Just back from Gombe State, Safina Mohammed and Junaidu Abubakar bring readers close to the quiet but promising revolution that is blazing across the state
I have read with more than a passing interest, quite a few articles concerning the performance, progress and commitment of Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo of Gombe State. While many have amused me, others have impressed me. Of course, some have been outright rubbish. Some have sought to distract the governor with outrageous claims and the likes of them, but, ironically, all these have only served to spur him on to greater things.
To say it outright that Dankwambo is performing could be sycophantic, somewhat. But if reason prevails and it is seen that Dakwambo is truly deserving of the peoples’ support, only posterity would judge.
Many have long boasted about the rich reserves of natural resources at the disposal of their state, which has led to the preponderance of a lazy population. But Gombe differs, in the sense that the state has looked inward to harness her agricultural potential to the fullest.
In a move to join the agricultural evolution in states like Kwara and others in the North Central of Nigeria, the state government has resolved to give agriculture the attention it deserves in the economic re-engineering of the state.
For the people of Gombe, agriculture is their main stay which provides food and employment to over 70 per cent of the populace. Though the government does wish for all farming in the state to be mechanised, so as to utilise human labour when needed; the transition is gradual, as the government is currently seeing to feeding both sides of the divide in order to improve production and enhance food security.
On July 4, at the Abubakar Umar Memorial Stadium, the governor oversaw the commencement of fertiliser sales, distribution of tractors and the disbursement of ox-drawn ploughs for the 2013 farming season. This move is towards ensuring that the state maintains her position as the leading producer of food in the Northeast.
Before this time, the event only involved the sale of fertilisers for the farming season, but in addition to the sales, 20,000 metric tonnes of assorted fertilisers (procured by the state government at the rate of N2.5bn, in addition to the 14,500 metric tonnes procured through a joint effort with the federal government, bringing the total quantity of fertiliser distributed to 34,000 metric tonnes), a loan package of 1,140 ox-drawn ploughs, as well as the distribution of 220 brand new tractors with assorted implements.
While large-scale farmers will make use of the tractors to modernise their previous methods by transiting to mechanised agriculture, the ox-drawn plough will come in handy for subsistent farmers to increase production.
A couple of weeks ago, under the aegis of another federal/state government arrangement- the Growth Enhancement Support programme, the state government distributed improved seeds to farmers in the state. This is besides the N378m which spent to subsidise the cost of 281,466 bags of assorted fertilisers distributed to 140,733 farmers in the state. The government is targeting the same number of farmers this season.
The state has also taken advantage of the federal government’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) to facilitate the creation of value chains for grains like sorghum, rice and a berry, tomato. The venture will be financed by the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System of Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) and 10,000 farmers are in line to grab the opportunity.
When it finally gets underway, shortly, this programme will see the state take the front seat once again as employment provider in the region, as many of the people will become service providers, manufacturers, financiers, producers and transporters.
At the beginning of the year, the state government participated in the National Paddy Rice Production Programme for 2013. Resultantly, 30,000 metric tonnes of rice were cultivated.
In addition, the government lent a helping hand to dry- season/ irrigation farmers, by availing them with 600 metric tonnes of fertilisers and 500 units of water pumps at subsidised rates. This is aside the provision of tractors for land preparation and cultivation, free-of-charge.
Every other aspect of the state’s development programme may be for the long-run, but the fruits of the government’s efforts to make the state’s agricultural sector viable are borne by the day. The state went into an agreement with the Bank of Industry to provide loan facilities worth over N510m, under its Entrepreneurship Scheme. This provision will stimulate agro-based industries to come alive and burst forth.
While the government is doing all it can to enhance agricultural production in the state, it has not failed to pay attention to human resource development. The establishment of the Agricultural Training School, Tumu, is a proof of this. The school will expose young people in the state to the rudiments of modern farming techniques. Plans are also underway to establish a livestock production/management arm, so as to empower willing young people economically.
On March 14, the government announced that it has trained 228 enumerators to register farmers under the federal government’s Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES).
And in order to ensure that farmers are not short-changed in the process of fertiliser distribution down the line, the governor has ordered the establishment of polling units and stern punishment for anyone who attempts to divert fertiliser. To cap the good faith shown in him and his programme, the governor declared a highly subsidised flat-rate of N3,000 for each bag of urea and NPK fertiliser.
By a long shot, this is just a fraction of what Governor Dankwambo hopes to offer the supportive people of the state. The door of investment is gradually beginning to open and, over time, the Jewel of the Savannah can only become the investment of Northeast Nigeria.
To succeed entirely, though policies drive the projects, the goals of this agricultural revolution needs to be unreservedly supported by all including the ministry of agriculture, the well-to-do in the state, the farmers themselves and extension workers, amongst others in the state. This is hardly about re-election; rather, more about standing behind the man who stands the most chance of getting it right.
-Mohammed is on the staff of THISDAY Style while Abubakar lives in Abuja