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When Kwara launched agricultural road map
KWARA State is often referred to as one of the leading food baskets of Nigeria because of the agricultural endowments in most parts of the state.
This recognition has been played up by successive governments in the state, particularly the immediate past administration of Senator Bukola Saraki and the present government of Abdulfatah Ahmed.
Recently, the state's initiative on commercial agriculture got a boost with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the state government and the Cornell University of New York on what is now called the Kwara State Agriculture Masterplan (KAMP).
Governor Ahmed, who led the Kwara delegation to the presentation of the KAMP document and the signing of the MoU in New York, signed on behalf of the state, while Professor Ronnie Coffman, Cornell's Director of International Programme, signed for the University.
The document presents a road map for the expansion, funding and impact of commercial agriculture in the state for the next five years which was a product of a three-month collaborative research by Cornell professors and their Nigerian counterparts led by the vice chancellor of Kwara State, University, Professor Abdulrasheed Na’Allah.
Explaining the significance of the MoU, Professor Coffman said Kwara State made history by being the first state government in the world to succeed in partnering with the university which is renowned globally for its expertise in agriculture.
"It is the first time this university is signing an MoU with any state government. We are proud of this partnership and we are confident that the MoU will produce good results, "he said.
Governor Ahmed, in his address, pledged to implement the document to the letter, stressing that his administration would go beyond the conventional system of measuring input and output to measuring the impact of the measures being taken to "make Kwara the agriculture hub of West Africa."
The governor lauded the pioneering efforts of his predecessor, Senator Bukola Saraki, in commercial agriculture, noting that the opportunity of continuity in governance in the state has made it possible for him to build on the foundation laid by the former governor.
In his goodwill message, Senator Saraki commended the Ahmed administration for producing KAMP, expressing confidence that Governor Ahmed, having served under the immediate past administration as Commissioner for Finance and later Economic Development, understands the vision and benefits of the agricultural revolution in Nigeria being championed by Kwara state.
Impressed by the lofty ideas of KAMP and the signing of an MoU to drive its implementa-tion, the Director of USAID in Nigeria, Ms Sharon Pauling, who personally attended the signing ceremony, pledged immediate support for the programme.
"We are looking into having a partnership with Kwara State on rice and fish production. We are expecting to see Kwara as a leader in our drive to support food production in Nigeria," the USAID chief said.
The signing ceremony was also witnessed by members of the diplomatic community in New York and leading members of the Kwara State association of Nigeria, North American chapter (KSANG) and the leading members of Cornell University.
In his speech, Governor Ahmed, who reminiscence on past agricultural policies in the country, said there was no magic for an economic turnaround, no magic interventions and no hope for outside leadership to steer the collective effots towards prosperity, adding that hard work, based on converting raw materials into finished products that could satisfy the local, neighbouring and international demand is the only way.
"In our particular case, we are heavily endowed with almost all the factors of production required. He listed the natural endowments to include:
1.36 million of the 3 million people that make up Kwara State are involved in agriculture; 56 per cent of the population is between the ages of 15 – 64, with another 40per cent under the age of 14;
We have the ninth largest land mass in the country at approximately 36,000 square kilometers, of which approximately 2 million hectares is arable land;
The River Niger, which is one of the longest in the Africa at 2,600 miles length and drainage basin of over 800,000 square miles, forms our entire Northern boundary;
We are located between the commercial centres of Oyo and Lagos States in the South; the eastern markets of Aba, Onitsha and Enugu in the East; Abuja, Kano and Kaduna in the North; and the rest of West Africa through the border we share with the Federal Republic of Benin;
Modest investments in transportation and infrastructure have resulted in an international airport, a cargo terminal, and over 600 kms of motorable roads; with more still to come to address infrastructural needs and getting products from one point in the value chain, to the other;
Population: Approximately 167 million people, with insatiable appetites, so much so that annual import pressures are growing at over 11per cent for wheat, fish, and sugar.
The governor, who enjoined investors to take advantage of the opportunities in the state, said business in Nigeria makes sense, adding that Kwara State has all that is needed to gain a strong foothold nationally and regionally.
He also said that the state aims to;
Increase the amount of land under cultivation;
Improve farming input accessibility and mechanization;
Ensure farming process re-engineering and reorientation towards agriculture value chain;
Implement effective direct farming and cooperative Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) interventions, and
Improve business environment to encourage partnerships through FDI and knowledge transfer.
Governor Ahmed said investments in infrastructure, plans for clustering cooperative societies along the value chain, educational reform and upgrades had set the state on the path to progress.
"In addition to the basics we have learnt, we want to make our development relevant for the 21st century. All the experts, from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), to private equity institutions, exalt the benefits of active investments (FDI) in the agriculture sector, so long as the injection of financial, physical and human capital are structured correctly. My administration agrees with this in totality.
"As an evolving economy, depending on how you perceive Kwara State and Nigeria, inflows of capital are also supported by several preferential trade agreements. The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), Everything But Arms (EBA), the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in essence support these by giving preference to products from developing regions. Just last month, the Obama administration acknowledged the relevance of African commercial agriculture in addressing global food needs ahead of the G8 meeting by announcing the impending Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) with key players in global agribusiness. These PPPs include companies in several countries, Nigeria included, for the sake of improved agricultural productivity in the region, and food security globally.
The financial sophistication of our times also provides the opportunity to tap into alternative sources of debt financing and equity injection.
Specifically, I am referring to sovereign wealth funds, private equity and pension funds that are looking for medium to longer term investments with strong fundamentals based on insatiable demand and the real economy. This is a great chance to diversify portfolios and learn from the past.
"We sincerely hope that by taking this giant step of developing a Master plan, we have demonstrated and conveyed our seriousness; and that the various communities of investors, manufacturers, and donors would join our efforts.
"Money alone will not address challenges. Premature solutions will be entirely ineffective. Talented human resources in private and public sectors will be frustrated. And so the cycle will continue without the right intervention. For us, it is overwhelmingly clear that the right intervention starts from a clearly articulated vision, championed by a team of visionary leaders at all tiers, and continuity to allow for the enjoyment of accumulating successes," he said.
Governor Ahmed, who said the state’s vision is for shared prosperity through the successes of an agrarian revolution, added that the continuity enjoyed by the state from the longest serving Governor to date (Senator Saraki), and his administration taking up the mantle, shall see the consolidation of institutions across all sectors, especially those pertaining to agriculture.Share