‘Kwara to employ 10,000 youths through Agric Empowerment Scheme’
by SIKIRAT SHEHU
December 13, 2017 | 1:52 pm| | | Start Conversation
Bamidele Adegoke, is the Kwara State commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources. In this interview with SIKIRAT SHEHU, Adegoke spoke on the government plans to attract youths into agricultural practice in the state and Kwara’s strategy to improve mechanised farming.
The Federal Government is making efforts to diversify the economy through agriculture. What role is the Kwara State government playing in this regard?
Kwara State government has already keyed in to the federal government agric programme, which is for youth empowerment and farmers transformation from subsistence farming to commercial farming. We have initiated alot of programs such as the Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS) for youths between the ages of 18 to 35, CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme and the CAKS Loan. So, for us in Kwara, I think we are working in line of the Federal Government policies to diversify the economy.
Mechanized farming is still lagging in Nigeria, what can be done to increase the level of mechanisation in the country?
Mechanisation is a basic problem in the South West and the South East because of the vegetation in the areas. Based on this, the Federal Government is supposed to supply more tractors and equipment to the regions. The Federal government should only provide the machinery but it should be managed by the private sector which would help to limit unnecessary bureaucracy and incessant breakdown since it would be run as a business. One of the biggest problems in mechanised farming is the unavailability of tractors spare parts in the country and provision of after services.
Recently, your ministry constituted a 12 man committee on Accelerated Agricultural Developmental Scheme; can you give a development on initiative?
After the inauguration of the 12 man committee, the CBN which is the fund provider, came just last week to see Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed and the governor and was really happy and excited about this and the next step is to put together the data base because the idea is to empower the youths and create employment for them along the various value chain. The governor has stressed it that it is important to have value addition and in some cases back up integration to boost production and industrialisation in the state.
And for the youths, basically the Federal Government is targeting to make agriculture attractive to them and that is what we imbibed here in the state to bringing those youth on board.
A lot of youths this past farming season, really showed interest in farming and at the ministerial level we are supporting them. We trying to see them through most of these programmes that we are running.
What we are doing right now is that we are putting the data base together because by and large down the value chain, we intend to create 10,000 jobs and beneficiaries are going to be selected from all of the 16 local government areas in the state. It will cut across the whole state. We are at that stage right now, putting together data base, of our youth farmers and the CBN would be able to roll out the fund to them.
How will you describe agribusiness in Kwara?
Agribusiness in Kwara has improved, we are not there yet but with all the vision and dreams of the govenor towards the agricultural sector, no doubt about it that in no time we will be there. Just recently the govenor met with all the newly elected local government chairmen and what he told them was that apart from agriculture, people must be able to generate revenue for themselves; economic activities would definitely improve and boom in the state if we have this programme effectively.
Policy somersault and inadequate finance have been a major impediment to the agricultural sector in the country. How can these issues be addressed?
What I think in my own opinion is that there should be a policy that should give a minimum of at least five years and that should be passed into law by the National Assembly before any subsequent government comes in again and steps it down. Because it has been realized that each programme dies with the initiator, so, if policies have the duration that cannot be stepped down I think this can help us a lot in this country in the agricultural sector. So, every agricultural policies and programme should be allowed to face the test of time.
And part of the challenges too you said lack of credit really, but in my own opinion is lack of accessibility, and I think the solution is for government to arrange farmers in to cooperatives of developed estate farms.
If both Federal and State Governments arrange farmers in cooperatives of develop because it is always difficult to for individual farmer to access loan, he can meet up with the requirements but if you are in corporative and cluster groups, definitely is going to be easier and I think it is also imperatives that government should encourage end user to stand as an off taker and make use of farmers as out growers which is a perfect relationship that will cut off the idea of farmers looking for fund.
What message do you have for farmers and Nigerians in general?
Well, there is a lot going on right now, myself is practicing farming. I am in to crops production (maize and soya beans). It is clear to everyone in this country, a population of about 180 million people that are dependent on oil. It is not anything to go by any more, it is not realistic to depend on oil, and the alternative to that is agriculture, if you are looking at agriculture, we should be talking about commercial agriculture, that we can feed ourselves and the nation and we can now think of export as a means of foreign exchange.
But by and large, I think everyone should start looking at that direction of having a farm in different parts of this state or in any part of the country, there are comparative advantages that every state has, like here in Kwara we grow maize, soya beans, cocoa, cassava and quiet a number of crops too. So, people should try to key in to all of these programmes, where government is really trying to expose them.
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