By Wale Akinola
Honorable Musa Adamu Funtua is Katsina State Commissioner for Agriculture. Funtua, one of the longest serving commissioners in this democratic dispensation, served in the Ministry of Rural Social Development and Youths and Sports before being moved to Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs as pioneer commissioner. He also served as a member of the Katsina House of Assembly.
What have been the challenges of agriculture and the ministry since you assumed office?
The challenge one would have faced has been removed by the governor through his leadership. I think this government, as led by my boss, Dr. Ibrahim Shehu Shema, believes so much in continuity even as we have a focal policy on agriculture based on so many things like the Institute of Research, Nature and Community Development Committee, CDC, report.
At the same time, nobody will deny that Katsina is an agrarian state. I think the challenges will be in the aspect of continuity so that the ministry can collaborate with various institutes of research. But more importantly, implementing the outcome of such researches because we know that research goes a long way in boosting agriculture in the state.
Part of that research is what brought about the various seedlings we have here in the state. The improvement in the quality of seedlings brings me to the issue of technology.
It is these institutes through technology that bring about the various types of seedlings in the state. And I guess that’s one of the reasons farming is all-year-round in the state. There is no rainy or dry season in Katsina.
What is the magic behind all-year-round farming in the state?
There is no magic. It is a product of good thinking and hard work as led by the governor. We all know that agriculture or farming is better appreciated during the rainy season because that is when you have abundance of rains.
But the governor thought otherwise. He felt that if the state must be food sufficient to the point of even taking it outside the state, then there must be other methods by which farming must be done 24 hours, seven days a week and 365 days a year.
This is what brought about all the innovations we are all experiencing now in the agriculture sector of the economy. Based on research, our land is suitable for all manner of farming from January to December.
You cannot go into agriculture without proper seedlings which is available in abundance here. We have more than 28 seed-farms across the state and these are seeds that are weather-friendly. At the same time, you cannot go into farming without fertilizer.
There is no time of the year in the state that there is no fertilizer in our stores. And the minimum we have on ground at any particular point in time is about 20,000 metric tons. The fertilizer warehouses are spread across the three geo-political zones of the state.
What is the distribution channel of the fertilizer such that farmers can get it?
There are several distribution channels to get fertilizer across to farmers. There is the polling unit, ward unit, local government level, zonal level and Association of Farmers in Nigeria.
This policy was initiated by the governor himself having seen the difficulties farmers went through in the past before they could have access to fertilizer.
This method is fraud-free. In the distribution process, there is no middleman that can create monopoly. Everybody is aware of the number of fertilizer available and how much, through subsidy, the state government is selling it.
So there is no way farmers can be short changed. And as the committee in charge is moving around to distribute the fertilizer, the state radio is also simultaneously announcing its movement so that everybody knows where the committee is and at what time.
And no single person is allowed to pay money to purchase the product, you must form a group like the cooperative before you can get it.
This is purely the initiative of the governor and, since it started, things have been going on smoothly such that, once it is released, everybody, from the smallest farmer to the big time ones, knows the number that is released.
Government has spent over N4b on fertilizer. Katsina is one of the states where there is substantial subsidy on fertilizer. Last year alone, we had over 23,000 metric tons, we bought another 23,000 metric tons to complement the one on ground while we distributed over 40,000 metric tons. We have fertilizer building plants in four places across the state. All the workers are products of the state Craft village.
However, because most of us here are agrarians, most of the fertilizer manufactured here is usually not enough, the demand is much more than what these factories can produce at the moment and that is why we complement what we produce with little from outside.
A bag of fertilizer that should normally cost about N7,200 is subsidised such that, at the end of the day, it is sold for N1, 750.
But beyond this, another reason farming is all-year-round here is because Jibia Dam is there to help farmers on irrigation. Before the governor got elected, the Jibia Dam owned by the Federal Government had been lying fallow for many years.
Nobody attended to it, probably because of the high financial implications of resuscitating it. But the governor took it upon himself, set up a committee led by a renowned professor in that field from Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, to look at how it could be resuscitated . At the end of the day, several billions of naira was spent on it. The capacity of the dam is about 3, 500 hectares. Presently, over 3,000 hectares are now being put into use.
Of all the produce of the state, which would you say the state has comparative advantage in over other states?
In the transformation agenda on agriculture of Mr. President, Katsina State is the leading state when it comes to cotton. We have all manner of produce here but I think our comparative advantage is cotton.
There are 23 local government areas that have large scale cotton. We are second in sorghum and maize production. Tomato, cassava, groundnut are available in the state and it is all year round. It is not for fun that agriculture is booming in this state.
The state government, knowing the impact of farmers in the state, gave an interest-free loan of N250m to the Association of Professional Farmers of Nigeria, Katsina Chapter to be repaid in five years.
We believe that in doing this, it will not only boost farming thereby increasing food sufficiency in the state and environs, we are also providing more jobs for the people and thereby reducing vices in the society.