THE Small Scale Women Farmers Organisation of Nigeria (SWOFON) has called on the federal and state governments to intervene in reducing the effect of floods on its members.
National President of SWOFON Mary Afan made the call at a press briefing during a training on Strengthening Public Accountability for Results and Knowledge (SPARK) organised by the International Budget Partnership (IBP), in Abuja, on Thursday, November 24.
Afan said the association’s members have faced difficult times since the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with the recent floods across the country.
“The year 2021 was a year for us to begin recovery from the global pandemic. Some states made efforts in prioritising agriculture and capturing women farmers in their state budget. However, because the response of the Federal Government was slow and women farmers were not well captured in the government’s intervention, there was no way we could escape from the high cost of food, which we had earlier forwarned the nation.
“In spite of all these challenges, our women farmers have remained resolute in the course of feeding the nation and contributing to seeing that Nigeria attains food security in no distant time,” she said.
Speaking further, she noted that the recent flooding experienced across the country was a big challenge.
“The recent flooding experienced in many states of Nigeria has necessitated that we call the attention of the Federal Government to speedily take action to save the livelihood of our members.
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“The loss of our means of livelihood and the flooding of our homes are two bitter pills too hard to swallow. This is double jeopardy for women farmers across the country.”
She stated that the role women play in agriculture could not be overemphasised. According to her, women make up 60 per cent of the agricultural labour force in Nigeria.
She went ahead to state SWOFON’s demands: “The federal and state governments should, as a matter of urgency, begin to distribute improved seeds and seedlings to our members for dry season/irrigation farming to cushion the losses made during the wet season.
“The federal and state governments should swiftly procure farm inputs and equipment, especially fertilisers and water pumps, which will be distributed to our farmers for the dry season.
“The Federal Government should create an intervention fund aimed at cushioning the suffering of women farmers.”
She added that the federal and state governments should consider giving waivers on all agricultural loans and debts owed during the wet season farming.
The association also demanded that early warning systems should be strengthened to alert farmers about impending natural disasters such as flooding or drought.
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SWOFON is a coalition of women farmers across Nigeria working together to promote women-friendly agricultural space.
Delivering his goodwill message at the event, the Director-General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze, said the government would continue to increase citizen participation in the country’s fiscal governance.
“Let me use this opportunity to say the Budget Office of the Federation, and indeed the Federal Government of Nigeria, will continue with efforts targeted at increasing citizen participation in government and, in particular, the fiscal governance of the country.
“The Budget Office of the Federation is implementing a number of reforms aimed at deepening citizens’ participation in the budget process from formulation through implementation to monitoring and evaluation.”
Akabueze said the Budget Office has collaborated with critical stakeholders, state and non-state actors, and development partners, including the IBP, to further deepen reforms and improve Nigeria’s fiscal governance.
Also speaking at the occasion, Country Manager IBP, Austin Ndiokwelu, stated the importance of transparency and accountability in the budget process.
“We are a community of organisation. What we do is that we engage the fiscal governance system, the budget of public financial management system, and we do this in other to ensure that the budget is transparent, is participatory and that budgets are actually used to better the lives of the people.
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“We believe that citizens have the right to have a say in how their revenues are raised because its called public budget, its called public revenue.
“We have been supporting budget analysts and think-tanks to engage the budget system.
“In Nigeria here, when we started four and half years ago, we had a couple of initiatives. However, we started with SPARK. SPARK is about building on transparency, and participation has increased,” he said.
Ndiokwelu explained that instead of working with typical civil society organisations (CSOs) or traditional civil society groups, the IBP works directly with people impacted by the challenges, hence the collaboration with SWOFON.
The International Budget Partnership (IBP) was formed in 1997 to advocate for transparent, inclusive and accountable government budget processes to improve governance and reduce global poverty.