Katsina State Deputy Governor, Mannir Yakubu, who doubles as the Commissioner of Agriculture, speaks on plans to boost cotton production in the state, especially the involvement of youths. ABBA ANWAR reports.
What is the current position of the cotton sector in Katsina State?
Katsina State produces the highest quantity of cotton in Nigeria. We intend to continue to take that advantage and promote it. Of course, the tempo has gone down, but with the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) Anchor-Borrowers’ intervention, we intend to further promote it by bringing in good inputs, like the seeds and insecticide. And of course, we have uptakers, because, when the farmers cultivate their cottons, most times, they do not find good market for the product. And sometimes, it is not even economically viable to continue like that.
This time around, we are going to have uptakers, so that right from the beginning a farmer will be told by the uptaker the minimum price of his product at the end of the day. So, it is a good programme that the CBN has started. We intend to see through it and see how our cotton farmers are going to benefit. In the next rainy season the programme will cover cotton production and it’s going to help farmers. We are having a special arrangement for the dry season, before we reach next rainy season, as the condition of our dams is now being revisited.
The sum of N2 billion was set aside in 2016 for the rehabilitation of our dams and construction of new ones. So cotton production, among others, will definitely have a boost.
Before we start in the next rainy season with the CBN, we will first identify the farmers. It is under this that we are going to involve the youth and arrange them into clusters and cooperatives. Cluster is a group of 15 to 20 young farmers. Then there may be also 10 clusters, which will then be formed into cooperatives.
And then, we are going to get the CBN to come in with the resources. They wont give the money to the identified youths as such, but they will give money to the seed producers. So, the farmers in clusters and in cooperatives will receive the seeds. They will also receive the fertiliser and insecticides.
What will come to them, as cash will always be the cost of the labour that will go into the production of cotton. At the end of the day, the uptakers will now take the produce from the farmers, from the clusters and from the cooperatives. Based on an earlier agreement of giving them a minimum price, that was agreed on even before the end of the rainy or dry season.
Under this arrangement the farmer has foreknowledge of how it is going to be. So it is not a situation where he will finish and then he will go and the price will be far below his production cost. No, he will be guaranteed a minimum price.
We believe that with this Anchor Borrowers’ programme, it is a laudable programme that the Federal Government has brought and it will encourage the people going back to farm, particularly the youth who do not even have the money to go into farming, because they will be provided the necessary resources and at the end of the day, they will receive the profit for their efforts, facilitated through the state intervention.
What is the state’s agricultural policy?
The agric policy of our government is tagged-Restoration Agenda, which is also the restoration of the agricultural sector. It is a strategy to achieve greater heights in the sector. From the time of our campaign, we have been interacting and meeting with specialists and people of all kinds of competencies within the sector for the revival of the sector.
When we came we were already in possession of a document that would guide us in transforming the agricultural sector of the state. And by now, we have a four-year Development Plan that is Agricultural Restoration Project. The programme is largely about the farmer. What do we do to improve the living condition of our farmers that are largely agrarian in nature? About 90 per cent of our population are agrarian and they depend on farming.
The first thing you should do is this issue of development of improved seeds, which is very vital. With the good seeds, the farmer will double his production. We are doing that through our agency, Katsina State Agricultural Development Agency (KATARDA), in conjunction with the National Seeds Council and IAR, which is the consultant in this part of the country on seeds production and we are also doing it to procure seeds for our farmers through non-seeds producers.
After providing farmers with the seeds, the next thing is fertiliser. Katsina State is one of the states that have been able to provide fertiliser to most of our farmers, even under this difficult era of accessing Foreign Exchange. We have a blueprint on it. We want to have a situation just like in the 1980s, where a farmer will just go to a one stop-shop, agro store service that is in his locality and get it from there. This is our target and we have a blueprint on how we are going to get that in the next three years.
To come back to our Restoration Project document, it came up with a clear vision, mission, objectives and strategies. The strategies were further elaborated into initiatives that will guide in the development of projects for the actualisation of the restoration dream for a viable and independent economy of the Katsina State that is agro based.
The implementation strategies for the Agriculture Restoration Project are centered on the development and improvement of agricultural productivity of selected agricultural commodities through the use of modern technology for food security, industrial needs and export.
Production will be carried purely as business venture and funding will be sustained through partnerships and adequate budgetary allocation. Meanwhile, the private investors would be the main drivers and government will only facilitate it through policies and other relevant supports.
The project will also focus on integrated farming activities that would be deployed to eliminate causes of friction/conflicts between arable farmers and livestock owners, and greater avenues for product’s consumption.
What specific plans do you have for rice farmers?
First and foremost, they are involved in the CBN’s Anchor-Borrowers’ programme. We are doing our best to provide them with quality seeds, as I told you earlier, we are doing this through KATARDA, in conjunction with the National Seeds Council.
As a government, we believe that providing guidance to farmers is necessary, so also training and retraining of Extension Services is just paramount. The extension service has been left to rot. We have to come up with ways to improve on that. We have just finished training with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), we have sent people to Rwanda, to go for extension services. We have also sent people to Thailand and Japan for learning most developed techniques in rice production.
After extension services, the next thing that comes to mind is that of mechanisation. Our government has a programme right now where 380 tractors would be procured from abroad. Already 40 tractors are in stock. This is done to purposely bring transformation into the way farming is done in the state. The days of hoe farming are gone. And to also attract more people especially the youth into farming.
Under this, we do it largely without government funding. It is going to be done through Tractors Owners Association and a company-Spring Field, which has already brought 40 tractors right now. And it is the Access Bank that will finance the process. Government will only be involved in the hand held farming implements for other farmers, so also other implements like water pumps would also be provided by government, in order to restore the revival of the lost glory of farming.
Under this restoration programme, we want to capture all farmers in the state. In fact, it is an ambitious programme, so to speak. And because we want to have every farmer on board, that is the reason why we have a good plan of action.