Of Agriculture and Sustainable Development in Kogi by Mallam Isah Ismail

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Goal Two of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals recently adopted by the UN General Assembly is to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote agriculture”. The SDGs, 17 in number, replace the Millennium Development Goals. The goals were agreed upon at the UN Summit in September 2015 and will become applicable from January 2016 with the expected deadline of 2030.

In reviewing the SDGs, analysts have been quick to quip that expected commitment from sub-national leaders, which in Nigeria are state Governors and Local Government Authorities, which we didn’t see much of under the MDGs, remains the most critical success factor if the SDGs are to be truly sustainable.

Leadership commitment to sustainable development comes in many forms. The impact, across sectors, is often visible and measurable in the transformation that it brings to bear in the lives of the people.

Perhaps, there is nowhere that commitment in leadership has resulted in greater impact in development in recent time than the agricultural sector in Kogi State; a state best rated in North Central Nigeria for development in agriculture and the best in the production of cassava and also adjudged to have the most viable outlook for Staple Crop Processing Zone located in Alape, Kabba/Bunu Local Government Area of the state.

In December 2012, Kogi State Governor Capt. Idris Wada was involved in a car accident in which he sustained multiple fracture. He was admitted at a hospital in Abuja. In the midst of the excruciating pain from his fractured leg, Governor Wada was said to have requested for his mobile phone. Guess what he did. He sent an email to the then Minister for Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, reminding him of the readiness of the state to host the first Staple Crop Processing Zone sited in Alape, Kabba/Bunu Local Government Area of the state. The groundbreaking ceremony of the project did went on successfully despite the Governor’s indisposition at the time and the project is today the single most promising source of Internally-Generated Revenue for the state. Apart from being a hub for backward integration in the agricultural value chain for farmers and other stakeholders in the state agric sector, the project has attracted interests from Dangote Group, BUA Group and Cargill, a US-based manufacturing company.

There are indications that Kogi state could net up to 14 Billion Naira in annual revenue from the project when fully operational. The state is also building on its comparative advantages in rice, fish and cashew nut production and processing.

Governor Wada’s passion and commitment to the development of agriculture is genuine. At a recent media parley in the state, he spoke about his belief in the capacity of agriculture to turn the lives of the people around for the better, stressing that nearly every person can engage in one form of agriculture or the other irrespective of other worthy engagements of regular work demands.

In different parts of the state, people are beginning to back to the land; land clearing equipment worth billions of Naira were procured for use by farmers at subsidized rate; 3500 fish farmers have been empowered; extension services have reached over 11,000 farmers across state; storage facilities have improved the pricing for cashew nuts and thus putting more money in the pocket of cashew growers and hundreds of rural communities have seen their economies greatly improve with 145,000 rural farmers so far validated by the government in partnership with the Kogi Farmers Cluster Development Union and they now benefiting from agricultural loans and grants under the Nigerian Agricultural Payment Initiative.

At a ceremony to flag-off the disbursement agric loans to farmers in the state, the state commissioner for Agriculture, Hon. Zachaeus Atte noted that the NAPI e-wallet system which jointly executed by the Federal Government,  the Kogi State Government and other stakeholders in the agricultural value chain in Nigeria has ensured that only genuine farmers benefit from agric loans in the state.

Also speaking at the ceremony, President of the Kogi Cluster Farmers Development Union, Mr. Alfred Okeme, noted that the beneficiaries are expected to pay back the sum of 56,000 Naira out of the 160,000 Naira loans and grants given to individual farmers, adding that 104,000 Naira is received as grant while 56,000 Naira is given as loan to each farmer which will be paid back with 5 percent interest from proceeds accruing from produce buy-back from the farmers by the state government.

He commended the Kogi State Government for the support given to the organisation through mobilisation of farmers, validation of farmers clusters and provision of agricultural inputs.

Apart from putting food on the table of farmers who have benefited from several initiatives to promote agriculture and food production in the state, agriculture has been key in opening up Kogi for local and international investments in the last few years.

Rural development is one of the offshoots of the integrated agricultural development initiative of the Kogi state government. Several communities like Osarangada in the Central, Odu Ikaka in the East, and Ponyo in the Western senatorial district have all benefited from rural road projects in the course of land preparations for agriculture in the state.

Malam Isah Ismail wrote this  from Government House, Lokoja

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