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Kwara: Boosting food security the AbdulRazaq way

It is an indisputable fact that in the early days of Nigeria’s birth as a nation after gaining independence in 1960, agriculture was the mainstay of the economy before its relegation to the background consequent upon discovery of crude oil in vast commercial quantities.

As a matter of fact, the agricultural sector, between 1960 and 1969, reportedly accounted for about 57 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while export earnings generated by the sector were over 60 percent. During that glowing period, the country had cotton and groundnut pyramids in Northern Nigeria, cocoa in the Western Region and palm oil in the Southeast Region which were huge revenue earners for the country.

Lamentably, however, all these, no thanks to the advent of ‘black gold’, became a thing of the past until the current efforts by the federal and some state governments to revamp the agricultural sector because of the increasingly dwindling revenue from crude oil. While it eventually dawned on the Federal Government that the country could no longer solely rely on revenue from crude oil to finance its budgets without diversifying the economy, state governments were also quick to realise the danger in depending on the paltry monthly federal allocations which are fast becoming grossly inadequate to meet their needs.

Hence the efforts by state governors to boost their states’ internally generated revenue by according agriculture a pride of place it rightly deserves. To this end, Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq deserves applause for leading the agricultural revolution that would engender and boost food security, not only in the state but also the nation. In a bold move towards making this a reality, the governor, on May 26, 2021, commissioned 15 new tractors and several modern farm implements worth millions of naira.

This gesture, no doubt, has effectively given bite to the mechanisation component of the recently launched state agricultural transformation plan. AbdulRazaq, who was applauded by farmers’ association for his support for agriculture, especially smallholder farmers, in the state, stated that the whole focus of that transformation plan was “to achieve food security, sustainable growth, and create jobs.” Other implements launched at the occasion included ploughs, harrows, ridgers, and a mobile workshop to properly manage the machines.

The governor said: “Mechanisation is key for the success of the crop production pillar of our agric blueprint and the administration has kick started the implementation with the recent flag off of farm inputs subsidy scheme which gave at least 10,000 farmers access to improved seedlings, fertilisers and chemicals at half the market price.

“The purchase of new tractors and implements is another milestone as the administration did not inherit any functional tractor when it came to office in 2019. The commissioning of 15 new tractors and implements today flags off the mechanisation component of the Agricultural Transformation Plan. This step speaks to our seriousness to truly transform how we farm and put Kwara on the map of agribusiness.

“The objective of our mechanisation programme is to ensure increased output of higher value products. It will also eliminate hardship associated with agricultural production powered by human labour. This initiative has been designed to provide mechanisation services for smallholder and commercial farmers in the state. “This is just the first in the series of our mechanisation initiatives. We would be acquiring more tractors and other sophisticated equipment like combined harvesters, planters, boom sprayer and others to support our farmers and boost production.

This will totally transform the way crop production is carried out in Kwara State, and ensure that mechanisation becomes the norm for all farmers in the state.” Speaker, Kwara State House of Assembly, Yakubu Danladi-Salihu, for his part, pointed out that the administration has committed so many resources to support smallholder farmers since coming on board.

“Our farmers at the grassroots can tell the difference and we are really grateful to the governor for the efforts,” he said. The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Hajia Maryam Nurudeen, explained that the administration procured cost-efficient and adaptable machinery to enhance the mechanisation programme with a view to advancing commercial agriculture in the state.

“Today’s event marks the beginning of the second phase of the implementation of the State’s Agricultural Transformation Plan which is coming two weeks after the flag off of the Agricultural Input Subsidy Scheme. This programme could not have come at a better time when the rains have begun to fall and our farmers are returning to their various farms in readiness for land preparation and planting,” she said.

Hajia Nurudeen assured the people of the state that ordinary small scale farmers would reap the benefits of mechanised farming to scale up food production in the state with huge effects on efficiency of farmers as well as the quality and quantity of their produce. The Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Alhaji Abdullahi Samari, on his part, said: “As a party we appreciate the governor and we will continue to let the people know what he is doing.

It is not easy to effect a change. We appeal to our people to continue to support the government.” Representatives of the All-farmers Association of Nigeria in Kwara State, Alhaji Mahmud Bello, said: “All your administration’s support are helpful to farming activities in the state, and we are indeed grateful for your numerous interventions in the sector.” Prior to the commissioning of the 15 tractors, Governor AbdulRazaq had on April 20 this year, launched the pilot scheme of the 500-hectare ‘Farm Kwara’ in Ifelodun Local Government Area of the state that would create farming communities to nurture future agripreneurs, improve the productivity of smallholder farmers, and boost food security in the state.

The Farm Kwara initiative, it was gathered, would soon access 500 hectares of land in the other 15 local government areas of the state to establish farm estates and allocate about five hectares each to 100 young farmers. Speaking at the launch of Farm Kwara in Adanla community in Ifelodun Local Government Area of the state, Deputy Governor, Kayode Alabi, who represented the governor, said at least half of the youth beneficiaries would be women, adding that participants would be provided with inputs, mechanisation and technical support to ensure sustainability in partnership with private sector partners.

He said: “This is a pilot scheme because it will spread across all the 16 local government areas of the state. What we want to achieve is to significantly reduce the rate of unemployment among our youths. By the time it spreads across all the local government areas, you can imagine the ripple effects on the economy. It is not on the farm alone; other people along the value chain will benefit from this initiative.

So, it is a way of reducing unemployment and engaging our youths productively.” The monarch of Adanla community, Oba David Oyerinola Adedunmoye, who lauded Governor AbdulRazaq for not only transforming the state’s economy but for also raising a cream of agriprenuers to make youths job creators and curb their restiveness, said: “Today’s event is quite historic because Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq is changing the face of agricultural sector in the state using Adanla- Irese as a case study. This is a clear demonstration and confirmation of the rural transformation agenda among several other laudable programmes which your administration is implementing.”

On May 5, 2021, the state government recorded another milestone with the launching of the input subsidy scheme for farmers in the state. No fewer than 10,000 verified farmers, it was revealed, would have access to various inputs at 50 percent market price. This step, said the governor, aligned with his administration’s strategic plan for food security and sustainable development.

He said: “This subsidy scheme gives our farmers easy access to certified seeds, assorted fertilisers and herbicides for the 2021 planting season at 50 percent market price. “The initiative is part of the administration’s sustained efforts to use agriculture to drive economic growth and food security in the post COVID-19 pandemic era. I assure you that mechanisms have been put in place, especially reliable data, to ensure that these inputs get only to the intended farmers. “This programme is basically to improve productivity.

We have to bring this subsidy because our farmers went through a lot of hardship last year with COVID-19. So, we needed to step in to enable them to get fertilisers, improved seedlings and herbicides to boost production.” It is also pertinent to add that the AbdulRazaq administration is also working out a partnership with the Lagos State government on rice production which the governor said would see roughly N10 billion investments over the next four years. “We have the land.

We are negotiating with some states, especially Lagos. Lagos has arguably the biggest rice mill in Nigeria today, but they don’t have land. We want to take advantage of that and we are talking in that direction to have an MOU. And then, the Federal Government is working with us.

We are working on the special agro processing zone to be located in Lata which will see the investment of about N10 billion going to agriculture in Edu and Patigi local governments alone in the next two to four years; so we need to scale up what we are doing in those areas.“ He, therefore, urged the farmers to make good use of the opportunity to have a more rewarding farming experience this year, adding that the efforts would lead to better outcomes and improved livelihood across the state.

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