FINALLY, the rains have fully returned to set the 2019 farming season in motion. There is no doubt that farming or planting seasons had over time, been fused to human civilization. The aphorism that soiled hand leads to oiled lips is vaudeville in many climes.
But despite this pride of place projected for agriculture, hunger – endemic or extreme in many third world states remain an intractable economic puzzle.
MANY excuses have been put forward on why, in spite of recent efforts to rediscover agriculture, the sum of its parts often comes short of the whole. From lip service of governments to natural hazards and popular indifference, the bar has not been raised above mere mantra almost everywhere in Nigeria.
THAT is why plans by Anambra State Government to re-jig land development and agro inputs, through provision of subsidised high-yield varieties and bio-friendly chemicals to farmers during 2019 farming season with over N2billion investments will not only boost the state’s food chain but yield laudable results.
Unlike phony or jumbo projections with which past administrations doped the system, Gov. Willie Obiano’s ability to find the treasure trove through policy templates that tick all boxes, and make radical paradigm shift is unreviled and ingenious.
SPEAKING in Onitsha at an event to commemorate 2018 World Food Day, Gov Obiano reiterated that only collective action will trigger a zero-hunger future in Anambra State.
“TO DEEPEN efforts at mechanising agriculture in 2019, we have made adequate arrangements to provide better access to capital-intensive farm machineries to our farmers.
We are finalising plans to access the N3.5 billion Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) facility for Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS) and Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS) to ensure that set targets on rice, cassava and fish value chains are achieved while also fine-tuning plans for sustained export activities on yam, sweet potatoes, cocoyam and vegetables,” Obiano said.
THE governor also gave hints that ‘Healthy Farm Healthy Farmer’ scheme will receive added impetus in the coming planting season. According to him, this will give more teeth to government’s clampdown on influx of contaminated farm produce into markets and stimulate post-harvest storage and preservation of produces.
A BREAKDOWN of this investment outlay shows that N1.5 billion will be dedicated to development of 5,000 hectares of arable land, with N383 million mapped for provision of incentives to small-hold farmers, through the Anambra Small Business Agency (ASBA) and N195 million voted for agro inputs.
THE challenge is now on small-hold farmers to register with ASBA to benefit from the programmes which, no matter anyway the issue is sliced, seeks to make farming fun for more people, particularly youths. This challenge is further reinforced by federal government’s devotion to gradually evolving agriculture as an economic mainstay to move Nigeria away from crude oil stranglehold.
A RELEASE from Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on 2018: Quatre Four, indicates that a growth rate of 2.70 per cent was recorded in non-oil sector. This was tied to a sterling performance by agriculture which achieved an annual growth of 2.0 per cent. This makes it three consecutive times the country has posted growth in this once-upon-a-time neglected cash cow.
ANAMBRA State may have become an iconic torchbearer of this silent revolution that strives to return agriculture to its pre-independence status as a marquee foreign exchange earning vocation, with Gov. Obiano’s hardnosed farmer-friendly cushions as feel-good factor.
RECORDS show that more people in the state embraced farming in 2018, with over 3,000 new farmers taking up membership of agric co-operative societies or peer review clusters within just seven months to bring farmer headcounts in Anambra from 109,137 in 2017 to 110,144.
CONSEQUENTLY, land utilisation also increased at par with the influx of people into agriculture which has culminated to a massive venture into staple crops where rice production rose from 244,235 metric tons in 2016 to 345,000 metric tons in 2017 to peak up a 440,000 metric tons by 2018 ending.
Cassava output shot up from 1,792, 596 metric tons during the as at 2016 to 1,881,589 metric tons within this period, while maize production increased from 39,902 metric tons to 43,521 metric tons during the last planting season. But the extent of compliance of which able bodied, young graduates to the policy thrust remains a far cry for sustainable wealth creation through entrepreneurship.
NO BALANCED appraisal of this new farming dawn in Anambra State will be exhaustive without tracking other phenomena that adversely affect the drive.
For instance, the flood disasters which swept through various parts of the state last year, according to reports, destroyed over 49,000 hectares of farmlands, even as access to agricultural funds remained little, with some of the few farmers who took loans showing scant enthusiasm to repay them.
EXPERTS warn that danger lies ahead for anyone who, by giving deaf ear to the present food production zeitgeist, is left behind in this wake-up call to farming.
WHAT then will continue to feed anybody’s cynicism in taking up the gauntlet defies every strand of logic, since Obiano has smacked that proverbial fly prancing on you-know-where and shown his palm for all to see. A word is enough for the wise.