Kwara: Many farmers still engage in drudgery farming

Poor Storage, Herdsmen, Poor Funding Pose Threats To Diversification Into Agriculture

Kwara State like many of its contemporaries in the North Central zone is no doubt an agrarian settlement. The presence of three of the existing federal government- owned agricultural institutions in the state probably attest to this claim.

The parastatals are National Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation (NCAM), Agricultural and Rural Management Training Institute (ARMTI) and Nigerian Stored Products and Research Institute (NSPRI) all in Ilorin, the State Capital.

While the people of the Kwara North and South senatorial districts are known for the growing of tubers, grains and cash crops, those in the Central engage mostly in animal husbandry, probably due to the availability of expanse of Savannah vegetation within the district.

But despite the massive land in the Council Areas of Edu, Patigi, Shonga and Kiama, all in the Northern part of the state and deciduous vegetation in Council Areas of Ekiti, Oke-Ero, Oyun, Offa, Irepodun and Ifelodun, practising farmers in these areas engage in drudgery farming.

Even efforts of the state government in providing modern farming technique skills for the youths at Malate Youth Demonstration Farm at Moro Council Area of the state has yielded little or no results, as farming in the state is still left to the aged with obsolete practice and archaic tools.

A Professor of Agriculture at Faculty of Agriculture University of Ilorin, Omotesho said unless governments in Nigeria, make farming enticing and alluring to the youths, “via proper training, veritable policies, periodic monetary interventions like soft loans and availability of modern equipment,” the nation would one day find it difficult to feed its human population.

For a teacher of Geography, Faculty of Business and Social Sciences of the University, Dr. Raheem Lawal, relevant authorities and stakeholders in the agriculture in Nigeria should engage more of the inputs of weather experts and topologists in agricultural practices to conform modern best practices.

According to Prince Adeoye Adekunle, the former state’s Secretary of Farmers Council of Nigeria (FCN): “We are under-producing as farmers in this part of the world. We don’t have good road network to bring the needed materials to the farm and even when we manage to use local tools to produce, how do we bring the produce to the consumers without the good road network?

In the same vein, a cocoa farmer in Ekiti State, Mr. Segun Bamidele urged the state government to show the way forward for cocoa farmers in the state, especially in the area of replacing the old cocoa trees with modern seedlings towards accelerated growth and bumper harvest.

Bamidele, who is also a cashew farmer, said relevant authorities should assist cashew farmers in the area by making the business profit-oriented. He canvassed prompt establishment of a cashew processing industry in the council area to curb massive wastages occasioned by poor storage capacity.

In his remark, a rice farmer in Pada, Edu Local Council of the state, Mr. Makun Abdullahi said all the year round farming of rice would be possible if proper irrigation facilities are provided. He challenged relevant partners to collaborate with rice farmers in the areas to provide sheller machines and properly promote the product.

Responding to Abdullahi’s request in the area of rice equipment fabrication, the Acting Director of (NCAM), Dr. Yomi Kasali said the institute has over 10 different machines, built by its engineers to assist in rice plantation, cultivation and harvesting. He urged the concerned farmers to access the facilities.

In same vein, the Acting Director of (ARMTI), Mr. Anthony Njoku informed the yet-to-be-reached farmers in the state to expect some of the staff of the institute in their areas very soon for more enlightenment on the need for agro-business.

Reacting to the development, Kwara State Commissioner of Information, Alhaji Mahmoud Ajeigbe said the state government has taken some robust steps towards aligning with the Federal government’s national policy on agriculture

He told The Guardian in Ilorin: “The state government has an agro mall to serve as a one-stop gap for farmers in need of agricultural materials and equipment. The development, we believe, will boost the capacities of our farmers going into semi or full commercial business.

Herdsmen, Poor Storage, Impediments To Agricultural Practice In Plateau

From Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi, Jos

In Plateau State, a seasoned farmer, Mr. Josiah Pam, said that economic diversification has to do with Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), mining, agriculture and others.

He wondered to what extent the state and federal governments have gone to improve agriculture as an alternative to the dwindling oil price.

Pam argued that the reason agriculture cannot be an alternative to crude oil is because of the enormous challenges facing its practice.

According to him: ‘One of the greatest challenges facing farming is the nefarious activities of the herdsmen and the unknown gunmen in the state.

In that past, he said: “A farmer would go to the farm and spend many months in the farm before coming home without any fear of insecurity. This boosted productivity, but it is not possible today because of insecurity.”

