Agric Revolution: As President Muhammadu Buhari made to visit Plateau in March, the interrogation for the visit, due to the level of seriousness the state government committed to the project bordered on the justification for such high level preparation.
When the president concluded his two-day visit and left however, many were awed by the tangible benefits of the visit that began to come in in droves that the initial cynicism not only abated but stopped completely.
Apart from the numerous projects commissioned which were thrown open for public use, the goodwill of being on the same page with the president began to manifest.
It was not surprising therefore that two weeks after the visit, the state governor, Simon Lalong was appointed as a member of the National Food Security Council (NFSC), giving Plateau a deserved recognition as an agricultural center of excellence.
As many know, any governor chosen to be on the council considers himself and his state as privileged as the council has only six states governors with proven commitment to agriculture as members.
The council works in collaboration with seven federal ministries, the CBN and other security agencies and is chaired by no less a personality than the President.
The other state governors in the council are the governors of Kebbi, Lagos, Delta, Taraba, Ebonyi and the seven cabinet ministers are that of Agriculture and rural development, Finance, interior, industry, trade and investment, water resources, environment as well as budget and national planning.
While the Council has as its key objectives the aim of developing sustainable solutions to the farmers-herdsmen clashes; climate change and desertification and their impact on farmlands; grazing areas and lakes amongst others.
The council also takes interest in regional and global policies and trends that bear implications for food security in Nigeria.
From these it was clear that Plateau’s commitment to developing agriculture and boosting the lot of farmers can no longer be done from the back seat as it has been enrolled into a comity of states with proven track records of agricultural enhancement for its citizens and for the nation.
The question then moved to what Plateau state and its governor owes this privilege and honour to?
At the inception of the Lalong administration in 2015, the governor and his team saw the need to promote agriculture for the development of the state and its people.
This it did by making agriculture one of its policy thrusts all in the bid to ensure food secuirty, provide employment to the citizens of the state and leverage on the policy thrust of the APC led administration.
Lalong who has come to be known as a farmer-friendly governor did not just talk but swung into action by immediately releasing funds to an agency of the government, the state agricultural development program and in the process brought back life to the agency which had become inactive.
Added to that, extension service which was almost extinct in the state was resuscitated with the employment of 400 adhoc staff to guide farmers on best agricultural practices in addition to the payment of counterpart funds which attracted national and international collaboration that further enhanced agricultural production in the state.
Due to the interventions of the Lalong administration, the World Bank through the state Fadama three programme additional funding is expecting two crop value chain programmes in the state, with increase in tomato farming.
A lot of green houses have been springing up all over the state due to these efforts while improvements are being recorded in rice farming.
With the commitment by the current administration in agriculture, potato farming irecieved a boost which has resulted in Plateau being selected as the only state to run the national potato value chain and furtherance of its desire to encourage a robust agricultural sector, the governor created the enabling environment and sponsored the first ever farmers’ summit in the state which resulted in in far reaching resolutions.
In addition to all that, the state government purchased 400 tractors by for a farmer ownership scheme at a subsidized rate.
This project many concede is bound to elevate Plateau as the most mechanized state in the country as it now boasts of over 800 functional tractors in its fleet.
To the surprise of many, the moribund Panyam fish farm all of a sudden began to function and to produce in full gear despite several setbacks,
The Panyam fish farm which was established 65 years ago, is reputed to be Nigeria’s largest fish farm covering a land mass of 309 hectares with the capacity to produce about 4.9 tonnes of fish annually.
The Lalong administration it was that saw the need to bring it back on stream and went into a Public Private Partnership to ensure sustainable growth in line with government’s resolve to breathe life into moribund industries and provide massive employment opportunities.
Fertilizer being one of the major inputs in crop production propelled the Lalong administration to resuscitate the moribund Bokkos fertilizer blending plant and is now one of the biggest plants in the country which has supplied fertilizer to not only the state but other states in the North Central & North Eastern Regions of the country.
The investment in the agricultural sector in Plateau state has gone beyond subsistence levels to a flourishing value chain enterprise with opportunities waiting to be tapped.
With these clear strides in the agricultural sector, not many were surprised that Plateau, under Lalong is now property placed to realise its destiny as a center of agricultural excellence.