As federal and state governments continue to look for alternative ways of diversifying the nation’s economy from oil to agriculture, ANDREW OJIH writes on Taraba state governor’s drive in that regard.
There is no doubt one of the priority areas of Governor Darius Ishaku’s administration since he assumed office in 2015 has been on how to move the economy of the state fully into agriculture.
In the time past, agriculture was the basic source of the country’s economy through the groundnut pyramid in the north, the cocoa production in the South west and the oil palm production in the South east. This is beside the large acres of farm lands being cultivated in the Middle belt and mid-west.
Investigation, however, shows that all that have changed with the discovery of oil and its easy megabucks on which the country subsequently over-depended; things are now bad, prompting the idea of returning to agriculture sacrosanct.
Apart from natural endowments in the sector, food remains the first need of man for which no country or state can be regarded great if she cannot feed her citizens. This is the reason the clamour for a return to agriculture has been on the front burner for a while.
Taking the bull by the horn
Governor Ishaku, in 2015, had assured that his administration would not relent in taking rapid steps towards driving agriculture into every home in the state.His efforts, therefore, made his administration to attain a greater shift from oil as the major source of income.
Blueprint investigation reveals that Taraba is the only state that is currently playing a leading role in feeding over five million of its citizens and most of its neighbouring states whose farms were destroyed by herdsmen, banditry and insurgency.
The state government made a frantic effort of moving Taraba farmers away from manual to mechanised farming. This effort greatly assisted farmers to embrace modern practices and innovations in agriculture.
While taking the oath of office for the second tenure at the Jolly Nyama Stadium on May 29, 2019, he expressed his readiness to invest in agriculture for the next four years.
He said as part of the efforts to boost agricultural productivity of small and medium scale farmers, his second tenure would create enabling environment for collaboration with key relevant stakeholders to undertake interventions.
He said that he would bring in some policies and programmes that will enhance agricultural productivity of small and medium scale farmers and improve value addition along priority value chain. He maintained that huge sums of money would be committed into the sector to boost cotton production, in particular.
According to him, the government will inject billions of naira for the execution of four years plan in 16 local government areas of the state.
Taraba, he said, would be a focal destination on the production of essential commercial crops. Ishaku said the focus is on the value chain, enlisting young people with modern training and introducing devices and implements that would make agriculture not attractive but also profitable.
To that extent, in the past years, the state government has expended huge sums on various areas of agricultural value chain aimed at turning the sector around.
Just before his inauguration, Blueprint gathered that the administration procured over 150 mini tractors to small holder farmers to boost farming activities in the state.
Agric commissioner corroborates
The state commissioner for agriculture, Dr David Ishaya Kassa, while speaking with Blueprint said Governor Ishaku, in his first tenure, did a lot towards improving the income of local farmers in the state.
He noted that outside the procurement of the mini tractors, the governor also purchased over 50, 000 metric tons of assorted fertilisers for sale to both dry and raining season farmers, stressing that they were sold to farmers at government approved price.
“Even as we speak right now, Taraba has the best green house in the sub-Saharan region. We export our products to so many African countries and other parts of Nigeria,” he added.
He maintained that the state government would continue to support genuine farmers to ensure that the state is put in its rightful position in agricultural map of the country.
Blueprint can recall that only last week, the governor flagged off the distribution of fertilisers, mini tractors, agro chemicals and seedlings to boost large scale farming.
Ishaku during the flag off ceremony said that fertiliser and other implement were vital requirements for modern agriculture for enhanced productivity.
He explained that the successes recorded by farmers in the state from 2015 till date motivated the government to provide more implement for greater success in 2019.
“What we are doing today is a realisation of the fact that agriculture is a major source of income of most people in the state,” he said.
Ishaku warned farmers against the sale of the implement, saying anyone found guilty would not be spared, no matter how highly placed.
He therefore approved the sales of NPK 50 Kg bag at a subsidised rate of N4,500, urea would for N5,500 and mini tractor at N450, 000 per units.
Dr Kassa said the ministry was committed to providing inputs to farmers and also guide them appropriately on the best application for greater output.
He thanked the governor for the desired attention given to agriculture, saying the gesture had gone a long way at changing the fortunes of farmers across the state.
On his part, the chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Taraba chapter, Alhaji Bala Aji, commended Ishaku for the timely commencement of sales of farms implement to farmers. “Farmers are grateful for the sale of these products early, at least. This will help the farmers a lot,” he said.
Analysts are of the opinion that the attention the governor gave to agriculture since his assumption of office marked the beginning of good thing for farmers in the state.
They believe that his achievements in that sector in the last four years of his administration has not only taken the state into global reckoning, but has also earned him national and international recognition.
According to them, with this strategic and very serious investments in the sector, the state would soon become the food basket of the nation.