Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Hon. Haliru Zakari Jikantoro

By Abubakar Hassan

Niger state Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Hon. Haliru Zakari Jikantoro has said during a Weekly Radio Niger Audience Participatory Programme “Contact,” Saturday, that the present administration under the leadership of Alh. Abubakar Sani Bello has done well in the Agricultural sector.

He said the ministry had enjoyed a robust support from the governor and government of the state which positive impact had been felt by stakeholders in the agricultural sector in the state.

Hon. Haliru Jikantoro said the ministry was charged with the responsibility of initiating and implementing policies aimed at improving food security, creating wealth and providing employment opportunities for rapid rural and socio economic development of the state.

The commissioner disclosed that the ministry had achieved a lot under the present administration as it procured and distributed fertilizers to farmers at subsidized price, adding that arrangement had been concluded to provide fertilizer to farmers on cash and carry basis for the 2021 farming season.

He also disclosed that they made available seeds, agrochemicals and other farming imputs to farmers and that they have procured about 130 units of tractors with their implements and also repaired some to facilitate farm mechanization services.

Under the Central Bank Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS), the commissioner said they intended to engage 10,000 youths in maize, soybeans and rice value chain in the state, but they were able to support 2,000 youths to cultivate one hectare each of maize and soybeans in four local government areas in the state, namely Mokwa, Borgu, Chanchaga and Wushishi in 2018.

He said under the same scheme in 2020 they rehabilitated five irrigation schemes at Chanchaga, Lioji, Agaie, Mankogi and Tamanai, and also developed 50 hectares of oil palm plantation in Labozhi, as well as rehabilitated stores, farm institutes among other projects.

Jikantoro further disclosed that the ministry through FADAMA Project had rehabilitated roads and constructed culverts and mini bridges, drilled hand and motorized boreholes, established a community radio station, trained youths and women in various agricultural enterprises to become agricpreneurs, as well as rehabilitated irrigation centres among other projects.

He disclosed that over 31,000 farmers were supported by International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in the eight participating local government areas, rehabilitated and constructed roads, culvert and mini bridges to link farmers to market, constructed solar powered boreholes, market stores, rice and cassava processing centres across benefiting communities and increased rice yield from 1.8 metric tonnes to 6.5 metric tonnes per hectare and cassava from eight metric tons to 25 metric tons per hectare, saying farmers in the state were now much engaged in dry season farming as a result of IFAD support.

Under Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support (ATAS) Programme, over 2000 farmers benefited from the intervention for cultivation of over 3000 hectares of rice and sorghum in the targeted local government areas, drilled both hand pumps and motorized boreholes, as well as constructed classrooms, health centres, market stores, technology demonstration centre at Lemu, constructed irrigation canals, roads with surface dressing, drilled tube-wells.

On food price hike in markets, the commissioner said except one is a producer of a product there was no way he can control its price, saying there was nothing the government can do but to appeal to traders.

He also admitted that the security situation in the state had affected farming activities but that with the efforts the government was making in tackling the security issue there would be improvement in farming in the state.

Similarly, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr. Idris Usman Gbogan said due to the Covid-19 pandemic, farmers were unable to cultivate much last year but that the ministry will support farmers to produce more this year, adding that if there is more food in the market the price will come down automatically.

Responding to question on the CBN Anchor Borrower programme, the permanent secretary disclosed that farmers in the state refused to pay back the first trench of loan they accessed as about only 20 percent of the money was recovered, adding that the state governor had made efforts to ensure that more farmers benefited from the scheme but the apex Bank declared that the state will only be reinstated to benefit from the programme if 50 percent of the loan earlier accessed was recovered.

He also revealed that the ministry has a committee in place whose responsibility was to go round market places to check excesses of agro chemical dealers who sale fake and adulterated products to farmers.

The Permanent Secretary, Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP), Hassan Baba Etsu said RAMP was initiated because of road deficits in the country, especially at the rural areas, adding that RAMP in Niger state had done well under phase one and two of the project which earned it a nod to participate in phase three of the project.

He disclosed that RAMP had constructed a lot of rural roads which helped farmers to access their farms with less difficulty and even increase their farm size, adding that the roads constructed had helped in reducing post harvest wastages and increased schools enrollment in the benefiting communities.