From Agaju Madugba, Katsina
With the recent launch of the Farm to Folk Prosperity Initiative for farmers in Katsina State, the administration of Governor Aminu Bello Masari seems to have begun a project designed to revolutionise the practice of agriculture in the area.
The N2 billon tractor initiative is in collaboration with the Mahindra Group, said to be the world’s largest producer of tractors, along with other stakeholders and partners.
The government acquired an initial number of 225 Mahindra 60hp tractors for the first phase of the programme, to be deployed to farms in partnership with Springfield Agro, Tractor Owners and Operators of Nigeria and some financial institutions as well the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending. The government said it conceived the scheme in 2014 during the election campaigns, having identified agriculture as part of the five key sectors that required government attention.
Speaking at the launch, the Deputy Governor, Mannir Yakubu, listed the other sectors as education, health, water supply and security. He argued that they were the “catalysts needed for sustainable economic development, social reforms, peace and security.”
As an “end-to-end farm mechanisation solution,” the Farm to Folk Initiative is expected to develop agriculture and farming systems in the state and provide customised solutions for every need of the farming community.
“Our intention is to deploy adequate farm machinery to a level that will boost agricultural productivity to at least 50 per cent of international standards,” Yakubu said. “We are confident that this type of arrangement will provide enough farm machinery at no cost to the state government by supplying tractors that will meet our set target of 0.5hp per hectare.”
Managing director of the Mahindra Group, Ashok Takur, noted that: “Under the aegis of this initiative, the company will not only provide tractors and farm equipment solutions but will also be a key enabler in knowledge dissemination. Springfield Agro and Mahindra will set up agriculture centres across the state.
“At Mahindra, our core belief is that an informed farmer is an empowered farmer and we are delighted to provide them with resources to reap the most from what they sow. The idea is to enrich the farmers’ knowledge and ultimately drive farm tech prosperity and help them rise. The launch of the Gromost Centre in Katsina State is in line with this philosophy.”
Tarun Kumar Das, managing director, Springfield Agro, also explained the scheme, saying: “Private sector investment in agriculture is the panacea to diversifying Nigeria’s economy. We need to deepen alliances and invest in new solutions. More importantly, we want to be part of the smallholder farmer’s story by helping them rise. Given the proper support, smallholder farmers can feed the future of the country and the continent.”
Dr. Abba Abdallah, Special Adviser to the Governor on Agriculture, said the small window available for sowing and harvesting enhanced the need for mechanisation in agriculture.
“There is stagnation in productivity because of the low mechanisation level and low permeation of technology and this is the gap we hope to bridge,” he said.
Yakubu added that the state government had a number of programmes to revitalise the agriculture sector, which “include the on-going farmers data information system, rehabilitation of dams and irrigation schemes across the state and the establishment of 34 weather stations in each local government area at a total cost of N800 million.”
Special Adviser to the Governor on Investment, Alhaji Ibrahim Jikamshi, told Daily Sun that the state government had taken a number of measures to ensure that all stakeholders, including farmers, enjoy the fruits of their labour. According to him, there is already a package of incentives designed to woo investors from both within and outside the country to exploit opportunities in agriculture and allied sectors.
He said, “Katsina State is number four in the country in terms of population, and we have infrastructural facilities in Katsina that you don’t find in other states in northern Nigeria, including roads infrastructure. We also have the mega markets here, including Jibia, Maiyadua Batsari, Charanchi, Bakori, Dandume and Funtua. Any committed investor is given a plot of land within 30 days, and in some cases within two weeks. And we give concessions in terms of surveying and other costs, depending on the type of business you want to do. We even go as far as giving waivers on some taxes. We also make sure you make profit. The inland port is almost completed.
“In Katsina State, you find the private sector and the state coordinating so well. We have a database of our entrepreneurs and we have a wide relationship with the international business community.”
Moreover, Katsina State forms an integral part of the United Nations/Africa Union designated economic zone, the LAKAJI (Lagos-Kano-Jibia) Corridor. That might have informed the recent decision of the Africa Development Bank to collaborate with government for the development of an industrial park in the state.
According to Masari, “being a gateway to the neighbouring Niger Republic, Katsina State is the ideal place for agro-allied and other businesses to thrive.”