Agriculture is the most viable option to diversify the economy of Nigeria economy from oil. The commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Kogi state, Kehinde Oloruntoba stated this during a chat with journalist while answering questions bothering on the sector in Kogi State. He said that his Excellency governor Yahaya Bello has made it very clear that Agriculture must drive the Kogi economy. He went further to say that the governor has declared a state of emergency in the Agricultural sector of the state, which simply means bending all rules to ensure that agriculture thrives and produce results.
The governor took it upon himself to interface and have private one-on-on interactions with farmers across the 21 LGA of Kogi state, to know their immediate needs. Hence majority of the programmes being implemented by the ministry of Agriculture at the moment are tailored inline with the demands and NEEDS of the farmers.
Mr. Kehinde Oloruntoba stated that Kogi state government is making efforts to make agriculture attractive to the youth of Kogi state, who ordinarily does not fine agriculture fanciful and would not want to have anything to do with farming.
He stated that the state has finalized plans to make agriculture 100% mechanized, where clearing of the land, preparation of the land planting, application of fertilizers and herbicides, harvesting and processing would all be mechanized, making the job less tedious, a clear and total deviation from the crude methods of farming in the past.
Also, he stated that the state government has procured improved seedlings whose yield triples what was obtainable previously and with all these incentives, the yield and turnover would be enormous, most especially as there is the drive to source for raw materials locally due to exchange rate of Naira and dollar, local markets such as pharmaceutical, textiles, food and brewrages abound all around and are ready to purchase agricultural farm produce, hence the problem of who to buy farm produces or available market is a thing of the past.
Furthermore, the state government has also signed an MOU with a private investor to site a rice mill at OMI Yagba east, a 50 tons per day generating mill and hopefully, by the end of the year, the state would start producing its own rice for local and national consumption.
Also, governor Yahaya Bello has promised that before the next harvest of cashew, Kogi state shall have a cashew processing firm, hence there is no better time for the youth to get engaged in agriculture, most especially as we have a governor who backs his words with actions.
It is instructive to note that the Kogi state government has ordered for 100 tractors. They would be distributed among all the LGA for easy access by farmers. In a short while, they would be commissioned.
Mr. Kehinde further stated that the Kogi state government has just signed another MOU with an Israeli firm who will be sighting a green house farm at Osara area of Kogi State. It would serve as a means of youth empowerment for youth in that area.
Also, the state government has signed yet another MOU with Gen Irrigation, to setup irrigation farming at Osara, whose pilot project would be empowering at least 1000 youth.
Presently in Omi, Yagba East LGA, the state government is anchoring 2000 youth on rice production, while the state government is preparing earth pond for 1000 youth in Kogi state which is billed to take off soonest.
The commissioner said, Agricultural projects are spread all around Kogi state, in Kupa, Ibaji and Bassa anchoring people using CBN grants to train and empower the people.
In a bid to ensure quality yield and encourage farmers, the state government has provided incentives at extremely affordable rates. LGA’s have been mandated to subsidize the cost of fertilizers to farmers, so it can be acquired for as low as 3000 naira. The governor has also approved money for improved seedlings, which are available at the moment in the ministry. He has also instructed that all political appointees are to buy fertilizers and share in their constituencies. Gone are the days when fertilizers arrive long after the farming period, the governor makes sure they arrive right on time when they are highly needed.
The governor is hell bent on empowering over 100,000 youth before the end of 2017 through agriculture.
Kogi state has also been selected along other 5 states in a world bank assisted projects, where 3 major crops where the state has comparative advantage are selected and developed, Kogi state picked, rice, cassava and cashew. It is a 200 million USD world bank assisted project. Each state is to get an initial take off grant of 10 million USD and subsequent grants would be based on progress made by each state in the areas of comparative advantage they have chosen. Hopefully, before the end of next month, the state would get its first grant of the fund.
The honourable commissioner has these to say on a final note, we are not know to be thugs, government of governor Yahaya Bello is prepared to engage willing people who are ready to work. There is dignity in labor. There is so much prosperity in agriculture. We are beckoning on our youth to take advantage, lets help ourselves.