As the federal government has been talking about resorting to agriculture as alternative to oil-dependent economy, there is a need for states governments to key into the vision, writes GOLOK NANMWA.
PLATEAU State is blessed with a fertile land and a very accommodating weather while over 40 percent of the state population is a farming. Plateau is also unique in agriculture, because every crop can be grown in the state. But not every crop grown in Plateau can be farmed in other states. The state governor, Simon Lalong, vowed to support farmers in the state in order to boost the food production in the state. The governor also recently distributed bags of fertilisers to farmers in the seventeen local government of the state. Crops grown in Plateau include Irish potatoes, vegetables, rice, yam, maize tomatoes, cotton, sweet potatoes, amongst other crops. Recently, the Plateau Agricultural and Development Programme, PADP, organised a preseason training workshop for farmers as raining sets in. The workshop which took place in Pankshin had in attendance farmers from the seventeen local governments of the state. Declaring the event open, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mrs Lynda Barau, expressed the readiness of the present administration in taken agriculture to the next level in the state. According to her, government is working on some interventions that would boost agricultural production in the state. ‘’We are all aware that for the past eight years training of this kind was not organised for farmers in this state, and holding it today shows our commitment towards boosting agricultural activities. We are working on some interventions which will come alongside modern facilities that will help our farmers grow crops and animal alike in the scientific way. ‘’I want to assure you that, the era of syphoning of materials meant for farmers is gone, so each registered farmer will get any intervention meant for them directly; no middle men,’’ she assured. Also speaking at the event, Management Committee Chairman, Pankshin Local Government, Mr Stephen Jings urged farmers to take advantage of the training to better agricultural activities in the state. He expressed optimism that the present at all levels is posed towards developing the agricultural sector with a view of diversifying the economic fortunes of the country. ‘’There is no need we Nigerian importing food when we have the land mass and the fertile soil to make our country rich and independent interms of agricultural production. I’m optimistic that with the way governments at all levels is talking about agriculture, soon our farmers will be richer than some civil servants,” he said. In his welcome address, programme manager of PADP, Mr Philip Gonap said the training was geared towards preparing farmers for up coming 2016 farming season. He added that training would also enable farmers explore modern knowledge in boosting their agricultural activities with a view of making more yields and increasing the revenue profile of the state. ‘’This training is aimed at preparing the minds of our great farmers to the upcoming raining season. The Nigerian Meteorological Agency, NIMET, in its 2016 prediction announced that this year’s rains will not only start early but will also cease early. This then means that we need to be proactive and focus, else we will miss the season. ‘’So, to achieve this, we feel farmers must come together to brainstorm and educate each other so as to make Plateau agriculturally great again,’’ he said. In her remarks, chairman of All Farmers Association in Plateau, Mrs Sarah Chuwang commended the effort of the present government of Simon Lalong in trying to rejuvenate economic fortunes of the state via agriculture. Represented by chairman, Potato Farmers Association, Mr. Emmanuel Shipi, Chuwang added that farmers were ready to cooperate with government in actualising its dreams of improving agricultural activities in the state. In a related manner, Governor Lalong recently pledged more support for the Fadama 111 Additional Financing programme aimed at reducing the poverty level and increased food production in the state. Governor Lalong made the pledge when he received the World Bank Task Team leader of Fadama III in his off in Jos. He said the “focus of this administration is to support agriculture and partner with any organisation or institution to help farmers. “Agriculture plays an important role in supporting growth, creating Jobs, food security and reducing poverty. It is a change and transformation agent. “To grow the agricultural sector and facilitate job creation, our government will work to provide road, water and electricity, which are infrastructure needed for the sector to grow”. Lalong also pledged to invest in training and education for agriculture, particularly the training of extension officers and revive the Plateau Agricultural Development Programme, PADP, to continue with its acclaimed role of foremost agricultural extension agency, as well as Plateau Agricultural Mechanization Agency, PAMA. “We shall establish and revive farm centres in the three geo political zones in the state in addition to resuscitating the Panyam Fish farm, Bokkos Farm project and encourage young people to go into farming through some funding incentives like setting up Agricultural Trust Fund for agricultural priority projects and mechanization techniques among others”, he said. The governor also said his administration would reintroduce agricultural shows in the state and trade fairs and he would also partner with private sector to explore possibilities of building storage facilities in the three senatorial zones of the state with the view of keeping perishable products all year round. He also said that “His administration will ensure that rural development is pursued vigorously to curb migration to urban areas, given that over 40 percent of the populace of the state are rural dwellers that cultivate about 40 percent of the land mass, they also constitute bulk of the electorates that deserve the dividends of democracy”. Similarly, the centre for biotechnology and genetic engineering of the University of Jos and the Plateau State government recently expressed willingness to partner with farmers in the state to boost food production in the country. Speaking on the occasion of the 3rd Farm Fair held in Bokkos Local Government area of the state, the vice chancellor of UNIJOS, Prof. Hayward Mafuyai, who was represented by the director of the centre Prof. Timothy Namo said the fair was aimed at fostering a working relationship with farmers. He said the fare was also to showcase to the world the rich bio resource potentials of plateau state and help researchers to develop proposals aimed at tackling problems encountered by farmers.