Wada’s Commitment Towards the Development of The Agricultural Sector for Meaningful Development – Mike Abu

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Agricultural transformation is a process by which individual farms shift from highly diversified,subsistence-oriented production towards more specialized production oriented towards the market or other systems of exchange.

The process involves a greater reliance on input and output delivery systems and increased integration of agriculture with other sectors of the economies.

Agricultural transformation is a necessary part of the broader process of structural transformation,in which an increasing proportion of economic output and employment are generated by sectors other than agriculture.

From the foregoing, the agricultural sector in Kogi State has really undergone major reforms and transformation under the administration of Capt. Idris Wada in the last twenty one month.

The results already achieved is not only exciting, it also shows that with greater commitment the state can become the food basket of the Nation.

In the 60s, Nigeria was self sufficient in food production and well known for its global position in major agricultural commodities,
accounting for over 40 percent of the global supply of shelled groundnuts. The country was also the largest supplier of palm oil in the world, accounting for 78 percent of the global supply and the largest global production of cocoa, accounting for 18 percent of the global supply.

But with the discovery of oil, the agriculture sector suffered neglect with the country becoming a net food importing nation.

But with President Goodluck Jonathan’s launch of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda in 2011, with the goal of adding an additional 20 million metric tones of food to the domestic food supply by 2015, and stimulating the creation of 3.5 million jobs along the agricultural value chain, Kogi State is the first State that has fully keyed into the President’s Agriculture transformation agenda.

For Capt Wada, the return to agriculture, a policy that has remained top most on his administration’s priority is geared towards producing what the people will eat, reduce food imports, save foreign exchange for the country and to create thousands of jobs, especially for millions of its unemployed youths.

Kogi State under the transformation agenda has become an agricultural power house with immense potential. The State possesses several hectares of arable land of which not more than 40 percent is cultivated. It is also blessed with two of the largest rivers in Africa, the Benue and the Niger passing through the State.

The State has comparative advantage in the production of rice, soya beans, cocoa, cashew and palm trees amongst others, also has the advantage of having an available labour force to support the agricultural transformation initiative.

Despite these rich potentials by Kogi State in becoming a food reservoir, it will only remain a potential with no one getting the benefit if conscious efforts is not made to utilize the abundant potentials.

The state government seem to have known this, little wonder it is resolute in its drive to reposition the agriculture sector through several interventions,amongst which is the accelerated rice farm project across the nine local government affected by last year’s flooding.

Aside the introduction of biotechnology in improving agriculture yield, several memoranda of understanding has been entered into to reposition the agriculture sector of state.

The recent decision by the State Government to sign memorandum of understanding with the lower Benue River Basin to utilize the Ejule – Ojebe and the Oguma irrigation sites of Lower Benue River Basin Authority with a total of 1000 hectares for irrigation farm projects at Bassa and Ibaji LGA’s respectively is another government commitment to repositioning the agriculture sector.

The State Government also got the federal government mandate to acquire all unutilized irrigation projects lying fallow in the state.

This is another good news and a welcome development to the agriculture transformation agenda of Kogi State. The MoU will aid all year farming with another 20,000 hectares of land for irrigation farming.

Kogi State Government by record according to Grace Shange, the Managing Director of Lower Benue River Basin is the first to key into the program of acquiring unutilize irrigation projects for accelerated rice production programme.

Similarly, the recent approval by the State Executive Council releasing over N500Million  for the purchase of some very vital agricultural machines with the aim of fixing structural issues that has hampered the performance of the agricultural sector, is another welcome development. This has once again underscored government’s seriousness to making agriculture its mainstay.

Since the commencement of the agriculture policy,efforts has been made to procure tractors, excavators, mounted planters, harrows, levelers, harvesters and water pumps just to mention but a few.

The expected machines to be procured will be deployed to Local Government Areas to lessing the cost of tractor hiring and land clearing.

The present administration since assumption of office has no doubt placed emphasis on agriculture. This it has done through strong policies that have made agriculture attractive,less tedious and commercially viable.

The government must also be commended for its investment in agriculture institutions and infrastructure towards creating a solid foundation for transforming the agricultural sector.

With the Gains of Kogi State Government’s huge investment in Agriculture despite what few critics may think will certainly not come is now overwhelmed by the political will displayed by the present administration.

The State in a matter of time will no doubt succeed in unleashing its power of agriculture to feed the nation and be an exporter of food.

It is heart warming to note that through the Federal Government Growth Enhancement Scheme, (GES), a policy that provides subsidized farm inputs directly to farmers and also the electronic wallet system, which allows farmers to receive subsidized electronic voucher for their seeds and fertilizers on their mobile phones. This has helped in reducing the age long fertilizer sector racket and corruption.  Other challenges still associated with GES like late delivery of input, insufficient input, missing names amongst others should however be addressed.

The government also needs to do so much in developing a strategy to promote structural transformation of the Agriculture sector. This can be done through developing a coordinated systems approach to frequent change in policies, institution and technology.

This is because Agriculture policies are not static but dynamic.

Government must also make research systems more demand driven as well as evaluate the appropriate mix of public and private actions in the food system.  More public private partnership approach should be cultivated as government cannot do it alone.

The place of knowledge transfer to mobilize capital and the use of technology is also very key.  Agriculture has gone beyond the
subsistence to the commercial, thus, whatever knowledge is acquired needs to be disseminated, as constant training of new methods can help demonstrate the use of complex technology for use by farmers. It is a known fact that the future sources of economic growth will depend increasingly on these types of embodied knowledge.

Similarly, challenges related to climate change and extreme weather conditions will certainly continue to tell on the development of agriculture in the State.

To this end, efforts must be made by government through research and weather forecast, reduce climate related shocks manifested by extreme weather conditions which have destroyed livelihoods and affected food insecurity in the country, thus, resulting in high incidence of underweight children and widespread hunger and poor dietary condition.

For now the commitment of the Capt Idris Wada towards the development of the agricultural sector for meaningful development of the state’s economy, using crops it has comparative advantage through strategic partnership is total.

News Commentary Written by Abu Micheal, Chief Press Secretary to Kogi State Deputy Governor

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