot still need to be done. Hopefully, in the coming period, we will be able to extend it to other local government areas in the state” he said, noting that the charter have been harmonized and as such there was the need to amplify the voices of grassroots communities in order for them to have more inclusive participation in governance.

On his part, Mr. Kenneth Okoineme, Policy and Governance Adviser, ActionAid Nigeria, declared that inclusive participation in governance will enhance development at the grassroots. “For us at ActionAid, we are seriously interested in people having attention in governance. As citizens, we should make sure government policies are implemented, we should engage the government for development”, he said, while giving a brief goodwill remarks.

In his keynote address, Mr. Richard Akinnola, Executive Director, Media Law Centre, said that engaging the government affects every citizen and the charter will serve as a guide for the government to know the challenges of the people and how to tackle them.

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Akinnola

Going through the charter, he observed that the issues of road, infrastructure, schools, hospitals affect everybody saying “I have been in Lagos for over 30 years, I’ve never lived in a house that has pipe borne water except borehole.”

“In Okota-Isolo, our challenge is inner roads. We have been talking about restructuring but no government, whether federal or state level is ready for it. We do meetings with local government chairmen and we are told there is limit to what they can do.

“Government has reneged against its manifesto and promises. What IPC is doing will help Lagos State because government can access each local government challenges. This is a wonderful thing even to guide the government. But how do we guide the government in providing the infrastructure? On the issue of budget, how many of us know how much is budgeted for our area? There is something called Public Impact Litigation. If we have direct link with government, it will help us. The challenges we face get bigger every day. We need to engage the government because there is a limit citizens can do. We can put government on its toe on some of those issues,” he said.

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Oladapo

Director, Press and Public Relations, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Mrs. Toro Oladapo , encouraged the citizens to embrace due process in their dealings in order not to suffer any loss as a result of government project in their locality. “I’m happy efforts of the state government have been recognized by IPC. Governor Ambode practices government of inclusion for development of Lagos. The citizens accused the past government that all it did was in urban areas and Ambode being a grassroots man, engaged in grassroots development.

“If we don’t give attention to due process in what we do, people without necessary papers will lose their property when government embarks on projects, especially when such property obstruct  infrastructural development. Let’s follow due process. Everybody wants to have property in Lagos because it’s lucrative. Town hall meetings by the government were to engage the citizenry through which 114 roads had been done. Budget is also done through citizens’ participation because the governor’s policy is government of inclusion.”

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Joseph

Also contributing, Honourable Kehinde Joseph, Special Adviser to the governor on Civic Engagement, stated that  civic engagement involves everybody and that is what the Lagos state government has been doing. “Most of the town hall meetings have a lot to do with us. When people have issues, they do not write to tell government. In Lagos, if a contractor does bad job, you have right to complain to the government”, he said.

On his part, Honourable Kehinde Bamigbetan, Special Adviser to the Governor on Community Affairs, said Lagos State University and Lagos State Polytechnic , LASU/LASPOTECH radio stations will take off next year respectively. “This will help to take care of people in the areas, inform them about government programmes in the areas and also create awareness for the people in the community. “

He acknowledged that Lagos State does not have enough buildings for those who are of school age but added that the government is devoting 12.5% of its budget to education to take care of the over 10 million children of school age. He added that because of the number of project that need to be done, the government has to prioritize its capital project. He said the Lagos State government will continue to reach out to the people with its programmes and plans and seek their inputs.

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Bamigbetan

“We have 24 million people in Lagos out of which 10million are youths. We need 1,800 schools, we don’t have enough space, so about 12.5 percent of this year’s budget will focus on education. There are 5,300 private schools that are not registered with government. We are working to have Education Trust Fund. We will be all inclusive in the way we handle road issues in the state. There are181 roads coming around. Two roads each year in each council. The governor is committed, Lagos State Public works has mandate to construct five roads in each local government area”, he added.

The representative of Senator Gbenga Ashafa, Mr. Rotimi Ishola who also graced the event and had an interactive session with participants from his constituent, expressed his pleasure at the organization of the forum and called for more of such, especially at the divisional levels so the citizens are more deeply engaged on issues affecting them.

The participants thereafter engaged the duty bearers on different development challenges of the communities, calling on the Lagos state government to ensure that citizens are more entrenched and are more widely consulted as stakeholders in democratic governance and in the decision making process of governance in Lagos State.

Seek help when abused, group implores at rally on Gender Based Violence

=By Tobi Oyetunde=

Against the growing spate of gender-based violence, two gender rights advocate groups have urged citizens facing any form of domestic violence to speak out and seek help early, rather than bearing the brunt of abuse, which may lead to loss of lives. This was made known at a rally by WOMEN ARISE For Change Initiative and CEE-HOPE, in Ebute-Metta, Lagos aimed at sensitizing residents to desist from any act of Gender Based Violence (GBV).

According to Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, President, Women Arise, GBV is a menace which must be wiped out of the society and the country as a whole. She noted that though GBV is mostly seen in the cases of a man beating a woman or a husband maltreating his wife, instances where men are being violently abused by women, especially their wives is now on the rise and should be curbed before it gets to a state where it can no longer be controlled.

“What was common is, husband beating wife, but it is now the other way round and it is increasing in fast pace. We are urging both men and women to say no to violence before it ruins our lives and community. Violence should not be given a place in the society.” Dr. Okei-Odumakin said.

She added that the law would not excuse any form of gender-based violence under any circumstances and advised anyone that engages in violence of any form, or abuse of his or her spouse to desist from such act as it is a crime against law and humanity.

She said: “The law knows no gender; if you take part in any act of GBV, you will be arrested and made to face the wrath of justice”.

women arise3She therefore encouraged those experiencing violence to speak out so that such a person can be duly advised and helped before it leads to injury or death.

“We are here to tell you that silence is no longer golden, there is no shame in crying out. If you refuse to voice out, it could lead to death. Whether you are a man or woman, the earlier you speak, the better,” she said.

“Don’t try to stay in any relationship where you are being abused because you love your partner. This could lead to death. A home is meant to be peaceful and a place where calm is, not an abattoir or a boxing ring.” She added, noting that there are many organizations that take care of people going through abuse and which can help in managing marital violence.

On her part, Betty Abah, Executive Director, CEE-HOPE in a chat with sdnonline noted that domestic violence,  from all indication, is gender -blind.

“Both men and women can be victims. There is therefore urgent need to sensitize victims on how they can seek help when situation gets out of hand and how to seek a safe way out.”  she noted.

“Being alive is more important than any cultural consideration that may perpetuate violence or force victims to remain in perpetual bondage especially when it involves physical violence,” she added.

The rally was also in solidarity to clamour for justice in the on-going case involving the death of a Lagos-based engineer, Mr. Lawrence Ameh Idoko, who was reportedly stabbed to death by his wife, Mrs. Folashade Bashira Idoko.