Zamfara State always prides itself as the “home of agriculture’’ and its government has over the years consistently made concerted efforts toward making the state’s economy truly agrarian.
According to the 2008 national census figures, Zamfara has a population of about two million people and about 80 percent of the population is predominantly farmers.
Therefore, there is no gainsaying the fact that agriculture is the people’s major means of livelihood.
Observers say that the state government, obviously aware of the vital role of agriculture in the state’s economy, has embarked on a lot of programmes to transform farming in the state and develop it into commercial agriculture.
They, however, note that such efforts largely require substantial investments and the active participation of entrepreneurs, as commercial agriculture is by all means a capital intensive venture.
The state government appears conscious of the appreciable requirements of commercial agriculture and observers note that it is quite willing to brace up to the challenges.
For instance, Governor Mahmud Shinkafi of Zamfara succinctly stressed the need to place considerable emphasis on the state’s agricultural development during the launch of the 2009 dry-season farming at Wuya village, near Anka.
“Our strategy for industrialization must be based on the state’s agricultural development, in view of our comparative advantage in this critical realm,’’ he said.
The governor also urged the federal and state governments in the country to make concerted efforts to fast-track the country’s agricultural development to strengthen the national economy.
“For our nation to harness all its agricultural potential in building a stronger economy, it has become imperative for state and local governments to join hands with the Federal Government in efforts to revive the agricultural sector,’’ Shinkafi said.
The Zamfara State Government, through the Zamfara State Comprehensive Agricultural Revolution Programme (ZACAREP), is giving priority attention to the state’s agricultural development.
Under the programme, farmers are registered and given incentives in terms of agricultural input such as fertilisers, agro chemicals, pesticides, tractors and other mechanized farm implements, as well as improved seedlings, among others.
Analysts note that ZACAREP is a worthwhile project, particularly because of the payment arrangements it made for beneficiary farmers.
The farmers obtain the inputs at highly subsidised rates and initially pay only 25 per cent of the fees, while the remaining 75 percent is to be paid after harvests – either in cash or with agricultural produce.
The Coordinator of ZACAREP, Alhaji Lawali Kaura, says that in 2008 alone, the agency distributed about 279,810 bags of improved seeds free of charge to about 30,000 beneficiary farmers, as part of efforts to improve agricultural production.
He says that apart from the improved seeds, about 612,194 litres of agro-chemicals, including fungicides, herbicides and seed-dressing chemicals, were distributed to the farmers to boost production.
Kaura says that the state government also offers free tractor services to the farmers as a pragmatic approach to promoting mechanized agriculture and increasing agricultural yields in the state.
Data on the free tractor services scheme, obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture, indicate that in 2008, about 12,566 hectares of farmland were cleared and tilled for 7,864 beneficiary farmers across the state’s 14 local government areas.
Recent statistics reveal that about 20,000 hectares of land had been cleared and ploughed for more than 10,000 farmers who are participating in the scheme.
Commenting on the state of agriculture, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Alhaji Shuaibu Abdulsalam says, “For Zamfara, agriculture is our pride and we will commit anything at our disposal to encourage farmers to boost production.’’
Abdulsalam says that apart from providing incentives to the farmers, the government has put in place a policy to buy excess agricultural produce from farmers during harvest seasons at good prices in order to give the farmers value for their labour.
“The surplus produce is stored in silos as strategic reserves that we could fall back on during emergencies,’’ he adds.
Abdulsalam recalls that in 2008 alone, the state government spent more than N2.2 billion to provide incentives for the farmers, adding that the amount was increased to N2.5 billion last year, in spite of the global economic crunch.
He says that about 90,000 hectares of land were cultivated by benefitting farmers in 2008, while about 150,000 hectares were cultivated by more than 40,000 beneficiary farmers in 2009.
Besides, the commissioner says about 70,605 metric tonnes of assorted fertilisers were distributed to famers during the 2008 agricultural season, while 93,800 tonnes of fertiliser were distributed in 2009.
He expatiates that out of the 93,800 tonnes of fertilisers distributed last year, 23,800 tonnes were allocated to the state by the Federal Government, while the state government independently procured the remaining 70,000 tonnes.
Observers say that the government efforts have started to yield positive results, stressing that Zamfara State is fast becoming a leading agricultural state in the country, with its annual grains’ production put at about 24,000 tonnes.
The state is also producing about 10,000 tonnes of cash crops like groundnuts, cotton and soya beans, among others, each year, as recently confirmed by Governor Shinkafi.
Zamfara State has also recorded some giant strides in fish, poultry and livestock production, while the active participation of its farmers in the World Bank-assisted Fadama III programme has made agriculture a comprehensive economic activity in the state throughout the year.
The state government, according to Shinkafi, recently signed partnership agreement with livestock production experts from the U.S. for the training of farmers in commercial livestock production.
The government has also established a fish hatchery for the production of fish fingerlings for about 5,000 fish farmers in eight local government areas of the state.
These efforts have made many observers to commend Zamfara State for shifting its focus from total reliance on proceeds from the Federation Account to the exploitation of agriculture as the base for its economic development. (NANFeatures)