Why Katsina is repli­cat­ing Song­hai farm­ing tech­niques - Com­mis­sioner

Musa Adamu Fun­tua is the Katsina State Com­mis­sioner for Agri­cul­ture. In this in­ter­view, he ex­plains why Katsina State is repli­cat­ing tech­niques used by the Song­hai Cen­tre, a pi­o­neer­ing farm, train­ing and re­search cen­tre in Porto-Novo, Benin. Ex­cerpts:

Daily Trust - - INTERVIEW - From Atika Balal

Why is Katsina State repli­cat­ing the Song­hai Cen­tre?

First of all, it is good for you to know that Katsina is an agrar­ian state that is set on ex­plor­ing all its agri­cul­tural po­ten­tials and poised to­wards boost­ing its econ­omy through agri­cul­ture, amongst other ways. The Song­hai project is a mod­ern tech­ni­cal way of farm­ing that has been recog­nised by the United Na­tions and it is only ex­pected that any se­ri­ous agrar­ian so­ci­ety will key into the project. Be­fore we went into the pro­gramme, a com­mit­tee made up of highly pro­fes­sional agrar­i­ans, was set up and they came up with a tech­ni­cal re­port which showed that the tech­nique which is prac­ticed in Port-Novo gave an ex­cel­lent re­sult. We saw it as a great op­por­tu­nity so we signed a N3 bil­lion MOU with the cen­tre; we de­cided not only to send our farm­ers to train in Porto-Novo like some states do, but to repli­cate the pro­gramme in all three zones of Katsina State. We have started in Fun­tua and Katsina zones and we are on course in Daura zone; we have prac­ti­cally seen very good re­sults. In some places, you hear farm­ers com­plain about ac­cess to mar­ket, they are stuck with their har­vest; but with this tech­nique, which comes in a full pack­age, noth­ing is left to waste, ev­ery sin­gle thing is utilised, in­clud­ing waste ma­te­rial. The cen­tre has a dairy, poul­try, fish­ery, live­stock and a pro­cess­ing in­dus­try. Presently, we pro­duce fish and eggs in commercial quan­tity, we have so many hote­liers from Kano, Kaduna and Abuja who come to pur­chase in large quan­tity. Speak­ing gen­er­ally, the ini­tia­tive is also meant to cre­ate em­ploy­ment for our youths, to erad­i­cate poverty, cre­ate more ex­pe­ri­enced farm man­agers and to cre­ate self re­liance.

How far has Katsina gone in dairy and poul­try pro­duc­tion?

It is ac­tu­ally part of the agree­ment pack­age signed with the Song­hai Cen­tre. But even be­fore then, we had an ex­ist­ing pro­gramme which com­prises of a beef im­prove­ment cen­tre in Kabomo, a milk im­prove­ment cen­tre in Ruma, a goat im­prove­ment cen­tre at Kukan Al­janna and a sheep im­prove­ment cen­tre all in Katsina. We also have the Rinka dairy cen­tre which dates back to the colo­nial era. Presently, we have a cat­tle cross­breed­ing pro­gramme and it has been very suc­cess­ful. We pur­chase cat­tle of Amer­i­can and French ori­gins and when we cross­breed them we get an ex­cel­lent out­come. We sell the young ones to in­ter­ested per­sons and it is in very high de­mand.

Go­ing by your claim of be­ing an agrar­ian state, what edge does Katsina have over other food pro­duc­ing states?

We are not claim­ing to be agrar­ian, it is true. Katsina State is leading in cot­ton pro­duc­tion, we are sec­ond in sorghum and mil­let pro­duc­tion and we pro­duce all va­ri­ety of crops. But we, es­pe­cially, have high pro­duc­tion of corn, soya beans and ground­nut. We have an ad­van­tage over some states be­cause our land is very fer­tile and we farm all year round. As it is, Katsina has achieved food se­cu­rity, we pro­duce more than we can con­sume so the state pur­chases the sur­plus from the farm­ers.

If you say that you pro­duce more than Katsina can con­sume, what do you do with the ex­cess?