He further pointed out that the modern means of farming which include the use of organic and chemical manure have destroyed the fertility of the soil and ultimately resulted in less yields.

He also stressed that to improve from micro to macro farming, there is the problem of affording farming implements like tractors, machines, harvesters and others.

The professional farmer also cited inconsistency in government policies as major hindrance to the revival of agriculture.

“The rainy season is going and the farmers cannot access loans from the banks or grants from government. Government’s inability to carry out soil testing to determine which type of produce to grow, where and when, is another issue.

“Storage facility is another challenge. As much as you produce, you must be able to have storage facilities. You are sure you have enough to export after two years. You have to have herbicides to destroy insects.

Flooding and massive erosion are also great challenges, creating gully erosion and the fertility of the soil is destroyed as the erosion washes the land,” he contended.

He disclosed that political interference in the distribution of farm implements, like fertilizers remained a serious problem.

Meanwhile, Director, Press and Public Affairs to the governor, Mr. Simon Lalong, Mr. Emmanuel Samuel Nanle, said that government has made agriculture its priority because of the fertile land in the state.

Group Urges Government To Allocate Ten 10 Per cent Of Annual Budget To Agric Sector

From Charles Akpeji, Jalingo.

The Association of Small Scale Agro Producers in Nigeria (ASSAPIN), has called on the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, accord farmers the much needed recognition by implementing both the Maputo and Malabo declarations of 2010 and 2014 respectively.

The said document which Nigeria is signatory to, mandated all the signatory countries to always allocate 10 per cent of their annual budget to the agriculture sector.

The call, which was made by ASSAPIN National coordinator, Adu Yarima Charles, at a training organized for small scale farmers, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and media practitioners in Taraba, if adhered to, according to Charles, would go a long way to better the lots of farmers in the country.

Saddened by the dwindling activities in the agricultural sector at both the state and federal levels, which he believed was necessitated by government’s inability to implement the declarations, he urged the government to take serious the issues that have to do with agriculture.

“Government cannot achieve its desires, objectives or goals for increased productivity in agriculture without investing in training and retraining, recruitment of more agriculture extension workers who are the machineries in the dissemination of information on the best agriculture practices in the country.”

Rather than deploying foreign farm implements, Charles also enjoined the federal government to focus on local fabricated machineries” as that according to him will reduce losses and boost participation in heralding growth to the nation.

The idea of denying women access to land to carry out their farming activities, he said, must as well be discouraged hence the need for the traditional rulers and persons assigned with the responsibility of allocating land to take women and the youths whom he described as vulnerable into consideration.

Audu Ogbeh

Audu Ogbeh

Corporate And Individual Farmers Compete For Rice Production In Anambra

From Uzoma Nzeagwu – Awka
In Anambra, economic challenges have forced many to seek alternative means of survival. Some people have taken to agriculture, trading, manufacturing of household products and others. Even some civil servants now combine office work with one from of business or the other.

Iruka Mgbokeme and Mr. Godwin Okeke are farmers in Mgbakwu, in Awka North council area. They produce maize, cassava and yam in large quantities.

According to them, they have enough farmlands to engage in farming. Okeke said he received seedlings from the government through farm coordinators, which has improved his harvest.

Individual farmers and corporate farmers like NOVTEC limited, Del Farms Ltd, Eckel Farms Ltd and others produce rice in Anambra East, Anambra West and Ogbaru council areas.

However, FADAMA consultant, Dr. Onu Ndigwe, said demand for rice is high due to the fact that it is now a staple food item for many families, including the average family.

For the fact that rice thrives best in swampy and reverie areas of the state at Offia and Enugu-Otu in Aguleri, gives advantage to the farmers. He said part of the rice farmers’ constraints included late supply of seedlings and fertilizers by service providers, which often affects harvest.

“If seedlings and chemicals reach farmers early, there will be bumper harvest. On the other hand, late supply of seedling, especially very late into the farming season, causes poor harvest.”

“Bad road-network also hinders farmers from moving produce to the cities, especially in Awka North that is the food basket of the state. For the fact that rice thrives best in these areas, farmers need barges to transport it,” Ndigwe said.

Meanwhile, Anambra East, Anambra West and Ogbaru council areas have comparative advantage in rice production as they are situated in the swamps and on loamy soil. The land’s topography encourages mechanized farming for rice production.

