By Babatunde Opoola
In Kwara, a state richly endowed with vast arable land, the story of agriculture is changing since the inception of Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq’s administration.
As a man with foresight who understands the concept of development, Abdulrazaq knows that continued over-reliance on monthly allocation from the federal government would have dire consequences for the growth and development of the state in no distant future. He understands also that developing agriculture would translate to a great improvement in the standard of living of the people and the economy of the state.
In view of the importance of agriculture, the administration has commenced a strategic development of the agricultural sector aimed at food sufficiency and youth employment. To drive his government’s agricultural transformation agenda, the flagship of his numerous agricultural schemes, perhaps is the Federal Government’s National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) initiative.
According to Abdulrazaq the state would set aside 500 hectares of land to key into the Federal Government’s NALDA initiative.
AbdulRazaq revealed this after his meeting with the Executive Secretary/CEO of NALDA, Prince Paul Ikonne, in Abuja.
He declared that the 500 hectares would serve as a pilot program in three local governments, afterwards, the programme would be implemented in the entire state.
He said the target was to bring youths into agriculture and make them understand that agriculture is beneficial.
“We are here to key into the Federal Government agricultural programme, it is an ideal programme to kickstart massive agricultural programme for youth employment, this is an important programme which we need to key into, and we can’t just wait since the Federal Government has made the announcement, we had to rush forward. I’m happy that Kwara will be the first for the pilot program.
“We are fully ready, the land is ready and in the next few weeks, we will issue them with a certificate of occupancy so that the program can begin immediately by August.
As far as the governor is concerned, this is a better strategy for ensuring success of the programme in the sense that it allows for a review. “We are beginning with 500 hectares for three local governments as the pilot scheme. Now within the pilot scheme, we look at the pros and cons and how to improve on it and extend it to all the local governments, and from there, expand forthwith and bring more youths to cultivate the land.
He adds that “We target that in a year time, we will have thousands of youths, graduates back to the farm, they will see that there is benefit in farming.
“We want to expand our fish farm in the state, especially tilapia fish, animal husbandry, we have packaged different crops for each local government and we will improve from there”, AbdulRazaq said.
On his part, the Executive Secretary of NALDA, Prince Ikonne said plans were on the way to establish a cashew processing plant in Kwara for the North Central zone.
“Don’t forget that we already have cashew plantations in Kwara that are still there, almost 2000 to 3000 hectares and we have agreed as well that we will put the cashew processing plant for North Central in Kwara State”.
In its bid to further promote commercial agriculture the government has also embraced the private- public partnership, PPP, model in the area of fertilizer distribution.
OCP Africa, a leading company in the global production and exportation of phosphate-based fertilizer in partnership with Kwara State Government has distributed NPK fertilizer to about 3000 smaller holder farmers in Edu Local Government Area.
This partnership in the distribution of fertilizer falls under the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative,PFI, of the Federal Government, which is also working with blending plants under the Fertilizer Producers and Suppliers, FEPSAN,to contribute to PFI objectives of providing access to locally produced NPK fertilizers for small holders.
This partnership according to the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Alhaji Adisa Logun, is to strengthen the state’s agricultural initiative which is targeted at subsidising fertilizers in order to enable the state regain its lost glory in rice production and attain food security.
The administration, under the Tractorisation Subsidy Scheme, is also delivering tractors to all the LGAs to further help local farmers as farming activities resumed properly with a view to boosting agricultural yields and improving food security across the state.
The program has largely been successful and beneficiaries of the scheme have applauded Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq for coming up with such a laudable initiative.
Governor Abdulrazaq knows that the spiral effect of all these schemes is phenomenal and he is determined to build an economical viable state through a sustainable development agriculture. If the revolution being witnessed in the agricultural sector in Kwara State is sustained, becoming a food basket of the nation is only a matter of time.