In this interview with MUSA M. BUBA, the Programme Manager of Yobe State Agricultural Development Programme, Ali Kolo, speaks on the efforts of Yobe state government to update farmers with knowledge of modern techniques, which have constituted a challenge to them, among other issues.
Sir, lack of knowledge of modern farming techniques and improved seeds is one of the challenges to our farmers. Are there plans to educate them in Yobe state?
That is one of the subjects we are discussing now, training and retraining. There is something we call MTRM, Monthly Technology Review Meeting. It is a technology that is being transmitted to farmers and there is another one called FNT, Forth Night TrainingIt is being conducted twice a month between the farmers, the extension agents vis-à-vis up to the research Institutes.
They bring the technology to us and we take to it the farmers. If there is any differential with what is being planted, they report to us and we send back to the researchers to improve the noticeable difference. About four local government areas in the state were worst hit by insurgency.
What are your plans for the returning IDPs, in order to regain their means of livelihood?
That is the duty of State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), but ours is on the issue of livelihood on agriculture as to how to improve their livelihood. Government has given us funds to procure seeds, this week God’s willing we will finish the processing and start the distribution.
We will target the returning Internally Displaced Persons in the areas that were most affected by insurgency because when they fled, almost everything were gone; including seeds which has now become problem to them because the little seeds in their possession were consumed as meal, so God’s willing they will get it soonest.
Africa as a whole is threatened with hunger, what partnership do you have with international agencies, like WFD, FAO and Icrisat to end hunger in Yobe state?
They are implementing agencies in which we are partnering with to produce seeds and fertilizers to farmers. Last year we distributed seeds and fertilizer to farmers and this year we will do the same thing. This is to help the returnees regain their means of livelihood through farming.
New farming season has just commenced, what are you doing especially in terms of Tractors hiring to farmers at subsidized rate?
Last year, some tractors were repaired by the Yobe State Government and this year too, the executive governor, Ibrahim Gaidam, has recently approved funds to repair additional ten tractors. When the repairs are done we will distribute them to the 17 local government areas across the state to increase our plight.
It may interest you to note that for tractors, we charge a token of N10,000 per day as against N40,000 or more by other commercial tractors just to make it affordable to ordinary citizens, in fact, it is just a provision for servicing.
How would you rate the Yobe state government in terms of agriculture development?
Sincerely speaking, it’s superb looking at the priority the government is giving to agriculture, the governor has done excellent. He had provided seeds, the tractors I earlier told you about and recently approved the procurement of 8,640 metric tons of fertilizer at the cost of N1,468,800,000.00 to Yobe state farmers.
He had approved construction of dams in Tarmuwa, Nguru and Fune apart refurbishing of irrigation scheme in Garin Gada, in Yunusari LGA, which was abandoned or under utilized for 30 years until now.
All these are his aspiration and zeal in making sure the farmers are motivated in order to increase their means of livelihood through agriculture.
Therefore, for to me, I give him kudos.
As the Programme Manager of YOSADP, what are your setbacks?
In fact, we have enormous challenges, formerly our extension workers were being provided with motorcycle to reach farmers at all nooks and crannies but due to the insurgency, the motorcycle was banned and that is one of our challenges, but that has not stopped us in reaching out to the farmers.
Recently, UNDP came in to collaborate with us at the local government level, we are now putting heads together to see what we can do to assist our farmers. We need another means of reaching the farmers to be able to perform our duties effectively and efficiently.
Another challenges is the mass retirement of the extension agents, we need replacements by recruiting more staff to be able to transmit the technologies received from research institutes to the farmers to ease their agricultural activities.
What call do you have generally for the people of the state on the need to redirect their attitude to farming, considering the Buhari’s administration determination to refocus on agricultural development?
The teaming populace of Yobe citizens have answered that call especially this year, when you go out you hardly see an empty land that has not been utilized. My call for them is to come and seek advices from us the ADP, we are farmers’ hospital and they are freely allowed to come at any time, we are there for them.
Secondly, I call on our farmers to desist from peeling trees, it affects the setting of rainfall and increases the sandstorms at the beginning of every rainy season. This year we witnessed higher number of sandstorms than last year in Yobe, that’s to tell you we have a challenge in that direction.
Northern Yobe experiences less than 90 days rainfall, what is your organization doing to help them get short terms varieties?
We have the short term varieties in our stores that can be harvested early. Even the procurement of the seeds earlier talked about, the short varieties were also considered especially for farmers in the northern part of the state because the southern part has higher rainfall than the north, that is why seeds that can mature early are being provided for them.
My final advice to our farmers, they should come to us for seeds; what are being sold or obtained in the market as seeds, we refer to it as grains and not seeds because it has not been tested, pass through treatment or selections.