The Programme Manager, Agricultural Development Authority (ADP), Ministry of Agriculture Anambra State, Mr. Clement Oguebue, identified ‘glut’ as a problem, especially where there is low demand for the crops.

“When over 80 percent farmers produce and the demand was low, especially at this time of hardship, farmers will record low patronage.

“There are no storage facilities to help farmers protect excess harvest, but this problem is being addressed by the state government through the concession of the silo at Igbariam. There is also inadequate fund in form of agriculture loans to farmers.”

State Government Unveils Agric Roadmap, Farmers Seek Assistance

From Lawrence Njoku (Enugu)

It would appear that the Enugu state government has fully embraced agriculture to shore up its revenues with the dwindling price of crude oil in the international market.

As part of his effort in this direction, the state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, recently presented a motion to the executive council in which approval was made mandating members of the executive council to return to the farms.

The policy, which is reminiscent of the Dr. Michael Okpara’s ‘back to land policy’ for the entire old eastern Nigeria, would see cabinet members cultivating and growing food both for domestic consumption as well as to enhance the state’s revenue base.

At a summit recently, the state government presented to the public opportunity to explore options at developing the agric sector through the Public Private Partnerships, privatization and commercialization.

Ugwuanyi clearly stated that government was seeking ways to commercialize agriculture as part of its development plan, stressing that the government had discovered major crops that have viable value in the state.

The crops were palm oil, rice, cassava, cashew, vegetable, cashew, vegetable fruits and livestock production. The governor disclosed that 750 hectares of arable land across the state have been apportioned for commercial agriculture.

Those listed as beneficiary communities included Ogbeke, Oduma, Ogulogu, Akpugo-Eze, Owo, Nnenwe, Ikem, Agbuibeje, Oghu, Eha-Amafu, Obimo and Amagunze

Amid the crops identified by the governor as potential revenue sources for the state, rice production appears to be the only one that has taken an upward swing in the state in view of the interest the residents devoted to it.

In fact, ever before the pronouncement of the governor, agrarian areas of the state like Uzo-Uwani council area had embraced rice farming for domestic consumption and revenue earning.

One of the farmers told The Guardian that their land is good for rice cultivation, but they don’t have the capacity to produce enough for the people of the state.

“The problem, however, is that we are not encouraged to do so by government as there are many things that we need to farm all year round.”

Secretary of Adani Rice Market, Uzo-Uwani Mr. Cyprian Ezea, who graduated from the department of Physics and Astronomy of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) in 2012, said the roads leading to the area were nothing to write home about.

“Our rice is stone-free, but there are no roads to convey our products. The price of rice has gone up because of the price of other items in the market. If you know what we pass through here, planting and harvesting, you will then appreciate why we are crying.”

Ezea, who said he has acquired several rice farms, added that the government should come to the aid of the local rice farmers by providing them access roads, fertilizer and soft loans.

Another local rice farmer, David Nwabuisi, who is the Chairman, Adarice Participating Farmers, said one major challenge that confronts them was the inability of government to rehabilitate the  Ada dam that should supply water to their farmlands.

He stated that the dam, built by an Israeli company, collapsed in 1999 due to lack of maintenance and had remained like that till date, adding that the state Ministry of agriculture had refused to release the land it took around the project which should have helped the farmers ply their trade.

Federal, State Government Support Farmers

From Tina Todo, Calabar

Cross River State, which is known for tourism, is also rich in agricultural production. The populace mostly from the Central and Northern parts of the state, are known for their farming skills.

They are rich in the production of rice, cocoa, yam and all kinds of vegetables you can think of. The lands are fertile to produce healthy nutritious food crops.

But the farmers are yet to benefit fully from the projects and policy of the Federal government through the state in reforming the agricultural sector.

However, few farmers have lauded the State government in the production of rice by giving loans and seeking for investors known as up- takers to fund their farm produce.

While on the other hand, some farmers said that they have not been benefiting from the State government in terms of assistance that the little they get comes from the Federal government.

Mrs. Theresa Mogbor, who is into rice production said: “The state government has been helpful in the aspect of production of rice in the State by providing loans and a ready market for the farmers through up takers.

She said: “Government is doing enough in rice farming. There is a programme the state government called (GES), that is Growth Enhancement Scheme. Recently government gave out loans to farmers.”

