By DEMOLA AKINYEMI
ILORIN—Ilorin, the Kwara State capital will host the international community today in its stride to make agriculture a serious business in Nigeria. The programme being put together by Vanguard Newspaper Ltd, Courtly Communications Ltd and Kwara State Government, is billed to focus on the challenges and ways of financing mechanised farming in the country. Head of Central Bank of Nigeria Project Implementation Office, Mr. Jude Uzonwanne, will represent the apex bank in explaining to Nigerian farmers and stakeholders the best ways to finance agriculture in the country.
The Olofa of Offa, Oba Mufutau Gbadamosi, will chair the event, with Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed as Special Guest of Honour while Mr. Bode Olayemi, state commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, will host the occasion.
According to Dr. Olufemi Akorede, Special Assistant to the Governor on Media, one of the main policy strategies of the current administration in the state is what it describes as ‘Impactive agriculture.’ Although the previous administration in the state was credited such as the promotion of commercial agriculture through the New Nigerian Farmers Initiative, the current emphasis reflects a determination to sustain the previous administration’s policies in the sector as well as chart new territory.
In 2004, the state pioneered the first structured commercial agriculture venture called the New Nigerian Farmers Project involving 13 displaced Zimbabwean farmers. The project was designed to leverage on their expertise, the vast natural resources and the state’s position as an agrarian state to stimulate food sufficiency, jobs for the youths and promote state-wide adoption of successful commercial agriculture.
Also, the government recently partnered Cornell University, New York to develop the first ever Kwara State Agricultural Modernization Master Plan, KAMP, a pioneering effort by a sub-national anywhere in the world. KAMP is a five year plan for generating agro-led prosperity, wealth creation, job opportunities and food security through partnership among farmers, the private sector, multi-lateral organizations and government. Within five years, as envisaged by KAMP, Kwara State is expected to achieve self-sufficiency in food production and economic transformation through structured agro-reform.
Presently, 25 private investors have entered into partnership with Kwara State Government under the PPP programme, some of which are local and international investors from USA, Spain, India among others. Last year, the state government entered into an agreement with Valsolar S.L of Spain for a 280 million Euro Joint Venture for the cultivation, processing and packaging of rice in the state.
The government also signed a $100 million MoU with a US investor for the establishment of a cassava processing plant. On cassava, Ireti Farms of Shonga Farms Holdings has signed a deal with Austravia of Hong Kong for the supply of 500, 000 tons of cassava chips per year.
Kwara State is also leading the way in the implementation of the Agricultural Value Chain designed to institutionalise planned agriculture to offer investors the opportunity to maximise yield along the chain and also economically empower our farmers. Driven by this vision, Kwara State is establishing Agriculture Malls as one-stop shop for agro-finance, farm inputs, equipment and extension services based on the value chain concept.
In recognition of the state’s strides in Agriculture, the Federal Government, last year, voted Kwara State as ‘The Most Agriculturally Developed’ in the country.
Asked why holding the summit in Kwara State, Pius Odiaka, who initiated the project, said that, Kwara State Government “is most sincere in its programme in agriculture,” adding that “if the emerging infrastructure for agriculture in Kwara State and the state government’s sincere purpose in creating schemes and incentives for commercial farming spread nationwide, many young Nigerians will go into farming, which will not only ensure food security in the country, but will also enhance obvious growth in the economy.”
Today’s summit will start at 9am, while Governor Ahmed is expected to inspect samples of farm produce, on exhibition, shortly before noon.