Kwara: Promoting Farming Practice Amongst Youths

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In realisation of the weaning white collar jobs, the Kwara state government has initiated moves that will encourage youths in the state to take to farming instead of roaming the streets, searching for non- existent office jobs.
And  in appreciation of government’s gesture and concern for their well-being, many youths in the state have taken to farming.
As at the time of filing this report no fewer than 3,200 youths across the 16 local government areas of the state are members of Kwara Youth Integrated Farmers Organisation.
The government ‘s initiative is yielding fruitful result because under the state farm settlement scheme at Oke-Oyi, Ilorin East local government, the youth farmers between 2015 and 2015 produced about 16 tons of Soyabeans, which were supplied to local processors, feed millers and traders at the local markets.
Apart from this, the youth farmers embarked on soyabeans demonstration trial in 11 local communities in about 10 local government areas in collaboration with national and foreign partners.
The representative of the youth farmers, Abubakar Ibrahim, disclosed this in Ilorin, the state capital at an award presentation.
He added that the farmers had also embarked on seed production of about one hectare of land which was certified by the National Seed Council of Nigeria.
However, stakeholders at the event, said that the youth farmers are not without some challenges.
Ibrahim said that the above stated achievements could have been higher save for the difficulty in accessing land for production; menace of herdsmen; stringent policies and unfriendly attitude from financial institutions; lack of facilities for irrigation farming; absence of storage facilities and unfavourable government policies.
He laid more emphasis on the challenges the farmers are currently facing at their Oke-Oyi and Alateko farm settlements.
“In recent years, the youth farmers in both Oke-Oyi and Alateko farm settlements have been contending with issues that could lead to losing the land and serious-minded youths already in farming in these areas would be out of job.
“The current attempt by the government to take some of the land away from the youth would affect the huge investment by the youth over the years. Many of the farmers had purchased over 70 percent of farm inputs (fertilizer, seedlings, herbicides and inoculants etc) in preparation for 2017 farming season.
“We urge the state government to clear a fresh land for the purpose of expanding farmlands for new farmers rather than driving away the existing youth farmers.
“Aside, we would like a communication network created that would help us to constantly get in touch to share stories of what is going on in relation to achievements we are making in agriculture in the state, he said .”
In his remark, Special Adviser to Governor Abdulfatah Ahmend on Agriculture, Anu Ibiwoye said no matter the seeming challenges, the state government is seeing to be supporting the processes of expanding agriculture.
Ibiwoye added : “The issue is clear. We have limited land for the youths. There are more people that are coming into agriculture. We have to find a way on how to accommodate all the interest together. This is government and government has a responsibility of catering for all.
“What is important is that we are seeing to be supporting the process of expanding agriculture. Currently we are opening up virgin land in Share, Ifelodun local government area and Oke-Oyi. In fact we have approval to open up 50 additional hectares in Malete. We are also entering into a working partnership with the Lower River Niger Basin as their focus has shifted from agriculture. We are looking at where there is existing cleared land.
“The problem we have with this set of youth farmers at Oke-Oyi is that they cannot take control over the 400 hectares. It is government’s land. The government is back to say it wants to run a programme with the land. It is either the youth farmers key-in or excuse us.
“If they leave now we will still bring youth there. We are not saying leave the land but we are saying we cannot leave the entire land to you under the current programme. There is land in other places.”
On the issue of herdsmen’s menace, the the governor’s aid said that the issue of “herdsmen-farmers clash has been a recurring problem. It seems to be a problem that will not go away. When the federal government started toying with the issue of grazing reversed it got to a level when it could not move forward again.
“Realistically, it will take a long time before we can manage this. The state government initially started with sensitization and advocacy. We are significantly lucky in Kwara that we don’t have attendant clashes and attendant casualties like other states.
“I know that there are some volatile areas in both the Kwara south and north. I know that the state government has done enough to do advocacy with the police, communities and representatives of the herdsmen.”
One of the resource persons at the event and the National Cluster Advisor for Two-scale Project in Nigeria, Thompson Ogunsanmi hailed the state government’s policies on youth farming.
He said the two-scale project is being run by the International Fertilizer Development Centre, Abuja.
“Currently we are working in nine states in Nigeria including Kwara.
We are working on soya beans and dairy production, vegetables and maize in the state,” he said.
Ogunsanmi opined that “ as a result of the increment of the youth farmers to over 3,000, is for government to provide more facilities.
The facilities the government provided for them some years ago (that is land) is not sufficient any longer. There is need for government to quickly look into possibility of providing more land across the 16 local government areas.
“One of the things we have observed is that the youths are willing to go into farming. They are not being forced. Another area government should look into is access to credit. The banks are giving some
stringent conditions to the youths which they cannot cope with. For example is the collateral securities; I urge government to look into tailor-made loan to support the process by linking the youths with companies that will buy their products from them. With that banks will be confident that the youth farmers will pay bank, with that they will have access to credit.
“Government should also begin to use the youth farmers to train other youths. The government can leverage on the ‘star youths’ we have discovered by giving them stipends to train other youth farmers. They have the experience and other youths will listen to them better.
“Good rural road network work is also necessary to ensure easy transportation of their products from the rural areas to urban centre. And government should empower the female ones among them through gender balancing.”
He stressed the importance of grazing reserves for herdsmen. “We cannot throw away the issue of grazing land in the country. That will divert the attention of herdsmen from farms,” he added.
“Kwara state government is doing pretty well in terms of its attention on agriculture, particularly youth agriculture. We have been engaging with youths in agriculture in Kwara state since 2012 and for the project to still be with them up till now is a signal that the government is doing well. In terms of access to land government has provided 400 hectares of land in Oke-Oyi, Ilorin East local government area for the youths.
“This is not common in some other states. Apart from that, government even trained them before giving them land and government is still looking into how it will get market for the youth farmers. Government is making farming private sector-driven as it knows that it is not sustainable for government to be pushing everything. In my own view the state government is doing well when it comes to agriculture, he  stated. ”
Also during the flag off of the construction of the Ilesha -Baruba campus of the  state university penultimate week, the Kwara state governor, Alh Abdulfatah Ahmed explained that the siting of the college of agriculture in the area was strategic to its agricultural practices especially in the area of livestock and crop farming.
According to him, the agrarian nature of the area will provide students the opportunity to gain more insight into agriculture.
“As we battling the issues relating to food insecurity and unemployment, it is important we provide cutting edge education to ensure we produce knowledgeable young commercial farmers and professionals as well as to provide all private sectors with required research for innovation and growth.
“Specifically, the institution will also equip the agricultural sector with the knowledge, tools; wealth for farmers, input for industries and food security for all.
“Having moved away from the sustenance and social service agriculture to more market driven approach, agric business is more than ever knowledge based and technology dependant”, he said.
The governor asserted that agricultural sector has the potential to curb unemployment, build growth and create food security.
“Based on this recognition, we have put in place strategy to promote agriculture business in Kwara state.
“Our Off taker demand driven agric scheme and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) have provided farmers opportunity to access capital, tools and expertise for their businesses at affordable rates”, Ahmed said.
He pledged that his administration would continue to provide various incentives to enhance ability of farmers to compete at production market and increase their earnings.
Source: News

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