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FCT ADOPTS MECHANISED AGRICULTURE FOR ENHANCED PRODUCTIVITY

By NBF News
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In 2008, it was reported that farmers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) lost about N1 billion annually to their refusal in adopting irrigation technology for dry season farming. CATHERINE AGBO in this piece reports that, attention is shifting gradually to mechanised farming for increased food productivity in the FCT.

When the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Senator Bala Mohammed announced that hectares of land would be made available for agricultural development in the territory, the news was received with joy by many who are of the firm belief that it is high time the country moved away from its mono-economy and explored other areas.

The minister subsequently announced that the administration had commenced the distribution of N2 billion as soft loans to farmers within the territory and said that the loan would help to improve farming system in the area.

Only recently, the Secretary, FCT Agriculture and Rural Development Secretariat, Mrs. Olvadi Madayi disclosed that the secretariat had plans to clear and develop 1000 hectares of land in each of the six area councils to be allocated to farmers' cooperative societies and youths in the FCT as part of deliberate attempts by the administration to increase the number of land under cultivation in Abuja.

She also disclosed that the secretariat was in the forefront of encouraging the growth of aquaculture and livestock in the FCT in collaboration with the private sector.

Madayi assured farmers in the FCT that the administration would continue to support their efforts with infrastructure and necessary inputs as well as other interventions that would ensure the sustenance of agricultural development in the territory.

From her revelations, it was clear that the secretariat was focusing on mechanised farming, a clear deviation from the former system of subsistence farming.

Madayi had explained that the secretariat had the mandate to develop and disseminate agriculture technology through revitalised research, efficient input supply and effective extension services just as she described achievement of the set mandate as breaking the jinx of transforming the agricultural sector.

To achieve this mandate, the FCT administration penultimate week launched the subsidised Tractors for Farmers' Empowerment and officially kicked off the 2012 farming season. Minister of State for the FCT, Oloye Olajumkoe Akinjide described the occasion as a milestone in the development of agriculture in the FCT.

She said it was part of the government-led Community Cooperative Tractor Instalmental Purchase Scheme.

Akinjide whose office supervises the agriculture and rural development secretariat said the programme was in line with the present administration's cardinal transformation agenda in boosting food production and sustaining agricultural development.

The minister stated that agriculture being the largest employer of labour should be made the bedrock of economic development of the nation while disclosing that the FCT administration had already put in place schemes to enhance farmers input in the territory.

She observed that food security was of priority to the present administration not only in boosting food production but also in enabling the country to feed the rest of Africa and beyond.

'The business of agriculture has been left mostly in the hands of peasant and small scale farmers. While their efforts may have largely met the basic food needs of the nation, Nigeria is yet to fully tap abundant potentials in agriculture for wealth creation and economic development.

'In recognition of this fact, here in FCT, we are determined to ensure that our farmers embrace modern farming and form formidable cooperative groups. This will afford them the chance to fully take advantage of the various federal government programmes aimed at boosting the economic base of our farmers. It is our conviction that agriculture, like so many other facets of our economy, should be private-sector driven with government making suitable policies and providing an enabling environment for private enterprises to thrive,' Akinjide said.

She disclosed that the FCT was already participating in the new transformation agenda of the President, saying, 'The 2012 farming season marks effective take-off of the new agricultural transformation agenda. To empower farmers in FCT for greater productivity, wealth and job creation, we have commenced the implementation of the Growth Enhancement Scheme of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Currently under this programme, the FCT has concluded the registration and validation of farmers' data.

'I want to assure our farmers that FCTA is committed to the implementation of all initiatives and programmes in the agricultural transformation agenda starting from the 2012 cropping season.'

Under the scheme, the administration procured 80 Holland tractors which were distributed in conjunction with the private sector at subsidised rates.

The tractors were distributed by SCOA PLC at a unit cost of N7 million and were subsidised by 50 per cent by the FCT administration.

The tractors according to the chairman, SCOA Nigeria PLC, Henry Agbama, is a product of Exquisite European Engineering Technology which is a combination of FIAT of Italy and Ford of the UK and very familiar to Nigeria farmers.

The tractors would be distributed to the farmers through the area councils' chairmen and farmers' cooperative society.

The distribution of the 80 tractors it was gathered is only the first phase of the programme as additional 10 were being expected.

Apart from the tractors, other implements which were distributed to FCT farmers' cooperative groups.

It was also gathered that 14, 800 metric tons of assorted fertiliser had been procured for distribution to farmers in Abuja under the Growth Enhancement Scheme apart from the planned e-wallet system which was targeted to ensure that the subsidies on fertiliser and improved seeds get to the right farmers in the area councils, which implementation is to commence next month.

In effecting the implementation of all these, FCT administration said it was confident that the efforts have the capacity to transform the agricultural sector and boost food production in the territory.