Kogi’s Giant Leap In Agriculture, by Nafisah Bello
In recent times I have developed an interest in my home state, Kogi especially on some notable giant strides in the security and economic sector. I have also come to a conclusion that any democratic government must be desirous of empowering the youths and women with the necessary materials and tools for productivity.
Admittedly, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi has demonstrated the quality of a leader that strongly believes in providing conducive environment for its teeming populace for economic prosperity.
In fact, the feat in the agricultural sector is quite obvious with heavy investments towards promoting local food production and massive employment opportunities in making Kogi the food basket of the nation.
Undoubtedly, Kogi is an agrarian state with arable land suitable for cash crops, staple crops and subsistence farming. It is the largest producer of cassava in Nigeria and is richly endowed with both natural and human resources. It is also blessed by the confluence of Rivers Niger and Benue in Lokoja, the state capital.
As part of efforts to enhance food security and promote agriculture, Governor Bello has continued to procure and distribute agricultural equipment across the 21 local government areas of the state. They include tractors, ridgers, harrows, ploughs and power tillers. Others are boom sprayers, combined harvestors, planters among others.
All the equipment have been distributed to farmers free except tractors that are managed by farm instructors in the local government areas.
Furthermore, the government has created cluster value system through Agro Processing Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support (APPEALS) where group of youth and women farmers are provided with implement, incentives and cash to engage in farming in their respective communities.
Kogi is one of pilot states in the APPEAL, a Federal Government /World Bank agricultural project after her successful payment of its counterpart funds to promote, enhance food production and youth employment through an innovative farm settlement model.
The idea of establishing integrated farm settlements for beneficiaries of the APPEALS is to develop a commodity-based cluster formation model with associated business investment plan leading to the economic empowerment and livelihood improvement of the participants.
Currently, the farm settlements are located in the three senatorial districts of the state with about 4000 direct and indirect beneficiaries. The benefits of the project include: increase in internally generated revenue, job creation, and value addition to the common staple crops in the state among others.
Similarly, another project, the ‘Cluster Agricultural Settlement Scheme’, (CASS) initiated by the government was commended by NALDA for its timeliness and zeal towards ensuring food security in Kogi.
It is gratifying to note, the administration also established one of the biggest Rice Mill at Ejiba, Yagba West known as Kogi Confluence Rice Mill. The mill constructed at over N4 billion is located on 800 hectares and has the capacity to produce 50 tonnes of rice per day. It is expected to create over 6,000 jobs.
The establishment of the mill by Governor Bello would go a long way in fighting food insecurity and the scourge of unemployment in the state and the country in general for its greater potentials for job creation.
Aside from training and empowering youths in livestock initiative, aqua culture (fish farming), cassava plantation among others, the administration has also commenced a greenhouse vegetable agricultural program in Osara in the Central Senatorial axis of the state.
Greenhouses are enclosed spaces used for growing crops and to regulate the temperature and humidity of an enclosed space. This makes it possible for certain crops to grow and thrive regardless of the external weather conditions.
So far, one can state that the government is already on right track at diversifying the economy of the state from a mono-economy to a multi-faceted economy using agriculture as a pivot to galvanize its revenue base. The efforts can surely produce sufficient food for the citizenry and create more job opportunities.
While most of the projects have Public Private Partnership (PPP) components, the administration should continue to support local farmers, youths and women with necessary tools for crop farming and animal husbandry. The state can also establish agricultural market for farmers and traders to converge and do business.
I wish to therefore, urge Governor Yahaya Bello to sustain the present agricultural revolution drive as well as bring about a social engineering that will inspire more young people and women to engage in farming to fight hunger, unemployment and boost the economic prosperity of the state.
Nafisah Bello is with PoliticsDigest Abuja