…it is evident that the Ganduje administration in Kano State has, in its past two years in office, recorded tremendous achievements in the agricultural sector being a strong catalyst for the overall development of society. The governor has demonstrated political will and commitment to developing this vital sector in order to put the State on a sound pedestal for overall development…
By the middle of this century (year 2050 to be precise), it is predicted that Nigeria will have an estimated population of between 230 and 430 million people, surpassing the United States of America as the third most populated country in the world after China and India. This population explosion will definitely pose serious challenges to governments at all levels and other stakeholders, on how to turn these huge human resources into an asset rather than a liability, in terms of ensuring a highly educated, well-fed and secure society with a minimal unemployment rate. Unless concrete measures are taken, this demographic development will definitely lead to social dislocation through rural-urban migration, food insecurity, massive joblessness and other unwanted consequences.
In order to check this bleak scenario, the agricultural sector must be given its deserved attention and, however seemingly gargantuan this formidable challenge is, the administration of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje in Kano State has since May 29, 2015 remained undaunted in according the agricultural sector the highest priority it deserves because it holds a lot of promises toward ensuring food security, industrialisation, revenue/income generation, creation of gainful employment for the teeming able-bodied youth of both sexes, rural development, access to international commodity markets, poverty reduction, etc.
With over 90 million hectares of land, of which over 75 percent is arable and cultivable, Nigeria has the highest ratio of usable agricultural land to the total land mass in Africa, if not in the whole world, and Kano State, being the most populous in the federation, shares in this endowment of fertile land and an irrigation infrastructure for all-season farming practice.
Despite these endowments, the agricultural sector in the country is bedevilled by a myriad of problems which include the use of simple and crude tools and implements, constraints of the land tenure system, inadequacy of agricultural education through extension services, lack of finance or credit facilities, problems of pest and diseases, lack of storage and processing facilities, resulting in the loss of at least 20 to 40 percent of the annual harvest, poor transportation, poor marketing, and the negative attitude of people towards agriculture due to its low reward and boring nature. Also, the small and scattered nature of agricultural holdings, food imports that stifle local food production, rural-urban migration of young men and women causing shortage of labour on rural farms, and conflicts between crop farmers and nomadic pastoralists.
Apart from these, there are natural problems facing the sector, including soil erosion caused by water and wind that reduces soil fertility, the unstable and changing rainfall patterns attributable to climate change, desertification, the rise of the sea level and global warming, among others.
According to the 2008 World Bank Development Report, “In much of Sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture is a strong option for spurring growth, overcoming poverty, and enhancing food security. Agricultural productivity growth is vital for stimulating growth in other parts of the economy.” Realising this vital role of the sector to the overall socio-economic development of Kano State and in his characteristic far-sightedness, Governor Ganduje initiated many policies and programmes aimed at developing the agricultural sector, more especially as an alternative source of income to the oil sector, with its vagaries in the international markets.
To evolve a comprehensive policy towards developing the agricultural sector, the present administration set up a 35-man Agricultural Technical Committee headed by the Deputy Governor and Hon. Commissioner of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Prof. Hafiz Abubakar. The Committee, composed of highly knowledgeable professionals, experienced academics and experts in various fields, proffered various recommendations to the State Government toward revamping the agricultural sector in the State, the implementation of which has since started in earnest.
In order to enhance the capacity of farmers, for example, the State Government employed an additional 742 extension workers in order to train farmers in modern farming practices with the aim of increasing crop yields and weaning them from the age-old subsistence farming that is in most cases not productive. Equally, the government resuscitated the Kano State Agricultural Supply Company (KASCO) that had been dormant for many years to the extent that the company has been contracted by the federal Government to produce assorted fertilisers for sale to farmers in the country. The sum of N164,942,400 was also approved for the procurement and installation of a new fertiliser blending machine for the company.
The government equally procured 500 units of irrigation pumps for distribution to dry-season farmers at the cost of N45 million, approved N20 million for the purchase of two combined harvesters for allocation to the State Wheat Farmers Association, granted N100 million interest-free loan to the association for the purchase of quality seeds for distribution to its members and gave N16 million assistance to the association to purchase six tractors with implements. This is in addition to the sum of N200 million earmarked for the tractorisation programme of the present administration under which tractors are provided to farmers’ associations at a subsidised rate.
