By Ahmed Tukur – Lafia
Unlike other states of the federation that have keyed into the agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration on agriculture, Nasarawa state is yet to join the league of those that have made tremendous impact in that direction.
Although there are recent efforts to make some headway by the importation of equipment to put up about four fertilizer blending plants in the state, it falls short of the true policy of Mr President’s agenda on food sufficiency and job creation in the agricultural sector as well as his emphasis on using local content for improved yield.
Our reporter observes that while neighbouring states like Benue and Plateau boast of best practices in some selected crops which they have improved yield, Nasarawa state has no crop to its credit.
Benue has improved in Orange, Yam produce while Plateau boasts of best vegetables and fruits in a large quantity yearly.
The usual bizarre of Igbo traders and marketers trooping to Nasarawa state to buy Yams, sesame seed, Rice in large quantity are no more while economic activities in the agricultural sector has crumbled and farmers are now taking a heat of the entire crass in the sector.
To start with, available documents indicate that while other states within the North-Central zone improved their agricultural sector through Fadama III World Bank initiative, Nasarawa state has not benefited from the World Bank Fadama iii project for the non-payment of counterpart funds from 2009 to date.
Worse still, due to non-payment of N56Million annual counterpart funding for the FadamaIII project, the World Bank is now considering blacklisting the state for non-adherence to the Federal Government’s agreement with the bank.
According to the counterpart agreement, the state is expected to pay N30Million yearly while the 13 local government areas of the state are to pay N26 Million, with each LGA contributing N2 Million, totaling N56 million yearly.
Similarly, communities to benefit from the funds are also expected to contribute ten percent of the project cost, although not necessarily in finances but either in labour or provision of land, market, seedlings, or even farm equipment such as tractors, or otherwise.
DAILY NIGERIAN gathered that during the year 2008 to 2009 when the state took part in the project, about 2,047 Farmer User Groups, FUG, and 147 Fadama Community Association, FCA, across the 13 LGAs in the state benefitted from the over N666 million disbursed by the World Bank after payment of its counterpart fund.
During that period, the farmers who were mostly into crop farming, bee farming, fish farming, poultry, agro processing, produce marketing, pig keeping and snail rearing and were also introduced into modern techniques of farming and capacity building.
It is also on record that since the last dispensation of late Governor Aliyu Akwe Doma that participated in 2008- 2009 Fadama project, the state is yet to make any move in making sure its farmers benefit from the project.
The state, by implication, has lost about N7Billion for non participation in the last nine years while over 100,000 farmers have lost opportunities in the sector such as capacity building, extension programmes and other benefits that could make them compete with their counterpart in other state.
Examples abound in other states as DAILY NIGERIAN learnt that last year alone, Plateau state procured 500 tractors as part of the proceeds of Fadama III programme while Kogi state is into cassava processing courtesy of the same project.
Our correspondent also learnt that only recently, a German Non-governmental Organisation, Green Innovative Centre for the Agriculture and Food Sector Programme, GIAE, shelved its planned workshop on rice for Nasarawa, Benue and Cross River supposedly due to ineptitude of the states towards handling foreign partners on agriculture.
However, when contacted, the state Commissioner for Agriculture, Jameel Zakari, said that the state is not participating in the Fadama III project without stating any reason.