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:
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.