On the challenges faced by fellow farmers from neighboring States, she said: “The only challenge we have from the axis of Ogoja and Yala, close to Ebonyi State is that Ebonyi people take the glory of our labour because we have no milling facilities.

“They are mostly into milling, which is processing of the rice, while we are mainly into production. So when we now produce, the tendency is that we carry to Ebonyi State and they record it as rice that is from their State and even force you to buy Ebonyi State rice so that by the time you bag your rice and you are coming back to your State, it will seems as if you went and bought rice from Ebonyi State.”

Also, a farmer from Ikom, Mr. Emerald Ojong, lamented over the way farmers are being treated in the State.

He said: “There have been too much of hot hair without action. I don’t see what the farmers are getting from the state government. Much of what is coming to us is from the federal government. The farmers are trying to organise themselves so that they can be able to produce. We are yet to see exactly how much the State is contributing to farming.”

Speaking to the Guardian in his office, Director of Agric. Services, Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mr. Anari Anari, said the State Government has provided amenities to local farmers in the state that would improve their agricultural produce and also secure the future of youths in the society.

Onions market in Aliero, Kebbi State PHOTO: Google

Onions market in Aliero, Kebbi State PHOTO: Google

The Cassava Value Chain Option In Rural Communities

By Daniel Anazia

As Nigeria seeks to diversify her economy from oil to other sources and increase its revenue generation, stakeholders in the agriculture industry, particularly the Nigeria Cassava Growers Association (NCGA), have said that cassava, as the nation’s most important staple food crop after maize, will help trigger major economic activities.

Committed to the advancement of agriculture, especially in rural communities across the country, British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation (BATNF), in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), initiated a programme: Cassava Enterprise Value-Chain Development Project, an initiative that is aimed at empowering smallholder farmers in the rural communities across Nigeria.

One of such communities is Otu in Itesiwaju Council Area of Oyo State.

To support this, BATNF distributed agricultural support inputs including, improved varieties of cassava stem, fertiliser, herbicides, pesticides, knapsack sprayers, among others to smallholder farmers in the community.

Speaking on behalf of the farmers, Chairman of the BATNF/IITA Cassava Enterprise Value-chain Development Project Farmers’ Cooperative, Sunday Ajao, told The Guardian that the intervention is a good one, adding that words cannot express the joy and excitement of the beneficiaries, who had to contend with myriad of farming challenges before the intervention by the Foundation.

According to Ajao, before BATNF intervention, farming, though lucrative, was not encouraging, as most farmers did not have the financial wherewithal to combat farming challenges. But with the intervention, they have learnt better ways of cultivating on a large expanse of land, which BATNF, in partnership with IITA, enabled them to prepare.

To make the project sustainable, BATNF ensures that each farmer cultivates at least one hectare of cassava farmland, which is ascertained with a GPS machine provided by IITA. At the end of farming season, each farmer earns about N500, 000. And for people in a rural community such as Otu, this income is quite significant.

This intervention has transformed the businesses as well as the welfare of the beneficiaries in these communities — Otu, Ago-Are and Igboho areas of Oke Ogun in Oyo State.

Though the farmers understand the potentials of cultivating cassava, achieving this was a tough challenge until the Foundation intervened through the Cassava Enterprise Value-chain Development Project.

From what was gathered during The Guardian tour, the farmers, who operate hitherto at a subsistence level, are now owners of hectares of farmlands and employers of labour who work on the farmlands, meet the increasing market needs. This transformation that is currently being witnessed by the farmers may not have been possible without the full technical support of IITA.

There are currently about 150 beneficiaries of the BATNF/IITA Cassava Enterprise Value-chain Development Project intervention in the Oke-Ogun area of Oyo state. Cumulatively, there are about 200 hectares of the farmlands available to farmers in those communities.

Interestingly, the fortunes of the beneficiaries have improved greatly as the farmers do not only rely on the sale of cassava; they also sell starch from cassava to companies that require it in commercial quantities. The fruit of the root is also sold to companies for industrial use.

The beneficiaries now have streams of income, thereby raking in more revenue at every given point across the value chain. Also, the Foundation helps them in facilitating this process which is not only limited to the local market, but also enabling access to major commercial markets and processing companies that require cassava in large volumes. All that is required of the farmers is to harvest and sell their produce.

For Mrs. Victoria Ojumola, one of the six female beneficiaries, the intervention is a worthy one, as it will move them from subsistence farming to commercial level given the training received.

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