By Our Correspondent
The National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) has begun the process of establishing an integrated farm estate on its one thousand, two hundred hectares land it just recovered and reactivated in Ekiti state, South West Nigeria.
The farm estate located in Okeako/Irele Ekiti in Ikole Local Government Area of the state had been in existence for over twenty years and owned by NALDA, boast of an already existing 50 hectares of Cashew farm, storage and a processing facility that would be reactivated and upgraded.
In a meeting with NALDA farmers who have been farming on the land over the years, the traditional ruler of the community, His Royal Highness, Oba Emmanuel Omopariola the Alajowa of Ijowa, Ijowa Ekiti while welcoming NALDA back to the community highlighted insecurity as one of the major problem facing the farmers in the community.
He said farmers in the area are unable to recoup incomes invested on their farms because herders go into their farms with cattle that eat up crops already matured for harvest, a situation he said has made life unbearable for the farmers.
“At present, what we facing is the question of security, the insecurity is so enormous that nobody around can solve it for us, earlier this year, our cashews produced very well but at the end of the day farmers ended up not having any form of financial benefits as the herders came at night with their cattle that ate up the matured fruits”
Oba Omopariola noted that due to this challenge, farmers in his community no longer farm crops like Maize, Sorghum, Cassava and yam. Instead they now travel miles to buy them at exorbitant prices.
“This is the greatest problem we are facing, we cannot plant cassava any longer, we can’t plant maize, we can’t plant yam, we have to go to the market at Ikole to buy this things at an expensive rate and we can’t even guarantee the quality of what we are buying”
While appealing for urgent attention to be given to the situation, he pointed out that for whatever NALDA has planned for the community to work and benefit both the government and the people of the community, the issue of herders invading farms must be addressed.
A farmer, Mr. Alaba Sunday appealed to the NALDA Boss to make farming implements and inputs available for the farmers in order for them to maximize the opportunity NALDA has availed them.
He said the aged farmers used the old method of farming with the old equipment but that the world has moved to mechanised farming and the younger generation needs support in getting modern farming tools.
“ Some of us are graduates and what we need is just government support, like providing herbicides and some other equipments’ we are not lazy, help us so that we produce and fend for ourselves, our fathers were farmers and used proceeds from farms to see us through school”
The Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of NALDA Prince Paul Ikonne noted their fears and concerns and he assured the farmers that the authority is back and better and will work assiduously to ensure that the farmers get all they need to farm and produce, beginning with an access road into the farm.
“We are here to make sure that this abandoned estate comes back to life, your farm produce that you use to take out, you will still take them out to sell but this time it will be fully processed because whatever we going to produce on this farm will also be processed, we will put processing plant too so that we can add value to what we produce, this will also help your youth be engaged because agriculture is the way to go”
He further assured the community that the plan NALDA has in stock for the farm estate would definitely open up the community to a huge development as the farm would have a processing zone, a packaging zone and farming zone.
Addressing the issue of insecurity and herders crises Prince Ikonne said the best way forward is to meet, discuss and dialogue with farmers and herders in and around the communities in order to prevent future occurrence.
“The solution is, how do we come together to do our businesses so that it would benefit all of us? That is what NALDA would do, I believe that the herders want their cow to be healthy and fattened so they can sell and make profit, what this means is that they also want a conducive environment to do their business”
“So NALDA is going to engage them and the communities, we will create an avenue where they can feed their cattle so that we all can live in peace. Based on that we are doing what we call integrated farming, they can buy from us, while we also can buy from them and the farm can benefit also through the cattle’s dunk serving as manure”
So we must find a way to live in peace so that our children and their children after them would also have peace. Trouble, bitterness, hatred and war does not pay any community so as an Authority NALDA would find a way to bring both parties to the table”
The NALDA Boss thanked the farmers and the indigenes of the community for keeping the farm safe and maintaining it all these years it was abandoned.
In another meeting with the Ekiti state Governor Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Prince Paul Ikonne said NALDA is in Ekiti state to carryout President Muhammadu Buhari’s instructions which is for NALDA to recover and reactivate its abandoned farm estates across the country and utilize it for agriculture to benefit youths in the grassroots.
“having made the funds available for NALDA to use, we will start immediately to reactivate the farm, we will start with road infrastructure which is about 4.5 kilometers and then clear the remaining lands in the areas that have not been cleared, we will take it in phases and I’m very much sure that we are going to farm there this wet season as NALDA will be providing the tractors for the land clearing”
Price Ikonne while appreciating the state government for providing an enabling environment for NALDA said they can only function in a state that creates a working environment adding that the farmers have shown the interest and zeal to be engaged in modern farming.
He noted that with the flag off of the Young Farmers Scheme in November of 2020 by Mr. President, the integrated farm estates across the country would further ensure that the young Farmers Scheme would be fully achieved and in so doing Food security will also be achieved.
On his part the Ekiti state Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi said agriculture in the state is not on a part time basis but a way of life and anything that needs to be done to accelerate development in the sector is a welcome development.
“Currently we have about three rice mills that are coming on in Ekiti, all of this will not really bring to bear the quality and capacity of our people if we don’t have enough farmers growing, somebody has to feed the mills, either it’s Cassava or rice we must produce in order for the mills to be active and whatever you can do to assist us just as you have promised we will certainly be full of gratitude”
“We all know how dear agriculture is to Mr. President, at every opportunity he would tell us that we must grow what we eat and eat what we grow and that is also our passion in this state” he added
He said the state will leverage on what they are best known for which is education and farming and develop it into wealth creating opportunities for the people adding that with NALDA on board more youths in the state would get empowered through agriculture.