The prob­lem with farm­ers is usu­ally ac­cess to mar­ket and that is why mar­ket­ing boards are be­ing re­vived. The boards are there to bring mar­ket to the farm­ers and to break the mo­nop­oly. Be­fore now, the state govern­ment made it a duty to pur­chase the pro­duce from the farm­ers so they won’t be stuck with their pro­duce in stor­age fa­cil­i­ties. This year alone, the govern­ment has spent more than N355 mil­lion in pur­chas­ing farm pro­duce. Each month N68 mil­lion is spent on the pur­chase of farm pro­duce in or­der to dis­trib­ute them at a lower price, all these are done sim­ply to bring mar­ket closer to the farmer.

What was the essence of the live­stock agric show which held last month in Dau­dawa?

The main pur­pose of the show was to ex­change ideas and to cre­ate com­pe­ti­tion that will mo­ti­vate the farm­ers. When there is no com­ple­tion, it ends up be­ing a mo­nop­oly. But when people com­pete and ex­change ideas they are de­ter­mined to learn new things and to work harder. It was solely a Katsina State event, but we in­vited re­search in­sti­tutes to ed­u­cate the farm­ers. There are a lot of things the farm­ers may not know. The show bor­dered on live­stock, fish­ery, poul­try, bee-keep­ing and an­i­mal feed. Last year we had a gen­eral agri­cul­tural show, but this year we de­cided to break it into three stages. This month will be a show for crop pro­duc­tion and ir­ri­ga­tion ac­tiv­i­ties in Tambu (Daura) and then the grand show will be at Kafin Soli; that one will in­cor­po­rate ev­ery­thing. Be­sides the ex­change of ideas, we are us­ing these shows to col­late data, we want to know the kind of farm­ers we have on the ground and what they are do­ing so that we pre­pare our­selves for the na­tional com­pe­ti­tion.

So is it right to say agri­cul­ture plays a ma­jor role in boost­ing Katsina’s econ­omy?

Cer­tainly, it does. Last year in crop pro­duc­tion rev­enue, we were given a tar­get of N2 bil­lion but we gen­er­ated over N5 bil­lion, we were to gen­er­ate N3 mil­lion for live­stock mar­ket rev­enue but we gen­er­ated N7 mil­lion, our tar­get for other farm pro­duce was N5 mil­lion but we gen­er­ated over N9 mil­lion. You can say, with­out doubt, that our In­ter­nally Gen­er­ated Rev­enue (IGR) at the min­istry of agri­cul­ture sur­passed our tar­get. Katsina State has a very bright fu­ture in terms of agri­cul­ture.

Fer­tiliser is al­ways an is­sue for farm­ers, but you say that’s not the case in Katsina, how so?

We have sev­eral fer­tiliser dis­tri­bu­tion chan­nels cre­ated by a pol­icy that was ini­ti­ated by the gover­nor him­self. The aim is to en­sure the dis­tri­bu­tion process is fraud-free and there is no mid­dle­man that can cre­ate mo­nop­oly. The process is an open one and ev­ery­one gets to know the amount of fer­tiliser avail­able and how much the state govern­ment is sell­ing (at a sub­sidised rate). No lo­cal govern­ment ben­e­fits less than N32 mil­lion on fer­tiliser sub­sidy alone. We have a depart­ment that mon­i­tors ac­tiv­i­ties re­gard­ing the en­tire process and they ad­vise the gover­nor on when is the ap­pro­pri­ate time for dis­tri­bu­tion. We do not want a sit­u­a­tion where we give farm­ers fer­tiliser and they go and sell it. If such hap­pens, then, the aim of the ini­tia­tive will be de­feated.

How much has been bud­geted for agri­cul­ture this year?

Like I said, we are an agrar­ian state and we de­vote a lot of time and re­sources to agri­cul­ture. This year alone, N13.6 bil­lion has been ap­pro­pri­ated for the sec­tor. Out of this, we will set up more ir­ri­ga­tion schemes and ex­tend agri­cul­tural projects. We have 27 state owned ir­ri­ga­tion schemes, but we need to ex­pand be­cause these sites are not suf­fi­cient for our farm­ers. The Jibiya, Sabke and Zobe ir­ri­ga­tion schemes be­long to the federal govern­ment, but ben­e­fit from state govern­ment’s in­ter­ven­tion. Over time, we re­alised that these 3 wa­ter bod­ies are un­der­utilised and so we thought it ben­e­fi­cial to ex­plore its po­ten­tials. An­other thing is the Song­hai project. All these have been cap­tured in the budget.

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