Ilorin – A forum to assess the performance of the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GESS) in 2014 on Tuesday rated the initiative low.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the score-card was presented in Ilorin at a forum which attracted stakeholders in the agriculture sector.
It was tagged: “Dissemination of Community Participatory Assessment on Government Expenditure on Agriculture and Score-Card on Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GESS) 2014.’’
The forum, which was convened by the Centre for Community Empowerment and Poverty Eradication, a partner of the Actionaid Nigeria, also drew participants from rural communities across the state.
The report noted that the GESS programme did not improve for 2014 in Kwara as much as it did in 2013.
The report, which was presented by Mr Abdulrahaman Ayuba, the Programme Officer for the NGO, said the real smallholder farmers were still left out of the scheme.
“Many of them complained of registering, but not redeeming their input and the inconsistency in input redemption from year to year,’’ it said.
The NGO, which engaged a consultant to assess the performance of the scheme, discovered that its performance dropped in Kwara from average in 2013 to poor in 2014.
The report said that the scheme improved in states like Bauchi and the Federal Capital Territory where Actionaid Nigeria carried out a similar research in which the 2014 performance was compared with that of 2013.
On the Annual Agriculture Budget Allocation and Expenditure on Finance and Credit available to the Smallholder Farmers and Cooperatives, it stated that it was less than one per cent in 2014.
The report also lamented the non-existence of extension services to the smallholder farmers in the rural communities.
It, however, advocated for a review and continuation of the GESS programme to serve as a pro-active measure considering the danger of it being discontinued by the new regime.
“All stakeholders advocate for an act on Growth Enhancement Scheme to guarantee sustainability of the programme and the financial commitment of the state and local governments,’’ it stated.
The report also recommended that the Department of Agriculture of the local government be integrated in the process to improve farmers’ registration and continually generate needed data among others.
But in his reaction , Mr Oloruntoba Joseph, a former Director, Extension Service,Kwara Agriculture Development Project (KWADP), opposed the claim that no farmer had come across an extension agent.
He, however, admitted that there were fewer agents now due to retirement and resignation compared to four years ago.
Joseph noted that smallholder farmers could not access credit facility because many had misused the opportunity availed them in the past by diverting the money.
Also speaking, Mr Raphael Adeponle, the acting State Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, advised farmers to see agriculture as a business.
Adeponle said all the observations raised in the score-card had been noted and would conveyed to the appropriate quarters. (NAN)