Salihu Tanko Yakasai
By the middle of this century (year 2050 to be precise), it is predicted that Nigeria, will have an estimated population of between 230 and 430 million people thereby surpassing the United States of America as the third most populated country in the world after China and India. This population explosion will definitely pose serious challenges to governments at all levels and other stakeholders on how to make these huge human resources into an asset rather than a liability in terms of ensuring a highly educated, well-fed and secured society with a minimal unemployment rate. Unless concrete measures are taken, this demographic development will definitely lead to social dislocation through rural-urban migration, food insecurity, massive joblessness and other unwanted consequences.
In order to check this bleak scenario, the agricultural sector must be given deserved attention and, however seemingly gargantuan this formidable challenge is, the administration of Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, OFR in Kano State since May 29, 2015 has remained undaunted by according the agricultural sector the highest priority it deserves because the sector holds a lot of promises toward ensuring food security, industrialization, revenue/income generation, creation of gainful employment for the teeming able-bodied youth of both sexes, rural development, access to international commodity markets, poverty reduction, etc.
With over 90 million hectares of land of which over 75% is arable and cultivable, Nigeria has the highest ratio of usable agricultural land to total land mass in Africa if not in the whole world and Kano State, being the most populous in the federation, shares in this endowment of fertile land and irrigation infrastructures for all-season farming practice.
Despite these endowments, the agricultural sector in the country is bedevilled by a myriad of problems which include the use of simple and crude tools and implements, constraints of the land tenure system, inadequacy of agricultural education through extension services, lack of finance or credit facilities, problems of pest and diseases, lack of storage and processing facilities resulting in the loss of at least 20 to 40% of the annual harvest, poor transportation, poor marketing, negative attitude of people towards agriculture due to its low reward and boring nature, small and scattered nature of agricultural holdings, food imports that stifle local food production, rural-urban migration of young men and women causing shortage of labour on rural farms and conflicts between sedentary farmers and nomadic pastoralists.
Apart from these, there are natural problems facing the sector including soil erosion caused by water and wind that reduces soil fertility, the unstable and changing rainfall patterns attributable to climate change, desertification, rise of sea level and global warming, among others.
According to the 2008 World Bank Development Report, “In much of Sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture is a strong option for spurring growth, overcoming poverty, and enhancing food security. Agricultural productivity growth is vital for stimulating growth in other parts of the economy.” Realizing this vital role of the sector to the overall socio-economic development of Kano State and in his characteristic far-sightedness, Governor Ganduje initiated many policies and programmes aimed at developing the agricultural sector more especially as an alternative source of income to the oil sector with its vagaries in the international markets.
To evolve a comprehensive policy toward developing the agricultural sector, the present administration set up a 35-man Agricultural Technical Committee headed by His Excellency, the Deputy Governor and Hon. Commissioner of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Prof. Hafiz Abubakar, MFR. The committee, composed of highly knowledgeable professionals, experienced academics and experts in various fields, proffered various recommendations to the State Government toward revamping the agricultural sector in the State the implementation of which has since started in earnest.
In order to enhance the capacity of farmers, for example, the State Government employed additional 742 extension workers in order to train farmers in modern farming practices with the aim of increasing crop yields and weaning them from the age-old subsistence farming that is in most cases not productive. Equally, the government resuscitated Kano State Agricultural Supply Company (KASCO) that had been dormant for many years to the extent that the company has been contracted by the federal Government to produce assorted fertilizer for sale to farmers in the country. The sum of N164,942,400:00 was approved for the procurement and installation of a new fertilizer blending machine for the company.
The government also procured 500 units of irrigation pumps for distribution to dry-season farmers at the cost of N45 million, approved N20 million for the purchase of two combined harvesters for allocation to the State Wheat Farmers Association, granted N100 million interest-free loan to the association for the purchase of quality seeds for distribution to its members and gave N16 million assistance to the association to purchase six tractors with implements. This is in addition to the sum of N200 million earmarked for the tractorization programme of the present administration under which tractors are provided to farmers’ associations at subsidized rate.
