Conscious of its mandate and mindful of the need to rebuild the North East region which suffered destruction from Boko Haram insurgency which had affected all sectors of the economy in the region and rendered many residents homeless, jobless and destitute, the North East Development Commission (NEDC) has been making frantic efforts to improve quality of life and living in the region.
To resuscitate the region and empower the victims of the crises, President Muhammadu Buhari established NEDC just like its counterpart in the south, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which came into being as a result of the militancy activities in the oil producing states that impacted negatively on innocent compatriots there.
There is no denying the fact that NEDC has since its creation been doing the needful in terms of fixing the destroyed north eastern states through series of interventions in almost all sectors.
Indeed, among the gamuts of people-oriented programmes and policies which the NEDC has been executing across the region, one that stands out spectacularly because of the prominent place of food security in human lives, is the building of farm centres. In Gombe State, the NEDC has built and equipped farm centres in several communities.
Fundamentally, this laudable initiative of the Commission has boosts agriculture and provides succour to farmers particularly in the area of giving them access to farms implements like fertilizers, tractors extension services as well as helping them to market their farm produce and maximize profits.
In April 2021, the NEDC commissioned farm centres in four local governments of Kwami, Dukku, Billiri and Balanga. Inside the farms centres, there are stores, tractors, fertilizer for sale or lease to farmers. Besides, extension workers are available there to attend to farmers who experience some problems with their plants or need professional advice.
The idea according to Rufai Lawan Baba Manu, the Gombe State coordinator of the commission, is to enable farmers particularly those in rural areas have access to farm inputs like fertilizer without coming to the state capital to purchase. But at the centres, they can get everything they require including tractors and extension services.
He explained that they have also established six nursery centres for production of seedlings in Gombe, Kwami, Nafada, Kaltungo and Funakaye local government areas as part of measures to encourage tree planting and tackle erosion which is a serious problem in the state.
It is a known fact that Gombe is an agrarian state, and like in many other places, some of the setbacks hampering agriculture is lack of access to farms implements like fertilizers and tractors. Although, government usually procures fertilizer and sells to farmers at subsidized price, the problem is the insufficiency of the commodity thereby making it hard for many farmers particularly those outside the government circle or the state capital to get them.
At times, distributors divert the commodity and sell to business men that increase the price and or dash out to politicians or people that are not practicing farmers. Those people also sell at higher prices.
Another problem is lack of tractors for better cultivation as the machines are too expensive for small holder farmers to buy thereby hindering them from practicing mechanized farming and resorted to manual agriculture which yields little profits.
This is even as some others engage into subsistence farming to feed only themselves and their families contrary to the policy of the Buhari administration that intends to boost the economy of the citizens via commercial agriculture. Recall that the president came up with many schemes to improve agriculture and ensure food production and by extension food security in the nation since his inception.
As part of efforts to complement the federal government, the NEDC also keyed in to the sector in Gombe and built the farm centres in four out of the 11 local government areas of the state. Now, many farmers get farm implements and extension services at their doorsteps thereby mitigating losses they hitherto incurred from pests, weeds and diseases as they are educated on preventing and tackling them.
A farmer in the state Malam Idris Abubakar in an interview with Leadership opined that the establishment of the farm centres has given less privileged farmers equal access to farms implements like their rich counterparts who can afford to buy tractors and other modern tools.
“If you cannot own a tractor now, you can go to the farm centres and hire one. Moreso, you don’t have to go to the ministry of agriculture or its agencies now to consult extension workers on any problem you are encountering. There are experts at the centres to help you out.
“I call on the commission to build more in the other local government areas so that they will benefit from the farm centres. In fact, if possible, such centres should be provided in all big villages for the benefits of farmers”. He appealed.
Another farmer, Hamza Ibrahim said with the provision of the farm centres, any serious and determined farmer can excell, can cultivate larger piece of land and produce as much food as possible as all he requires are available.
“Everybody can now compete with the large scale rich farmers. Because normally, the challenges faced by farmers especially the rural dwellers is non availability of fertilizer, machines and extension services. Most of the successful farmers have tractors, fertilizer and engage the services of extension workers. But the rural dwellers are not informed on the need for consultancy services in agriculture. And even if they know it is necessary to get them, they lack access to them. But thanks to the North East Development Commission for providing such at the farm centres where all and sundry are free to access all that is available therein”. He hailed.
Aside the farm centres, Gombe is faced with serious erosion which escalates every raining seasons. According to reports, there are not fewer than 200 active gullies which grow into hills and valleys in many areas of the state thereby destroying houses and displacing the occupants.
It also make some places in the state impassable and result to floodings despite the efforts by successive governments to develop Gombe through provision of massive infrastructures such as roads. In view of that, another agricultural initiative by the North East Development Commission to help in controlling the gully erosion is the establishment of six nursery centres for production of seedlings in Gombe, Kwami, Nafada, Kaltungo and Funakaye local government areas as part of its interventions to encourage tree planting.