…set to engage over 3000 youths, women

By Gabriel Ewepu

AS agribusiness takes centre-stage in Nigeria’s economy, the National Agricultural Lands Development Authority’s 700 hectares Integrated Farm Estate in Okwuha Obayin Village, in Ajaokuta Local Government Area of Kogi is set to boost the livestock value chain of the agricultural sector.

This was made known the Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer, NALDA, Prince Paul Ikonne, during inspection of the farmland donated by the Kogi State Government to NALDA.

 Ikonne explained that the farm is basically focusing on cattle, goat, sheep, and poultry including pasture production, while there would be a portion of the land for cropping purposes with irrigation facility to boost farming activities for all year round food production, which maize farming will be attended to due to enough water supplies.

He also assured that as part of NALD farm estates across the country and as policy other basic amenities including school, clinic, veterinary services, access roads, residential quarters, boreholes, meat processing and meat market facility.

Meanwhile, the NALD boss made it known that the farm estate is to create about 3000 direct and indirect jobs for over 3000 youth and women of the host community as its way to reduce unemployment, and added that the land clearing would commence immediately and the first section of the Farm estate would be commissioned by December 2021.

According to him, the Integrated Farm Estate is strategically located because Kogi State borders about 10 States which are in the South-South, South-East, South-Western and the Northern part of the country, hence is targeted that the Integrated Farm Estate would serve as a bridge and safe haven for pastoralists relocating from these zones of the country thereby reducing farmer/herder crisis that has claimed lives and property over the years.

Earlier, he (Ikonne) and his team paid a courtesy call on the Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, at Government House, Lokoja, before going for the farm inspection, where he told Bello NALD’s propelling force in the drive to transform the agricultural space in the country, which is traceable to the directive by President Muhammadu Buhari’s  to NALDA to establish farm Estates in all 109 Senatorial zones in the country to galvanize rural economy and develop agrarian communities, empower, and create employment for millions of youth and women.

He also maintained that Kogi remains the gateway to most other parts of the country as its geographic location is strategic and unique for such a project, which NALDA is ready to synergise with Kogi State to ensure that the project is a success.

 He said: “You have done a lot in saving the country being a gateway to a lot of states, with this project coming to the state we are very much optimistic that a lot would be achieved, food security would be achieved, employment would be achieved, solving the problem between herdsmen and farmers achieved and Nigeria would be on auto drive to achieving food security.”

In Governor Bello’s response, he maintained that his administration has seriously focused on ensuring peace and security of the people, and has put all in place to sustain it, which also fleeing herders from other parts of the country has lived peacefully with members of different communities in the State.

“Here we have made available 700 hectares of land in just one local government to take care of the first phase of this programme here in Kogi State.

“We as a state have been able to stabilize security, peace and tranquility that is much needed in Nigeria today and we have been able to sustain it, a situation where almost all the herders that are having issues at one point or the other in the southern part of the country would migrate to Kogi state and mingling, leaving and cohabiting with our farmers without conflicts means it takes a lot from us as a State”, he stated.

He further stated that Kogi State will continue to receive different persons from other parts of the country without discrimination as a shock absorber, and added that in crisis situations and Integrated Farm Estates in all three Senatorial zones would help cushion the effects of the shock.

While commending President Muhammadu Buhari and NALDA Governor Yahaya Bello said Kogi would be a model that would be copied by other states in the country adding that the host community is ready to welcome and receive NALDA.

Speaking on the Integrated Farm Estate in his State, he (Bello) expressed optimism that the project was timely and well designed, and he and his people accepts it because it would further enhance peaceful relationship between the people and others who come to settle down in their communities.

Also in an interactive meeting during the inspection of the land with top government officials in the State including the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Local Government Chairman, village head and about 12 land owners who are willingly donating the 700 hectares of land to NALDA, he (Ikonne) assured members of the host community that the land would be put to use for their benefit and entire community.

“These families that are donating the lands, the federal government is developing the land for you, what we are bringing belongs to you and what it means is that all the youth and women within your village would be engaged in this place.

“It is very simple, it is called Integrated Farm estate, where you will have both school, clinic, crop section, processing section, animal husbandry sections and then we would also have a mini market, residential area and this place would be purely known for meat processing, cow and goat rearing”, he stated.

However, the NALDA boss pointed that there is no cause for alarm as concerning farm/herder clashes, because the farm is designed in a way that there would not be misunderstanding and struggle between farmers and herders as the pasture area on the farm would cater for the feed needs of the animals on the farm and also be exported to other parts of the country.

“There would be no issues with herdsmen and farmers because the farm would be well secured, we would have area for pasture production and not just planting it for grass but we would be able to palate it and then take to other parts of the country because of the size of the land you are donating so your community is going to host other communities and it is a big blessing.

“President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to easing poverty in the country and intends to make millionaires out of Nigerian youths in the rural areas through agriculture, and Okwuha Obayin village is blessed to be part of the programme”, he said.

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