Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed
Crusoe Osagie reviews the recent partnership with the United States and other steps being taken by Kwara State to establish itself as the undisputed leader of Africa’s new green revolution
Agric and Lasting Devt
Third President of the US, Thomas Jefferson, once said, “I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries; as long as they are chiefly agricultural,”.
A US Congressman in the 19th Century, William Jennings Bryan, appeared to concur by stressing the following: “Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.”
With leaders that thought like this in the 18th and 19th century, it is easy to understand how the United States turned out to be the world’s strongest and wealthiest in a couple of centuries.
For the Governor of Kwara state, Abdulfatah Ahmed, it is never too late to take a cue from these great leaders and begin to plot how Kwara and Nigeria can emerge among the most formidable in the world, through the instrumentality of the agricultural sector for which the country is blessed with potential beyond reckoning.
After careful consideration, Ahmed came to the conclusion that the most sustainable path to economic development and prosperity of Kwara state is through a properly coordinated green revolution. To achieve this, the governor identified the incontrovertible need for a master plan to transform the state into an Agriculture Mega-City.
The objective, which he set out for this great plan in November 2011 were as follows: To make Kwara the major agriculture and agribusiness hub in West Africa; establish the state as a major magnet of global agriculture investment; build the capacity of Kwara people in the practice of highly innovative and globally contemporary agriculture.
It also seeks to create new jobs through massive agriculture processing to be engendered and establish depot and outlets for agricultural products and equipment.
Setting his plan in motion last week, Ahmed said the state is on its way to becoming an agriculture driven economy, making global impact, through the implementation of the Kwara Agriculture Master Plan (KAMP) in collaboration with United States Experts from Cornell University.
The Governor noted this when he introduced the team of experts led by Prof. Ronnie Coffman of the Cornell University New York who would work with other professors from Cornell, Kwara State University and the University of Illorin.
Ahmed explained that with the difficulties being faced by economies as they try to meet challenges of rising food need, it has become imperative to develop the agricultural sector.
“Today, we take another giant stride towards an agro trade economy, as we seek to meet the global demand for food through agriculture. We can never get it wrong because we are heavily endowed with soil, sunshine and strong people,” he said.
Ahmed said that is necessary to shift from reliance on imports to creating wealth for the nation and generating employment for the teeming youths. “Crude oil is not enough, we need to put in place, a home grown economic drive through agriculture by feeding others,” he said.
Ahmed said that KAMP is a five year development plan designed to transform Kwara state into an agricultural hub that will bring about the much desired economic growth.
He also said that KAMP is borne out of a strong political will, driven by the passion for success, noting that the programme will continue to improve on the efforts put into agricultural development by the last administration.
He mentioned that the last administration did well to initiate the ‘back to farm’ campaign and to resettle the 13 displaced Zimbabwean farmers, proving that it is possible to develop agriculture in Kwara.
He also emphasised the need to adopt best practices whereby new methods are sought out in order to see how others do things and possibly partner with them to domesticate these practices.
He said that the team of experts led by Professors from Cornell University has the task of working out a unique master plan that will bring about true agricultural growth so as to boost food production and gainful employment for the teeming young people of Kwara.
The governor stressed that taking the demography of the state into consideration, he observed that about 70 per cent of the state’s population was made up of youths and reasoned that agriculture will help to channel a future for the teeming youth population.
He also charged the team to improve on what is on ground and develop a system of farmer compartmentalisation for rice, cassava, maize and sorghum in order to attain higher commercial levels for these crops.
He noted that Kwara state is also strategically endowed with the Kwara terminal and river Niger, which serves as source for water needed to irrigate farms, stressing that by taking advantages of these, the state will become a leader in food production in Nigeria.
Also speaking at the briefing, the President, Chief Executive Officer of Bridge Education and Technology Institute, Dr. Adegboyega Somide, who was instrumental to bringing the Cornell University team of Professors to the state, noted that it was important to continue re-inventing in order to keep up with the pace of world development.
