Nigeria can feed itself, many African countries – ActionAid

Friday Olokor, Abuja

A civil rights organisation under the aegis of ActionAid Nigeria has called on partners, donors and stakeholders in the Public Finance for Agriculture project to sustain their financing interest, as more investments were needed in the agricultural sector.

The organisation also expressed optimism that Nigeria could feed itself and feed many countries in Africa, as agriculture used to be its main economic mainstay.

The Country Director, AAN, Ms. Ene Obi, made the call in her speech obtained by our correspondent in Abuja on Thursday after the PFA learning and close-out meeting of the project.

According to her, the country was so blessed with both natural, human resources and an extensive and available workforce.

She said Nigeria must, however, diversify its economy as agriculture presented a great opportunity for creating employment.

Obi said, “Nigeria can feed itself and feed many countries in Africa. Serious attention and investment is needed. Agriculture used to be the main economic stay of Nigeria, and Nigeria is so blessed with both natural and human resource. The workforce is extensive and available. Nigeria must diversify its economy and agriculture is a great opportunity for creating employment.

“The PFA project was designed to catalyse increased quantity and quality of public investment in agriculture, so as to increase the productivity and well-being of women smallholder farmers, their households, and communities across the country.

“This project was able to empower smallholder women farmers and CSOs through capacity building, evidence-based data generation and creation of policy and programmes influencing spaces.

“The Project also initiated the formation of the largest movement of smallholder women farmers in Nigeria; the Small-Scale Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria that was giving voice to smallholder women farmers across the federation.

“Members and non-members of SWOFON across Nigeria now benefit from government support and services; including trainings, extension services, inputs, credit, grants, agricultural machineries, and facilities which hitherto they never benefitted from. It built so many CSOs’ capacity on tracking budgets, at different levels for 9 years, that was funded by the United States Agency for International Development.”
She said that for example, SWOFON now covers 36 states and the FCT and reaching over 15,000 cooperatives, whose members had influenced agriculture financing policies for smallholder farmers.

Also, President of SWOFON, Mrs. Mary Afan, said the PFA project had brought women farmers to understand that they were involved in the day-to-day running activities in the agriculture sector, which had to do with women empowerment.

She said, “Through this project, we can move closely with the government by organising ourselves, advocating for increased budget and budget tracking when allocated, and other policies to back our advocacy like the Maputo declaration of the African Union that says 10 per cent of every country’s budget should be allocated to the agriculture sector.”
On his part, the Director of Partnership and Business Development, Plan International, Dr. Oji Ogbureke, urged the Federal Government to take the project from the level where the small holder farmers stopped.
He said that this would make the smallholder farmers across the country to benefit from incentives from both the federal and state governments and not just from AAN.

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