Gov. Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi state
By Abdallah el-Kurebe
All countries that depend on agriculture hold smallholder farmers in high esteem. When this group of farmers, who are mostly on subsistence scale, are protected enough by government policies on Agriculture, food security is guaranteed.
It is on this note that Atiku Bagudu, governor of Kebbi state is advocating for immeasurable support for this group of farmers in order to achieve the food security target of the federal government.
The governor harped on this need when he hosted the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Zone A meeting, which is composed of Northwestern states of the country, recently in Birnin Kebbi.
In a frank and unambiguous manner, Bagudu posited that in spite of an imaginative thinking that Nigeria’s land mass is wide, the fact is that there is no land for farming. “We do not have land. We are only imagining that we have, land,” he said.
One will tend to understanding the position of the governor considering the fact that Kebbi state is one of the eleven front-line states that are threatened by desertification. Most parts of the land has covered by intruding sand dunes, thereby reducing the land mass.
Bagudu’s prayer is for the federal government to create enabling environment for farmers by making agriculture so attractive to them so that he would take advantage of that to sweep all youths off the streets of towns and villages to the farm.
His take is that “more technical methods are not known to farmers, modern methods of planting, including spacing are not known to them,” adding that “you don’t have the luxury of farming the way you are used to, if you need higher yields.”
The governor is passionate about ensuring a “realisable value from smallholder farms by which way we will protect their landholding.” he sees no reason that would make farmers be stripped of their landholding.
Bagudu is targeting mass rice production and the government aims at providing N1.68 billion for 1,000 farmers. Recently, each of the 70,000 rice farmers got N210,000 even as he projects a 4.5 tonnes per hectare and an approximate 700 tonnes, annually. In the next two years, he aims at one million tonnes.
For this reason, Bagudu needs a level-playing field by the federal government so that, in the first instance, 250,000 youths would be mopped into rice farming, because for him, government should make farming environment conducive to be able to produce food for Nigerians, thereby reducing over-dependence on imported farm produce.
Kebbi state was recently chosen for the launching of the Presidential Initiative on Rice and Wheat Production. As one who is passionate about rice farming, the governor is not in support of the importation of foreign rice, because according to him, it is not safe. “Most of the rice that is imported is seven years old. How is that preserved? There is imperialism in the food system. Local production should be encouraged,” he stressed adding, “we are among the producers of high quality rice, which does not come from Thailand, etc.
Bagudu sees agriculture as a viable business for the youths. “Is agriculture an option for our youths? Let’s think of what can work for them. Agriculture can be a business for our young ones because there are many things in our agriculture value chain that can benefit the society.”
To qualify the meeting, a paper titled: “Revitalising Agriculture as a Tool for Economic Growth and Food Security: The Case of Kebbi State Initiative on Rice Production” was presented by the Director of Centre for Agricultural and Pastoral Research (CAPAR) of Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto (UDUS), Prof. Lawali Abubakar.
Posted by Abdallah el-kurebe