By Lawal Sa’idu Funtua, Katsina
The sad story of Nigerian agriculture is in two major areas — deficit in the yield of subsistence farming because of human and non-human factors, and inadequacy of qualitative product to thrive in the standard international market. Achieving the second was captured in APC’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda which is in line with global development agendas as a necessity for human existence. Katsina State Government realized this reality and was prompt to act in an all-out manner to solve the problem.
It has been repeated in various reports of the United Nation FOA, and other relevant reports that ‘current’, (but every day) demand of agriculture in developing countries encourages not only new policy approach, but also sustainability of good policies. Consolidation. Katsina State Government has executed scores of programme for sustainable agricultural development. This is in response to the clarion call of this administration for economic diversification in the Nigeria. What happened to oil based economy and with harsh effect of its over-reliance in recent time adds to volume of justification to diversify to non-oil sector.
The new approach identified by the APC is to use down-to-earth policies to positively affect the poor farmers at the rural areas, especially. Part of the strategies to achieve the programme and method sustainability is to equip the target populace with ideas on new changes and scientific orientation of modern agriculture and support them to make farming a viable venture. This stands to modify the paradox of Nigerian agricultural industry. The paradox of Nigerian agriculture is that it is perceived to be such a ‘boring’ venture that scares young people of today. This perception makes them coy, a manifest of what-do-i-do thinking. If for example, one has no problem with acquiring the land, one may have a challenge of production, or processing, or marketing or all of the above at a time. What does Katsina State government do to make the process as easy as possible?
Masari’s smart administration, right form the onset, entered into agricultural ‘rescue mission’, looking at the conventional imperatives of the sector. Reasons: one, agriculture is the main stay for the teaming population of Katsina State. Two, the need for food security forms the Goal Number 2 in the current sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which is to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”. Three, Agriculture not only helps to provide nutritious food which also reports of United Nation FOA emphasizes in various time to ensure world food security but also to create jobs and support healthy, prosperous communities. This aside, placing agriculture in high premium by Gov. Aminu Bello Masari administration is in itself a golden mark of achievement—it is part of APC Manifesto to create jobs through agriculture. How the governor was able to give the manifesto a focused and hot pursuit is appreciable. Where this approach is uniquely different is that in time like this, when open governance is being promoted, perception change is involved and selection process of the beneficiaries was promiscuous.
Masari doesn’t allowed it to get to his head when Katsina State, with its only 3.2 % in the Q3 of 2017, can boast of its ability to achieve the least position in the unemployment ranking by National Bureau of Statistic. The administration hasn’t relented to intensify self-reliance through agriculture. For example, agricultural support programmes by Katsina state government gulps N 8 billion. The money was spent on 20, 000 farmers under State/CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme in 2016/2017 alone. Improving rice Production was favorably targeted for Katsina farming communities through Himma Project. It is indeed a good yield afterward. In addition, improved seeds, more fertilizer inputs, herbicide and pesticides were made available to farmers. It pays the price. In another stake, N 300 million were spent to improve irrigation through the expansion of Zobe, Mairuwa, Safke and 7 other dams at strategic locations across the state. Justifyingly, Daily Trust of January 17, 2019 reported that dredging such dams “boosts” tomato production and increase irrigation field in Tafoki village, Faskari LGA.
Agric Restoration Project which comes under Governor Masari’s Restoration Agenda, is one of the smartest developments programme in Nigeria. It is designed in such a way that young people are attracted to farming. The Project advocates how government allocate at least one hechtre of land to 1, 000 young farmers in a pre-test adventure they were encouraged to cultivate crops such as cotton and maize. Unprecedented! This is how the government handles the challenge of land tenure system. The Project also comes up with establishment of large organic fertilizer plant whose raw material would largely depend on molasses, a thick brown syrup left after sugar has been extracted from the juice in the government sugar cane project of the state government. Both these interwoven projects have great employment drive. On the other hand, organic fertilizer is a boost to the land fertility that is further being degrading the quality of soil in the state.
In the area of cash crops, the Project rolls out plans to expand production of leguminous crops — cowpea and ground nut yet with preference to local consumption towards nutritional standard which boost brains of young children who the major targets in the educational policies of the state government. Smartly done, this tallies with the recommendations of Goal Keeper Report of 2018 against the poverty in Nigeria. This is not all. Greenhouse Project is a sub-project under the Restoration Project. It is banking on for the production of vegetables by Katsina state farmers. The target is export market which will enable Katsina to catch up in no time.
Furthermore, SMART-Agric initiative of Gov. Aminu Bello Masari has been designed to capture 10 programme initiatives. The beauty of it all is that out of 10 of these initiatives 6 are technology-driven which are farmer data and information system, agro-metrology and automatic weather stations (AWS), OCP Mobile Soil Laboratory, Farm Power and Agric mechanization and 2017 Agric project survey.
Now that the Federal Government has approved National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) targeting annual revenue of N2 trillion, Katsina state government would be at the fore front of state beneficiaries. From the foregoing, the future of Katsina is bright in agricultural development. The government has successfully set momentous milestone as fine modality to actualize diversification
of the economy. With those strategy we can achieve better nutrition, better soil, better income and indeed better Katsina.
Saidu is journalist based in katsina