By Olalekan Aiyenigba.
The agricultural revolution in Kogi state presently is in furtherance of its avowed commitment to empower the youth and diversify the economy of the state to engender development.
This declaration was made by Kogi State Commissioner for Agriculture, Hon. Oloruntoba Kehinde in a paper he presented at the Youth Summit/Retreat tittled; Kogi State Government, what opportunities for the youths (The Agric Options), convened by Iyara Development Movement in conjunction with critical stakeholders in the community held on 2nd December, 2017 at DB Hotels, Iyara, Ijumu local government area of Kogi State.
The Commissioner informed the participants at the event that the Governor holds the youth in the state in high esteem and this explains why all his programs have been targeted at the youths because of the realization that if the youths are empowered, they would have been prepared for tomorrow’s challenges to enable them contribute their quota to the development of the state.
“Gov. Yahaya Bello’s declaration of state of emergency in agriculture is an indication of the commitment of the New Direction administration in the state to focus on agriculture”, he added.
Hon. Oloruntoba Kehinde posited that the reality of the time in our country makes it imperative for every youth to consider agriculture against the backdrop of paucity of white collar jobs.
Kogi state government, Hon. Toba Kehinde said decided to diversify the state economy to provide jobs for the teeming youths, to create wealth for the people, to end crime because it thrives when people are jobless and take ourselves out of recession.
“Youths don’t find agriculture attractive because it is tasking and the government is gradually putting in place mechanization programs which the Youths should take advantage of the opportunities to enhance their lives because they cannot be leaders if they are not empowered economically.”
Hon. Toba Kehinde lamented that statistics have shown that the major crops in Kogi state are cassava, cashew and rice but sadly no local government from Kogi West is ranked in terms of production.
He asked that compared to other areas in the state, what can be considered the area of strength of Iyara as a community.
He reminded participants that Okun people use to point to education which is not in doubt but after graduation, what happens?
Okunland, the Commissioner affirmed, is blessed with fertile lands and he admonished the youths to take advantage of this by embracing agriculture.
The Commissioner informed the gathering that government in the state has acquired farm implements to ease farming because before now even with the money, access to farm implements has been difficult. These include 1500 power tillers which are mini-tractors that government is giving out to those interested in farming across the state free of charge. Acquired implements have also been strategically distributed across the senatorial zones to be managed by private handlers though highly subsidized to avoid the mistakes of the past for maximum utilization and benefit for farmers.
According to him, people across the state will have access to these farm implements after its launching byGovernor Yahaya Bello on Thursday 17th December.
Hon. Toba Kehinde informed participants that the state government has embarked on an aggressive drive to harness the abundant water resources in the state and has commenced the development of 1000 ponds across the state as pilot scheme to develop aquaculture and due to availability of the dam in Omi, the scheme for Kogi West has been sited there.
He called on youths to indicate interest to be part of this program as beneficiaries will be trained and paid stipends for six months after which, proceeds from the ponds will be adequate for them to start their lives. This is a grant by the state government.
The Commissioner told the youth about the 50 ton Rice Mill that will be completed soon under a Public Private Partnership to process the paddy rice from the farms in Omi and its environs. Under this scheme, 2,500 hectares of rice farm have been cultivated in Omi to recruit 2,500 youths annually so that one hectare will be given to one youth for training by agronomists on modern rice farming techniques. Three seasons of rice is projected yearly which in no distant time he said will make Kogi State the hub of rice production in the country.
Hon. Toba Kehinde further highlighted the various interventions in place by the state government and in collaboration with Federal Government and International development agencies the youths can access and take advantage of. These include the following;
1. Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS)
This Federal government initiative is meant to empower 10, 000 youths in each state in partnership with the state governments who are expected to clear the lands. Kogi State government has chosen fish farming and cassava production. We now have off takers that solve the problem of getting buyers after harvest; this will prevent glut in the market. There is presently in Kogi State, an ethanol production Company, Unicade Nig. Ltd whose current need (600tons/day) for cassava is in excess of cassava production in the state.
2. Anchor Borrowers Program
A Central Bank of Nigeria program meant to support small-scale farmers due to the funding challenges farmers face in Nigeria. It must however be a cluster farm of about 100 hectares for easy monitoring and economies of scale. Soft loans in form of inputs are disbursed and monitored to avoid diversion. Youths are encouraged to avail themselves this opportunity. This is however a loan that will be repaid over time.
This is a World Bank initiative in partnership with the Federal and state governments. It is a grant with cost subsidized by the Federal government.
4. Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme/Loans (CACS)
Because of the experience of the state government in 2012 CACS, the proposed loan for farmers in the 2018 budget will be given as inputs and adequately monitored.
5. Agricultural Processing and Productivity Enhancement Scheme (APPES)
This scheme the Commissioner said will hopefully take off soon and Kogi state was chosen as one of six to pilot the scheme. This is to support value chain processing of three major crops; cashew, cassava and rice. It involves land preparation; giving inputs to farmers and modular machinery to enable farmers add value to farm products. With the approval of the National Assembly, the scheme will commence. It is a loan to the Federal government but a grant to the states.
6. Aggressive Land Clearing of 100 Hectares
The Governor directed aggressive land clearing of 100 hectares to be done in each local government and due to the conducive environment in Omi Dam Area in terms of all year cultivation; 700 hectares have been cleared to cover Kogi West.
7. Greenhouse Farming
A pilot scheme is ongoing in Osara and the idea is to make Kogi state a hub of vegetable trade.
8. National Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC)
The importance of insurance in agricultural cannot be taken for granted to mitigate loss if and when they occur.
Hon. Toba Kehinde told the youths that if they don’t help themselves now, they will blame themselves later for not taking advantage of the agricultural revolution going on in the state.
If the youths don’t fill their quotas in these programs, other zones will be the beneficiaries the Commissioner told the youths.
In conclusion, the Commissioner advised Youths to pick more interest to work because there is dignity in labour and with mechanization, all that youth need to do is monitor, coordinate and ensure they take maximum benefit of these programs. The youth must change their thinking and orientation to stop the slavish affiliation with politicians.
Youths must realize farming is a process and they should be ready to go the whole hog patiently to reap the reward abundantly while assuring the youth that the government ably led by Alhaji Yahaya Bello will continue to implement policies that will be of immense benefit to the youths in particular and the people of the state in general.Share this on WhatsApp