Other interventions toward assisting farmers in the State include N213,400,000:00 approved for the purchase of 5,000 units of petrol engine water pumps for distribution to Fadama farmers and Water Users’ Association and the grant of N200 million loan to the State Wheat Farmers Association for the 2015/2016 cropping season to enable them to meet the proposed production level of 75,000 hectares and the demand of flour millers.
The State Government also provided fertilizer subsidy to farmers amounting to N2 billion for the production of 50,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer (1,000,000 bags) at the cost of N5,500:00 per bag for sale to farmers at N3,500:00 per bag while the contract for the procurement/supply of tomato seeds and pesticides to support tomato farmers in the State in the sum of N252,304,000:00 was awarded following the outbreak of Tuta Absoluta epidemic in the State.
This government’s intervention in the provision of affordable fertilizer and other farm inputs to farmers has solved the problem of racketeering, profiteering, product diversion and other underhand dealings resulting in lack of product availability, affordability and accessibility.
Also, to ensure the supply of hygienic beef and mutton for safe human consumption, the State Government earmarked the sum of N2 billion in the current fiscal year for the establishment of an ultra-modern Halal abattoir in the State which can also export excess meat for revenue generation for the State.
Training of farmers in and out of the country has also been prioritized. For example, the State Government sponsored 60 pastoralists to undergo training in artificial insemination in Turkey at the cost of N51,777,500:00 and the beneficiaries have since returned home and they are expected to share the knowledge acquired with others.
In order to ensure a healthy livestock for safe human consumption and economic value, the State Government embarks on the annual mass vaccination exercise (CBPP in cattle, PPR in small ruminants and anti-rabies in dogs) which has proved highly beneficial to the State.
The Ganduje administration embarked on the drilling of 1,000 tube wells under its pet programme Kauda Rani in some Fadama areas (wetlands) across 29 local government areas which gulped the sum of N55.8 million, initiated integrated rural development programme titled Karkara Salamun Alaikum under which hundreds of kilometres of feeder and tarred roads are being constructed gulping billions of Naira in order to open up inaccessible rural areas, hundreds of boreholes either drilled or rehabilitated for the supply of potable water to the rural dwellers, electrification of many towns and villages, among other laudable interventions for the development of the rural agrarian communities in the State.
The present administration has also been according top priority to fighting the menace of desertification and other ecological problems through the annual tree planting campaign, establishment of shelterbelts and rehabilitation of existing ones and execution of erosion control projects toward ensuring sustainable environment for food production and safe human habitation.
So, the government has succeeded in coming up with a comprehensive policy for the development of the agricultural sector through accelerated food production, livestock development for meat, leather and dairy products, natural resources conservation, agricultural pest and disease control, agro-processing and value addition, agricultural programme management information system, skills acquisition training, agricultural productivity and diversification, mechanization/tractorization, vaccination campaigns, renovation/rehabilitation of veterinary hospitals, micro-credit facilities for small and medium-scale agro-businesses, fisheries and poultry development, procurement of improved seeds and agro-chemicals for distribution to farmers, community warehousing to reduce post-harvest losses, training, collaboration with development partners, irrigation development, among a host of others which have already started bearing fruit.
Indeed, it is evidently clear that the Ganduje administration in Kano State has, in the past two years since its inception, recorded tremendous achievements in the agriculture sector being a catalyst to the overall development of any society. The State Governor has demonstrated political will and commitment to develop this vital sector in order to put the State on a sound pedestal for overall development thereby rescuing millions of people from abject penury just like many countries in Asia and Latin America have succeeded in doing through agrarian revolution. As a pacesetter for long, the State has again set the pace on the modernization of the agricultural sector for food security, income generation and job creation which has been the preoccupation of His Excellency since assuming the mantle of leadership in 2015.
Salihu Tanko Yakasai is The Director General, Media & Communications, Government House Kano.