AGRICULTURE has been identified as a veritable means to set Nigeria’s economy on a path of rebirth and recovery, following the woes that have bedeviled the country’s economy in recent years. Indeed, agriculture is key to Nigeria’s quest for economic diversification and survival.
It is against this background that the Kwara State governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed has put in place, policies and programmes aimed at revamping the agricultural sector in the State and to further position agriculture as a major driver of the State’s economic growth.
One of such programmes is the Off-takers Demand Driven Agriculture (ODDA) scheme, which was launched in 2014 to improve the economic wellbeing of farmers in the State and ensure that farming is attractive. The essence of the scheme is to make sure farmers have ready markets for their farm produce, thereby eliminating cost of storage and preventing post-harvest losses. The state government does this by getting buyers for the farmers.
At inception of the scheme, Governor Ahmed approved the disbursement of a N250million loan to over 160 lead farmers across the State to engage in the production of cassava, rice, maize and soya beans on a large scale.
Subsequently, Governor Ahmed also established the Kwara Agro Mall as a one stop coordination centre for farmers’ needs, providing farmers in the State access to farm inputs, equipment, finance and other agro-allied services. Kwara Agro Mall also assists in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers by linking them with off-takers. Since it was established, hundreds of farmers across the State have benefited from the activities of the centre.
In a bid to upscale the ODDA scheme and ensure that more farmers in the State benefit from the initiative, Governor Ahmed last year approved that the State access a N1billion loan facility under the Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme (CACS) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Upon the receipt of the loan, the State government procured farm inputs worth N360million and were distributed to farmers to boost agricultural production in the State. It is important to note that the inputs are monetized as loans instead of cash so as to prevent diversion of funds to other uses, which has been the case over the years.
While presenting the farm inputs to the beneficiary farmers, the State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Bamidele Adegoke advised them to optimally utilise the provided inputs to boost food production; in line with the resolve of the government.
He further explained that the beneficiaries had been made to go through a thorough scrutiny to ensure that those benefitting were genuine farmers and emphasized that the scheme would not only empower farmers but also create jobs and facilitate rural development. Mr. Bamidele also revealed that more inputs are still being awaited and would be distributed to beneficiary farmers based on demand as soon as they arrived.
Additionally, the State government has under its Estate Farm Development, secured and cleared about 2500 hectares of land in different parts of the State for farming activities. The most interesting part is that the estate farms have been oversubscribed by farmers, particularly youth farmers, which is a manifestation that more people are ready to go into farming business.
The Estate Farm initiative is unique as it ensures ease of administration, monitoring and allows the government to ensure adequate security for the farmers and their farm produce. According to reports, over 1000 farmers are targeted to be empowered and settled on the estate farms, adding that women and unemployed youths would be given priority.
Without doubt, the efforts of the Kwara State government to improve agricultural activities through the ODDA scheme will make farming attractive to the youths, boost food production, create job opportunities and ultimately, lead to poverty reduction among the people.
Written By Hameed Muritala