Somide outlined the task before the team to include drawing up a plan that will make Kwara a centre of global agriculture investments, unleash the potential of the teeming youths in entrepreneurship and position the state on the New York financial market.
Also speaking, the leader of the team and International Prof. of Plant Breeding, Director of International Programmes, Cornell University, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Prof. Ronnie Coffman, said that agriculture is truly the right choice for achieving economic growth.
He added that there is a lot of evidence in the world to prove that agriculture can impact positively on a country’s economy, citing Brazil a country which they also partnered with and brought in businessmen as a good example of how agriculture can transform a poor economy into a wealthy economy.
He said that his team has made some research breakthroughs in agriculture and stressed that researches needs to be encouraged. “As an educational institution, we note the problems and come up with solutions, that is what farmers need and that is what we are here to provide,” he added.
The Vice-Chancellor of Kwara State University, Prof. Abdul Rasheed Na’Allah, who is the leader of the Local team, said that the march for greatness in Kwara is continuing very strong and will bring pride to all stakeholders, adding that the team is clear about the goal set by the Governor. “The plan underscores our context, vision and is clearly underlined by practicality,” he said.
The team, which is expected to draw up and submit a localised master plan to Governor Ahmed by June 2012, comprises of Prof. Ronnie as team leader, Prof. Harold Van Es and Prof. Peter Gregory; all from Cornell University New York.
The local members of the team are Prof. Na’Allah the V-C of KWASU, Prof. Oluleye Funsho also of KWASU, Prof. Moshood Belewu and Dr. O.F Adekola; both from University of Ilorin.
The Kwara State Government says it intends to continue with the promotion of commercial agriculture as well as provide the enabling environment for peasant farmers and citizens to profitably engage in agriculture beyond mere subsistence farming and put the mechanism in place for the promotion of all season farming.
At the moment, the state’s substantial cultivable land represents 75.3 per cent of total land area or about 2,447,250 hectares. It is a gateway between northern and southern parts of the country which makes for easy accessibility to Lagos and Abuja.
A report from the state says Kwara’s vegetation is well-suited for the cultivation of a wide variety of food crops like yams, cassava, maize, beans, rice, and sugar cane. “Wide array of fruits and vegetables and tree crops such as jatropha, oil palm, cashew and cocoa – and thus presents a clear comparative advantage in agriculture”, the report added.
“There is the existence of a large expanse of graze-able land for animal husbandry and large volumes of surface and underground water for fishing and fish farming enterprises. There currently exists various agro-allied research institutes (ARMTI, NCAM, NISPRI, Unilorin, KWASU etc) for research into agric inputs such agro-chemicals, farm implements, seed bagging and so on,” the report stated.
The state has created the first base line data on its farmers to identify the actual population of its farmers and farming families. The results indicate a clear availability of dedicated farmers who of necessity have learnt to extract the most from a small resource endowment and are eager to participate in the design and implementation of activities for improving the sector’s prospects.
The state has introduced various initiatives in the past eight years to boost agriculture and is reputed to have the foremost commercial agriculture programme in the country (modelled by the Shonga farms project). There is also the existence of generic improvement schemes for local cattle, for use by dairy industry.
Also the average crop yields, per hectare of maize, rice, soya beans, cassava, fish, dairy which are saleable crops are relatively impressive and far higher than national averages with potential still for more improvement. In addition to these milestones, a total of 60 irrigation sites have been identified to support the creation of a culture of all season farming.
However the farmers’ access to funding needs to be improved on as the Rapid Response mechanism for processing of agricultural fund, which is critical for success, is slow.
Also social capital, mainly in the form of cooperatives and other local organisations, is still at a nascent stage but must be encouraged as a major thrust of government’s focus on agriculture, if these farmers are expected to leverage the various platforms currently being provided by the government.
Kwara State Government says it is committed to the development and expansion of its agricultural potential in order to ensure food security for its citizens; and transformation of the agricultural sector from subsistence to commercial farming to support both export production and the generation of raw material for agro allied industries.
It also pledged to ensure sustenance of employment generation that would significantly contribute to the internally generated revenue of the state – as well as the socio economic empowerment of the citizenry.