By JIMOH BABATUNDE
Ladi Bakindi is a middle-aged woman farmer in the Bakolori Irrigation project in Zamfara state. She is one of the 33,550 farmers on 11,000 hectares of land.
She has one hectare of land allocated to her where she cultivates rice and wheat. She employs over 76 workers on her farm from where she has been able to build a house, buy three other farms outside Bakolori and takes care of over 23 orphans from what she makes farming.
Like Ladi Bakindi, Nura Abdulali Atajiri ,a farmer from Sokoto state, revealed that last year on a five hectares he got 400 bags of 100kg on his rice farm.
Other farmers have different success stories to share as they till the land all year round in Bakolori Dam to make sure the country is self sufficient in food , especially in the area of rice and wheat which the Federal Government is giving emphasis to in order reduce the importation of such crops.
The dam, located in Maradun local government area of Zamfara state, was constructed in the late seventies during the defunct administration of President Shehu Shagari, primarily to facilitate rice irrigation within the areas of Talata Mafara and Bakura local governments, identified as locations having great potentials for large scale rice production.
And since then the dam has been playing significant role in the production of various crops, poverty reduction as well as economic and social transformation of farmers.
During a visit to Bakolori Dam recently, an intake officer working with the farmers, Aliu Zarki, who has been working there since 1983 said farmers have a hectare, some three and there is a farmer with 45 hectares.
He revealed that the total yield per hectare can be up to five tones of 100kg bags of rice while some get up to six tones on a hectare depending on how the farm is maintained in terms of fertilizer application and other inputs applications.
Aliu Zarki said some years ago there were more farmers participating in the Bakolori Irrigation farming, but the numbers have reduced today because of lack of basic facilities.
“When I came here in 1983 there were more farmers as the sprinklers which enabled the farmers to farm all year round were functional, but now there is no sprinkler and this has contributed to the low number of farmers we are having now.”
He said the issue of the non-functional sprinklers started about a decade or so ago. Not wanting to be tied down by the problem, the farmers on their own decide to turn the dam into surface irrigation “as they dug the canals themselves to enable them have access to the water .”
He said that decision has enabled the farmers to practice all year farming and double cropping as they cultivate wheat and after harvesting they plant rice.
Apart from the issue of sprinklers, the farmers also complained of access to good seeds, mills, and market for their produces.
Nura Abdulali Atajiri said as for the issue of seeds, “this is one of the problems here as we buy from the market. Last year, there is a seed company that gave us seeds and when we planted some farmers succeeded. I am among the lucky ones, but many did not get good yield from the seeds.”
The irrigation project farmers associationchairman, Alhaji Rabiu Umare said the intervention of the Federal Government and the state in fertilizer has greatly helped them, “we want the government to increase the fertilizers and seeds to us here as we have 33,550 farmers, but got only 100, 000 of good seeds and fertilizers .”
He added that they are expecting the government to buy off their wheat as promised as harvested bags of over 1380 of 100kg from their farms last year are still locked up in their silos.“We need tractors, we want rice mill, when we harvest our rice here because we don’t have mills we are forced to sell at lower price, but with mill here it will not be so.
Just as it was evident on the visit to the farms, children of school age were seen busy scaring birds away from the rice farms, Rabiu Umare attributed that to lack of spray that will enable them control the menace of the birds ravaging their farms and so they need the service of their children.
Responding to the mirage of requests from the farmers, Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Adesina Akinwumi, said present government is focusing agriculture which made it to come up with the Agricultural Transformation Agenda.
The agenda, he noted, has as its pillars the production of 20 million metric tons of food between now and 2015 and in addition to that of creating 3.5 million jobs.
While expressing joy at the revelation of the woman farmer, Ladi Bakindi and others of the success they have made from farming, the minister said two parts of the transformation agenda took him to Bakolori, , “ first is the one on rice production, as a country we have been spending a billion naira everyday importing rice and when we do that we make farmers of other countries very rich while our farmers are poor.”
He added that “the second has to do with wheat, you know we spend as a country N635 billion year importing wheat and when we do that again we are creating jobs in other countries.”
Adesina went ahead to say that it does not make sense economically, politically, socially and security wise for Nigeria to continue to be a net food importing country.“We can do irrigated rice, so Nigeria basically does not have any reason to be food importing country,Nigeria should be net exporting food countryand so Mr.President has said that we must have self sufficiency in rice production by 2015.
On what the ministry is doing to meet the President’s 2015 mandate on food sufficiency, Adesina revealed that the ministry began a process of making fertilizer and seeds available to farmers last year through the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES). “15,farmers were reached last year when we started improved seedsand fertilizer in this state and we were ableto do that through the electronic wallet system.
“Over 21000 bags of fertilizer were supplied by the private sector to the farmers in this particular state and we also gave a lot of seeds for rice for example. Through the private sector roughly 180, 000 metric tons of seeds were given out.”
He promised that they are determined to reach more farmers this year. “we have already registered 80,000 through the new form we have to digitized and register farmers.
“We have given additional 70000 forms,so there will be a total of 150000 farmers in Zamfara state that will be registered forthe GES in 2013.
Adesina explained that lyear being the first year of the GES they delivered15billion fertilizers and .5billion naira of seeds to farmers across the country government involvement. “was all by private sector. “
On market for the farmers produce, the minister said “, we need to create our domestic market for what we produce. I am very excited about wheat because when IBB started the wheat project then, the average yield was 1.2 tons and today we are getting 4 tons, so our plans for wheat is to encourage our domestic millers to buy more of the wheat we are producing .’
As for rice , he revealed that they have to subsidize the transport cost for the rice millers to buy the paddy that is being produced by farmers in Zamfara, Kebbi and S states. Wewill provide the subsidy for them to buy andwe coverthe transport cost that will improve accessto market for you.”