Other interventions toward assisting farmers in the State include the approval of N213,400,000 for the purchase of 5,000 units of petrol engine water pumps for distribution to Fadama farmers and Water Users’ Association and the grant of a N200 million loan to the State Wheat Farmers Association for the 2015/2016 cropping season to enable them to meet the proposed production level of 75,000 hectares and the demand of flour millers.
The State Government also provided fertiliser subsidy to farmers amounting to N2 billion for the production of 50,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser (1,000,000 bags) at the cost of N5,500 per bag for sale to farmers at N3,500 per bag, while the contract for the procurement/supply of tomato seeds and pesticides to support tomato farmers in the State in the sum of N252,304,000 was awarded following the outbreak of Tuta Absoluta epidemic in the State.
This government’s intervention in the provision of affordable fertiliser and other farm inputs to farmers has solved the problem of racketeering, profiteering, product diversion and other underhand dealings resulting in the lack of product availability, affordability and accessibility.
Also, to ensure the supply of hygienic beef and mutton for safe human consumption, the State Government earmarked the sum of N2 billion in the current fiscal year for the establishment of an ultra-modern Halal abattoir in the State which can also export excess meat for revenue generation for the State.
The training of farmers in and out of the country has also been prioritised. For example, the State Government sponsored 60 pastoralists to undergo training in artificial insemination in Turkey at the cost of N51,777,500, and the beneficiaries have since returned home and they are expected to share the knowledge acquired with others.
In order to ensure a healthy livestock for safe human consumption and economic value, the State Government embarks on the annual mass vaccination exercise (CBPP in cattle, PPR in small ruminants and anti-rabies in dogs) which has proved highly beneficial to the State.
The Ganduje administration embarked on the drilling of 1,000 tube wells under its pet programme Kauda Rani in some Fadama areas (wetlands) across 29 local government areas, which gulped the sum of N55.8 million; initiated an integrated rural development programme titled Karkara Salamun Alaikum under which hundreds of kilometres of feeder and tarred roads are being constructed gulping billions of naira in order to open up inaccessible rural areas. Also, hundreds of boreholes have been either drilled or rehabilitated for the supply of potable water to the rural dwellers, electrification of many towns and villages, among other laudable interventions for the development of the rural agrarian communities in the State.
More so, the present administration has been according top priority to the fighting of the menace of desertification and other ecological problems through the annual tree planting campaign, the establishment of shelterbelts and rehabilitation of existing ones, and execution of erosion control projects toward ensuring sustainable environment for food production and safe human habitation.
As such, the Kano State Government has succeeded in coming up with a comprehensive policy for the development of the agricultural sector through accelerated food production; livestock development for meat, leather and dairy products; natural resources conservation; agricultural pest and disease control; agro-processing and value addition, and agricultural programme management information system, etc. Also, skills acquisition programmes, agricultural productivity and diversification, mechanisation/tractorisation, vaccination campaigns, renovation/rehabilitation of veterinary hospitals, micro-credit facilities for small and medium-scale agro-businesses, fisheries and poultry development, procurement of improved seeds and agro-chemicals for distribution to farmers, community warehousing to reduce post-harvest losses, training, and collaboration with development partners, irrigation development, among a host of others which have already started bearing fruit.
Indeed, it is evident that the Ganduje administration in Kano State has, in its past two years in office, recorded tremendous achievements in the agricultural sector being a strong catalyst for the overall development of society. The governor has demonstrated political will and commitment to developing this vital sector in order to put the State on a sound pedestal for overall development, thereby rescuing millions of people from abject penury, just like many countries in Asia and Latin America have succeeded in doing through the agrarian revolution. As a pacesetter for long, the State has again set the pace on the modernisation of the agricultural sector for food security, income generation and job creation, which have been preoccupations of Governor Ganduje since assuming the mantle of leadership in 2015.
Salihu Tanko Yakasai is the director general, media and communications, Government House, Kano.