By Yazeed Umar:
No many states or regions of Nigeria take agriculture as serious as the people of Kebbi State in North West geo political zone of the country. To the government and people of the State, agriculture is an important means of livelihood for the people as between 70 to 80 percent of them are engaged in one aspect of farming or the other. Nature has provided the state with necessary resources for agricultural production. The state is blessed with mass of land covering up to 37,698.69 kms with fadama land covering up to 420,000 hectares. It has big water bodies like rivers Niger and River Rima and so many water tributaries that support agricultural production, even during dry season. The state has 11,600 land suitable for irrigation, according to survey carried out by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 1968 .Crops, especially cereals are grown in Kebbi almost all the year round. But the commonest crop produced, in the state, is basically rice and efforts are being made in the state to produce one million tons of rice annually or even more to assist the Nigeria’s need to make up the annual requirements of the nation now put at eight million tones .For the people of Kebbi state and its government in particular, efforts are being made to contribute their quota to make the country self-sufficient in rice production and by putting a halt to current massive importation of rice into the country .It is not a good story to tell as the nation currently spends $2.2 billion annually on food importation alone. Other crops being produced by farmers include, wheat,maize,millet,sugarcane,cassava,groundnut,vegetables,fruits,and animal husbandry, among others..
The attention of the state government since its inception has been on the production of rice which attracted an assistance of Federal Government through CBN’s ‘Anchor Borrowers Programme of over N15 billion .
The State’s Governor ,Alhaji Atiku Abubakar Bagudu , in the just conclude local government electioneering campaign in Birnin Kebbi,said that the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN] would grant loan to 140,000 rice farmers in the state under the next phase of its Anchor Borrower Programme.
According to the governor, “The CBN has agreed to provide soft loan to 140,000 farmers in the second phase of anchor borrowers programme.
“This will ensure that our state remains on top on rice production chart as well as a leading exporter of the commodity. “
The governor said efforts were on to fully recover unpaid loans released to farmers under the programme in 2016.
Governor Bagudu urged farmers who were yet to repay the loan to do so, so as to enable others to benefit.
Governor Bagudu stressed that agriculture would continue to be accorded top priority by his administration.
Kebbi State Commissioner for Agriculture, Alhaji Garba Dan-Diga said that the state government has plans to procure 300,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer for the this farming season to boost agricultural production.
He added that additional efforts would be enhanced to boost production.
Dan-Diga said assurances had been obtained from the Federal Government based on an agreement between Morocco and Nigeria that the commodity would be provided to be issued to farmers at subsidised rate.
He said provision had also been made to procure 100 tractors,100 thrashers, land tillers and 1,000 ox-plough to be given to farmers to enhance improved agricultural production.
According to him, farmers will be encouraged to revert to mechanised farming to boost production that will improve their economic status.
“Farmers have improved rice production from 2.5 tonnes per hectare to five tunes per hectare.’’
Dan-Diga said the state had trained 10,000 farmers in Wasagu-Dandko Local Government Area to engage in commercial production of Soya beans, while FADAMA 111 programme would also train 10,000 farmers in southern parts of the state.
“The engagement of 70,000 farmers by the state government and 8,000 farmers by private firms and the success recorded in rice and wheat production in the last wet and dry farming seasons would be improved upon.
“Improvement of agricultural production would enable food security, job creation and creation of foreign exchange enhance the economy.’’
According to the Muhammed Lawal Shehu , Acting Permanent Secretary Ministry of Agriculture ,the state government is poised to using agriculture to absorb the teaming unemployed youths , check youth restiveness and an above all utilize it to fight poverty.
He said no nation can claim to be meaningfully independent if it does not have food security and as result, the state has focused on agriculture. He lauded the role of CBN’s Anchor Borrowers programme where more than 75,000 farmers got farming inputs and cash support to intensively engage in rice and wheat farming. He said the programme and support of the government in agriculture were numerous but could not give the financial figures as regards to the support and programme. He said the support from the state government, as well as Anchor Borrowers programme from the federal government have helped the people of the state in its efforts at ensuring food sufficiency. He said with these, the mandate of the governor to the people to go back to the farm ,is yielding positive results. Other support on agriculture, according to him, include the assistance to farmers in all the 21 local governments in the state to grow crops that have comparative advantage that the other local government areas don’t have .
“The state government is providing funds and inputs to those farmers and government made arrangements with different companies to uptake what the farmers produce so that they will not be at lost “ he added .
Lawal also revealed that some companies came to the state to inquire for soya bean and corn which the state government is assisting the farmers to increase their production . He said that Lagos state had already also signed MOU with Kebbi State on different sectors of agriculture.
“We don’t have problem of land in Kebbi and our farmers are more willing to produce, provided the investors are ready tolive up to expectations. The amount of money the state is spending on agriculture cannot be easily quantified .For example, we registered 78,000 farmers on Anchor Borrowers programme ,with necessary logistics support to all the committees .We provided 100 motor cycles provided for extension workers to improve agriculture , there is also the spray of chemicals to kill queela birds using plane.”
The state Coordinator of LASKEB, Alhaji Usman Dan-Galadima,said as parts of Memorandum of Understanding on Agriculture Products Value Chain Development signed between the Lagos and Kebbi Governments “,we transported 10 trucks of livestock to Lagos state alone last year.”
Dan-Galadima said the agreement between the two states covers agro-based commodities such as rice, wheat, soya beans, maize, groundnuts, perishable products, livestock and fish.
“Kebbi State sources for the commodities while Lagos processes them for marketing with APMCO managing the business on behalf of the two governments and the third partner San Carlos, a Mexican company based in Lagos, “he said.
He said the MoU signed by the two states in March, last year, focuses on boosting the production of rice, wheat, groundnut, maize, millet, sorghum, sugar cane, cows, amongst others.
The Acting Rector of the Kebbi State University of Science and Technology, Aleiro, Prof. Bello Shehu, said the university would establish four centres to train farmers on modern agricultural techniques to boost food production.
He said that the university has already trained relevant staff to carry out the programme which was targeted at supporting efforts of the Federal Government to diversify the economy through agriculture.
“We will establish four centres within the local communities around the university; we will locate them in Aleiro, Sabiyo, Danwari and Jega.
“We have received equipment worth one million dollars from Gate and Melinda Foundation which are geared towards making research in order to support farmers and government.
“The foundation also established a Molecular research laboratory and equipped it for the university.
“In the whole of Africa, no university has such equipment to carry out research on viral diseases,” the vice chancellor said.
The Chief Executive Officer of the WACOT rice Company in Kebbi, Mr Rahul Savara, revealed that the mill would generate 3,500 jobs and engage 6,000 farmers.
According to him, the rice factory is capable of producing 120 metric tones daily, and of generating one mega watts of electricity.
He commended the partnership between WACOT, state and local governments, farmers, traditional leaders, and other stakeholders.