To be saddled with ensuring sustainable nutrition and food security by harnessing the vast agricultural potential and confronting challenges of unemployment, poverty, and food insecurity in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, is not a tea party but for the serious minded.
Mallam Abubakar Ibrahim, the Mandate Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development Secretariat of the FCTA, fits in as he came with the sole aim of changing the narrative.
And one year after his appointment, Ibrahim has proven that with determination and focus on the ball, success awaits a goal getter.
Presenting his scorecard at the weekend, the Secretary said unequivocally that the narrative has changed by accelerating development in the agriculture and overcoming the challenges of unemployment, poverty and food insecurity in the FCT.
By his actions and words and what he has done so far, Ibrahim has assured residents of Abuja that there would be no hunger in the Territory, as residents would have enough food to eat in 2023.
Confidently, he said in spite of the palpable fears of food scarcity in the country next year, the FCT Administration has put in place necessary measures for dry season farming in the territory to ensure residents do not hunger come 2023.
Some of the measures, he explained, include training of over 2,600 farmers, provision of about 10,000 jobs to farmers, as well as the provision of agro-inputs at fifty percent discount to facilitate production of sufficient food.
According to him, the Secretariat also made available over 2,000 tones of fertilizer and other farm inputs to farmers to boost agricultural practices.
He said the FCT Fadama CARES programme has disbursed grants to 2,630 beneficiaries from 41 farmers’ community associations in the six Area Councils, as well as 1,962 bags of NPK, 981 bags of Urea and 2943 liters of agro-chemical.
He added that the Fadama programme also disbursed 6,550 day old chicks with 917 bags of poultry feeds, 13,400 juveniles and 268 bags of fish feed, 639 goats, 944 sets of sprayers with personal protective equipment, which 144 units of grinding machines, among others.
Besides, the secretary also hinted that the FCT COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (FCT CARES), with the sole goal to ensure food security and safe food supply chain, targets to support 12,283 farmers and 17 wet markets in the FCT.
He said that farmers are having challenges with lack of funds; to address this, the Secretariat is engaging the National Incentives-Based Risks Sharing Systems for Agricultural Lending NIRSAL and other financial institutions on how to make funds more accessible to farmers in the FCT.
To ensure funds for profit yielding agriculture, efforts are being made to reinvigorate the activities of Co-operative societies, which he said is yielding positive results.
He reassured farmers in the FCT that the Administration was putting finishing touches to reintroducing tractor-hiring services, besides the introduction of other equipment that would “reduce labour intensive productive activities” in farming.
He was emphatic when he said the Secretariat has resolved farmer-herder conflict through community engagement that has also made farmers to return to their farms, which would certainly boost agricultural activities in the nation’s capital.
The Mandate Secretary said while looking into the future, the tractor hiring scheme will kick off early next year to meet up with the farming season. He also promised that inputs are made available to farmers before the rainy season.
The secretariat, he said, would continue to synergize with the private sector and other well meaning organizations to impact on farmers modern farming practices that will not only enhance quantity but quality of farm produce.
He said it has become necessary that alternative fish species be developed and prompted in FCT to diversify and boost fish production and prevent what may later become monotony. The promotion of alternative fish species is expected to further deepen and encourage fish consumption as a result of the preferences and choices that may be available to consumers.
To ensure the sustainability of the programme which is expected to have direct positive impact on domestic fish production, FCT economy and job creation along the value chains, the administration trained about 640 farmers selected from the 6 area councils on tilapia (oreochromis) culture and further empower them with starter packs worth about N30 million.
He said that the use of tyres to roast animal skin has drastically reduced with the constant surveillance of meat processing activities in the abattoirs.
As a permanent solution, the secretariat has concluded arrangement to provide gas blowers and establish Biogas stations in abattoirs for the conversion and utilization of waste to gas.
The secretariat is also keenly supporting the Pasture Development Programme of the federal government which was launched recently by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development at the Paikon-Kore grazing reserve.
Equally of note is the ongoing community awareness campaigns that are being carried out across the 17 chiefdoms of the FCT on climate change and promoting climate resilient agro-practices.
The secretariat will also continue to work with the Area Councils in order to have a comprehensive database of youths and cooperative groups in the FCT that are interested in going into Agriculture so that :we can link them with NIRSAL and other financial institutions to support their businesses:.
Borrowing the words of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Secretary said: “Nigerians must begin to eat what they grow and grow what they eat”.
Abdul is a journalist based in Abuja