“The major part of our agenda is to encourage commercial agriculture in our areas of comparative advantage and boost value addition to our crops by laying solid foundation for agro-allied industries. To this end, Government will work with interested investors to drive the sector to diverse levels of growth” – Gov. Abdullahi A. Sule (2019).
Nasarawa state is reputed to be one of the leading agrarian states with over 85% of the population engaged in one form of agricultural activities or the other. The state is further blessed with vast land and conducive climate for the cultivation of farm produce especially, tropical cash crops such as Yam, Cassava, Maize, Rice, Millet among others.
The Sesame cultivated in the state is reputed to have high oil content for the production of vegetable oil.
This perhaps explains why the administration of Engr. Abdullahi A. Sule’s preference for agriculture as the State’s major source of internal revenue. His presference is further reinforced by the fact that the state has a lot of comparative advantage in producing so many crops.
The governor captured his concern of this critical sector in his inaugural speech on May 29, 2019, when he said: “The major part of our agenda is to encourage commercial agriculture in our areas of comparative advantage and boost value addition to our crops by laying solid foundation for agro-allied industries. To this end, government will work with interested investors to drive the sector to diverse levels of growth”
The Governor has matched his words with action within 10 months in office. He ensured early distribution of fertilizer to the farmers of the state. The first consignment of 33 metric tons was sold to the farmers at the subsidized prices followed by the second consignment of 50,000 tons, bringing a total of eighty three thousand tons of fertilizers that was made available to farmers for the 2019 farming season.
As promised in his inaugural speech, improved seedlings and other, modern implements were distributed to farmers promptly. Plans are underway by the administration to strengthen and reposition the “Nasarawa State Agricultural Development Programme (NADP)” for effective actualization of it’s mandate for self-sufficiency in food production through the revamping of the agency.
The state government has also signed a tripartite agreement between agricultural firm named, AZMAN Group and HRH, Alhaji Abdullahi Usman, on 45 years land lease agreement. The land coverage totally 12,400 hectres in Umaisha Development Area to boost rice production In the state.
Agriculture plays a vital role in the life of any community or nation when properly given attention, the sector gives three square meals on the citizen’s table and provides opportunities to many, thereby reducing to the barest minimum the rate of crime in the society. It makes the age group of a nation a healthy people, be it a working class or dependent population.
In the light of the above, the State Government has wooed Dangote Group of Companies to invest in the state, the firm has started a Sugar Cane plantation in Tunga, Awe Local Government Area of the state to provide raw material for sugar industry, employment opportunities and boost economic activities in the state.
The Engr. Sule’s administration has continued to encourage the expansion of Olam farm in Rukubi, Doma Local Government Area of the State.
Also, the state government is not relenting in exploring all avenues to enable farmers access available agro-financial skills and institutions to enable them go into agricultural activities.
The State Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN] have reached an agreement on a one billion naira loan facility on Youth empowerment.
On assumption of office, the Governor visited the Federal Ministry of Water Resources with the aim of partnering with the State on Farin Ruwa Dam project which was started by previous administration with memorandum of understanding already signed between the state and Federal Government.
When this project is completed, it will boost irrigation farming and fishing activities in the state. During a visit to the Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority in Makurdi, the State Deputy Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Agbadu Akabe, revealed that the state government would partner the authority of the River Basin to boost agriculture through the resuscitation of the Doma Dam built by the President Shehu Shagari (late) administration in the second republic.
In July 2019, the Governor inaugurated an automated agro processing company, NewPal Nigeria Limited in Keffi. The managing director of the company, Mr John Samuel said he was encouraged by the spirited goodwill demonstrated by the Governor Sule-led administration in encouraging agricultural activities in the state.
Like other sectors of the economy, crisis prone areas are a threat in boosting agriculture. On assumption of office, government swung into action in resolving Nasarawa/Benue crisis, especially around the border settlement.
Both governments have exchanged visits and discussed extensively the need for peaceful co-existence between the sister states.
Peace is gradually returning as farmers of the two states can now go to farm without fear. This current relative peace informed why the Japanese Government recently during a ceremony in Azara Development Area donated agricultural equipment to the state government.
Interestingly at the ceremony, Governor Sule revealed that the state government has paid its counterpart funds totaling #88 million naira to International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of United Nations aimed at reducing poverty and hunger in the world, especially the third world countries.
During a meeting with stakeholders in the state to mark his 100 days in office, the Governor assured of his administration’s commitment in providing security for both indigenous and foreign investors who want to do business in the state. Already the presence of an Air Force base in Lafia, Military barracks in Doma and operation Whirl-Wind struck would enhance agricultural business in the state.
The opening of feeder roads all over the state would make it easier for farmers in hinterlands to bring out their farm produce to market where such commodities would command good prices thereby encouraging farmers in Agricultural business.
The administration’s policy on agriculture is the three major components of the sector, mainly production, processing and marketing would be accorded considerate attentions and the research capacity of the Faculty of Agriculture, Nasarawa State University Keffi, as well as College of Agriculture, Lafia will be strengthened.
No nation, the world over cannot advance in an atmosphere of hunger and abject poverty. A relatively free crime society can only be obtained when people have enough food on their table and good governance that can meet international best practices can only be achieved when people are well fed and poverty eradicated. This is what agriculture as the backbone of the economy can do. This style of approaching good governance through food sufficiency can only stand the test of time when all hands are on deck to support the initiative.
As laudable as these initiatives of encouraging agriculture in the state are, government needs to tackle lack of adequate storage and processing facilities. Most of the yam tubers for example, get rotten within the shortest possible time due to excessive heat and for lack of processing cashew and mango fruits into juice, the fruits don’t have durable useful span. Therefore the state Government should make more effort at providing good storage facilities.
It is heartwarming to see that the Governor Sule-led administration is striving to sustain partnership with both local and international partners in agriculture so as to uplift the living standard of the people.
Already the state government under the leadership of Governor Abduullahi A. Sule, has keyed into the UN Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) and other development partners whose activities are tailored towards improving the economic status of the state.
When the state Commissioner for Agriculture and Water Resources, Professor Allahnana Otaki, visited some agricultural project sites in Akwanga and Kokona Local Government Areas of the state, he said in demonstration of the state government’s commitment. Governor Abdullahi A. Sule approved N72 million counterpart fund for two years to guarantee agricultural activities in the state to access funds from United Nations Development programme in global environment facility in order to empower farmers in the state.
Tukura writes from Lafia.