Combating Food Challenges in Katsina

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Francis Sardauna writes that the efforts made by Governor Aminu Masari in revitalising the abandoned agricultural products in Katsina State would revamp the sector and boost food production

One of the major challenges that Nigeria is currently facing as a nation is its inability to feed it’s teeming population. This is in spite of its vast arable land for agriculture and conducive weather all seasons. Indeed, it is a paradox that countries that rarely have rains and those in complete deserts regions have somehow managed to conquer hunger by taking advantage of technology while Nigeria is still struggling in spite of its comparative advantages in this area.

Rarely will anyone doubt the popular assertion that a well fed nation breeds a healthy populace. Let’s face it, Nigeria is rich and blessed. Aside the good weather and arable farmland, the country is equally rich in human resources. The challenge of hunger amid immense opportunities in the agricultural sector in a country like Nigeria, makes it difficult to ignore any leader that takes the bull by the horn by prioritising agriculture with the aim of making positive impacts both on the people and the country at large.

This is why the efforts of the Katsina state Governor Aminu Bello Masari particularly in the agricultural sector cannot be ignored. What the state has achieved in the last three and half years under the leadership of Masari should be a lesson for any leader that is desirous of multiplying the income base of his state.

From the outset, the governor declared a state of emergency in the agricultural sector, targeting food sufficiency, welfare of the people, export and economic development of the state. With prevailing high cost of living, this couldn’t have come at a better time even as pervasive poverty and hunger ravage the country where most Nigerians hardly acquire three square meals per day.

The governor took advantage of its rural communities that are largely agrarian, relying on subsistent agriculture, harnessing their enormous potentials for commercial and mechanised farming in cash crops like plantain, maize, rice, tomatoes and cucumber as well as animal production, poultry and fish farming.

When Masari was sworn in as the governor of the state in 2015, he made certain promises. Specifically, he believes the state is blessed with abundant natural resources, fertile and good climate that can make it possible for it to produce sufficient food to feed its teeming population and provide a sustainable raw materials base for her burgeoning industries.

Fortunately, Katsina State is blessed with arable land and favourable climate that supports all-year-round cultivation and extraction of agricultural and forest products such as palm produce, rice, cassava, yam, plantain, banana, maize, and timber.

In the last three years, the groundwork for the state agricultural revolution was laid via the strategic recommendations of the Restoration Agenda Committee on Agriculture, containing a workable blueprint for over 104 strategic projects that include agricultural development plan.

Being a visionary leader, the governor embarked on expansion of critical support infrastructure through the construction of 15 earth dams across the state. The gesture has improved water supply and conservation for domestic consumption and irrigation farming.

This noble effort has been largely complemented with the expansion of 15,000-hectare coverage of irrigation farming through the provision of local wells, wash bores and irrigation canals to support 3,500 irrigation farmers in communities of Jibia, Kafur, Kaita, Kwanar Are, Sandamu, Faskari, Mai’adua, Kankara, Malumfashi, Masari, among others too numerous to mention.

Within the period under review, the administration of Masari has also constructed five new irrigation schemes, namely Tsanni, Gwaigaye, Takatsaba, Masibil and Tsabu irrigation schemes. To enhance modern system of farming in the state, the Masari-led government also facilitated the installation of 34 renewable energy based farm power solution for rural farm and agro-allied enterprises in the 34 local government areas of the state.

Before the coming on board of Masari’s administration, access to subsidised fertilisers, income losses or poor storage facilities among other numerous predicaments have continued to discourage agricultural investors to invest in the state.

However, within the last three and half years, the state experienced significant changes following the annual procurement of fertilisers to farmers at subsidized rate, animals’ parasite control vaccination, provision of improved seeds to both dry and wet season farmers, pumb, chemicals and other farming tools to 3,000 farmers.

To tackle the problem of income losses and poor storage facilities or techniques, the administration has successfully implemented the construction of 350 Standardised Cooperative and Community Managed Bulk Granaries (SCCGB) to assuage the plight of low scale farm operators in 10 villages for each of the 34 local governments of the state.

The perennial predicament of grazing and the challenges its imposes in relation to violent eruptions in some parts of the state during the last administration of Ibrahim Shehu Schema, has been addressed by Masari administration.

Accordingly, the administration in synergy with neighboring state governments and Niger Republic embarked on the demarcation of farmers/herders routes and rehabilitated the old grazing reserves as wells as nomadic educational centres in the state.

Because of his doggedness to further improve the agricultural sector, Masari gives priority to improve service delivery and the entire agricultural value change thereby embarking on massive rehabilitation of conventional grain stores in Katsina, Dutsinma, Daura, Funtua and Malumfashi, most of them are 85 per cent completion.

Masari administration also developed 2,100 hectares of land for rice farming in more than 21 LGAs; registered 48,000 rice farmers for the CBN anchor borrowers’ scheme and trained 450 youths on different agricultural products.

The state has gone further to train farmers and youths on pruning/shade management, under brushing, and tree care by fumigation, in order to ensure the improved yields from 300 kg/hectare to 2, 000kg/hectare.

In addition, the state has distributed 500,000 improved maize and rice seedlings to farmers at a highly subsidised rate across the 29 maize and rice producing local government areas in the state.

This is aside the free distribution of improved corn seedlings to farmers. In addition to this, the state has invested in the construction of cattle ranch, cultivated over 1,200 hectares of rice farmlands.

Knowing the importance of the use of modern technology and equipment in the 21st century farming, the state has purchased and repaired more than 200 tractors to enhance farming activities in the state. According to available records, the state has so far procured 600,000 bags of fertiliser for farmers in the state.

It doesn’t take rocket science for any smart leader to make positive impacts on the people. All it takes is to understand the problem, identify workable solution and be committed to solving the problem. If any leader is doing the right thing, it will perforate to the populace in no time.

The government is also encouraging the establishment of demonstration plots on various agricultural technologies for transfer of improved technologies to farmers through the Kataina state Agricultural Development Programme.

There is hardly any area in the agricultural sector that the state is not focusing on and there is also hardly any local government area that is not being touched. That is also a demonstration of commitment to even development across the state.

Diverse crops are now cultivated in different places in Katsina State today ranging from rice, cassava, maize and other numerous. The lesson from all of these is that a lot can be accomplished when there is a will and commitment to making a difference in any particular sector by any leader.

The governor has not left anyone in doubt of his commitment to making good his promise of transforming the economy of Katsina State via industrialisation and sustained public-private sector initiative thereby opening up opportunities for growth and improved living standards.

Looking back these last three and half years, he has achieved what he promised especially in the agricultural sector. Masari has taken a bold step to secure the future of Katsina State through agriculture in the event that oil ceases to yield as much revenue as it does today.

Through his policy in agriculture, his administration is creating food security, industrial hubs and massive job opportunities for the people of Katsina state. The state is being transformed from one that is heavily dependent on federal allocations to one that generates revenue and earns foreign exchange through agriculture.

From all indications, Katsina state as a whole has benefitted from Masari’s decision to invest in the agricultural sector. The state is attracting foreign investors and the fact that the government is encouraging public private partnership shows that the governor stands what it takes to run a modern economy, hence the need for the people of Katsina state to re-elect him.