By Gabriel Ewepu, Abuja
As Nigeria looks on to agriculture as an alternative to oil and gas for national development, the National Agricultural Lands Development Authority, NALDA, yesterday, disclosed moves to reactivate 1, 200 hectares of farmland in Ekiti State.
This was made known by the Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer, NALDA, Prince Paul Ikonne, while on a visit to the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, while on inspection of the farm estate located in Okeako/Irele Ekiti in Ikole Local Government Area of the State.
Interestingly, the farm estate had been in existence for over 20 years but owned by NALDA, where 50 hectares of Cashew farm, storage, and a processing facility exists would still be reactivated and upgraded for optimal production.
Ikonne promised farmers of better productivity and wealth creation with NALDA’s return to its farm, and will work hard and ensure that the farmers have access to farm input to produce, and also added that an access road will be constructed to the farm.
Meanwhile, he thanked farmers and indigenes of the community for securing the farm estate and maintaining it over the years after it was abandoned.
He said: “We are here to make sure that this abandoned estate comes back to life, your farm produce that you use to take out, you will still take them out to sell but this time it will be fully processed because whatever we are going to produce on this farm will also be processed.
“We will put processing plant too so that we can add value to what we produce, this will also help your youth be engaged because agriculture is the way to go”
He also stated that with the development of the farm estate the community would not be left behind but will definitely benefit from it as being the host of the farm estate because the farm will have processing, packaging, and farming zones, and added that all these will bring about huge development to the community.
However, according to Ikonne who noted the concerns and fears of members of the community and farmers over alleged threats from herdsmen and insecurity in the area, the best way forward is to have a round-table discussion and dialogue between farmers and herders in and around the communities to stop all forms of hostility.
“The solution is, how do we come together to do our businesses so that it would benefit all of us? That is what NALDA would do, I believe that the herders want their cow to be healthy and fattened so they can sell and make a profit, what this means is that they also want a conducive environment to do their business”
“So NALDA is going to engage them and the communities, we will create an avenue where they can feed their cattle so that we all can live in peace. Based on that we are doing what we call integrated farming, they can buy from us, while we also can buy from them and the farm can benefit also through the cattle’s dunk serving as manure”
“So we must find a way to live in peace so that our children and their children after them would also have peace. Trouble, bitterness, hatred, and war does not pay any community so as an Authority NALDA would find a way to bring both parties to the table”
In another meeting with the Ekiti State Governor Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Prince Paul Ikonne said NALDA is in Ekiti state to carry out President Muhammadu Buhari’s instructions which is for NALDA to recover and reactivate its abandoned farm estates across the country and utilize it for agriculture to benefit youths in the grassroots.
“having made the funds available for NALDA to use, we will start immediately to reactivate the farm, we will start with road infrastructure which is about 4.5 kilometers, and then clear the remaining lands in the areas that have not been cleared, we will take it in phases and I’m very much sure that we are going to farm there this wet season as NALDA will be providing the tractors for the land clearing”
In appreciating the State government for providing an enabling environment for NALDA, the NALDA boss noted that the authority can only carry out its operations in a peaceful environment that promotes productivity and development.
He also commended farmers in the state for their readiness to embrace and engage in modern agriculture and agribusiness, which his organization would train as well in the new way of doing agriculture.
Meanwhile, he (Ikonne) explained that with the flag-off of the Young Farmers Scheme in November of 2020 by President Muhammadu Buhari, integrated farm estates across the country would fast-track impact and achievement of the objectives of the Young Farmers Scheme in boosting food security.
In responding, the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, asserted that said agriculture in the state is now a way of life for all because his administration has set it as the number one means of employment, wealth creation, and revenue generation to develop the State.
He also added that anything that needs to be done to accelerate development in the sector is a welcome development.
He said: “Currently we have about three rice mills that are coming on in Ekiti, all of this will not really bring to bear the quality and capacity of our people if we don’t have enough farmers growing, somebody has to feed the mills, either it’s Cassava or rice we must produce in order for the mills to be active and whatever you can do to assist us just as you have promised we will certainly be full of gratitude”
“We all know how dear agriculture is to Mr. President, at every opportunity he would tell us that we must grow what we eat and eat what we grow and that is also our passion in this State, and with NALDA onboard more youths in the state would get empowered through agriculture.”