Ya’u Mohammed Dansadau, is a young full-time farmer from Dansadau Emirate of Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara State. Ya’u Dansadau, a graduate of Mass Communication in this interview narrates how he decided to venture into agriculture rather than seeking a career in journalism or other field related to his course of study. He also dwells on how the agricultural poilicies adopted by the present administration in the country may not work. ATTAHIRU AHMED GUSAU brings the excerpts:
WHAT attracted you to agriculture?
WelI, I was brought up by my father who is a successful farmer and living in an agrarian community such as Dansadau town, farming is part of me. After studying Mass Communication from the prestigious Bayero University, Kano, I started thinking of a better career, I felt, I needed to be self reliant and to also contribute to the quest of ensuring food security in the country. After a long time of meditation and consultations, I conclusively chose farming.
When did you start full-time farming?
I started full-time farming in the year 2002 with little or no support but enjoyed full security then. Though it was an hectic venture and multi-tasking as well as there were no available farming chemicals to augment the local mulching, land clearance techniques. But in 2014, there was an intervention from governor Ahmad Sani Yariman Bakura, with the inroduction of Zamfara Comprehensive Agricultural Revolution Programme (ZACAREP) of which I and other farmers benefitted from, farmers from most of the north western states benefitted too. I was able to get interests free loans of tones of assorted fertilisers which grossly aided my farming business to the present standard.
As a successful full-time farmer producing massively annually, Can you share how you are going about it?
Yes, Alhamdulillah, I am very successful with Allah’s help, support from the community and determination. I am now among the frontliners in the comity of young farmers not only in my home town Dansadau but also across Zamfara state. You may whish to hear that I produce over 10,000 bags of maize, sorghum, rice and soyabeans put together. All I can say is that what has been keeping going is Allah’s help.
Do you think Nigeria has an enabling environment for more youths to venture into agriculture?
No, not at all, for long, since the inception of the present administration in the country, president Muhammadu Buhari, has been calling on Nigerian youths to embrace farming, but there are no plans to create the required enabling and conducive environment for farming to thrive.
Take for instance, a comparative study of this administration and immediate past government of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. The government of Buhari appropriated less than 40 billion for agriculture in 2016 while former President Goodluck Jonathan budgeted 250 billion Naira for agriculture in 2015.
To say the fact, as budget and its implementation are concerned, the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan was more serious on agriculture than the present administration.
The present administration should shun mere propaganda which cannot lead the nation anywhere. Nigerian farmers are not satisfied with President Buhari’s loquacious agricultural policies which come too little and too late. What the Buhari government has been appropriating in its budget for agriculture has always been very inadequate and poorly implemented.
In fact it does not get to real farmers at the grassroots. Neither large, nor medium or small scale, I mean the peasant farmers feel any of its impacts.
What challenges are you facing as a farmer in the north-west?
The problems I and every farmer face in the north-west are no longer secret to the world. They are too numerous to mention but major among them is the poor or lack of security. In any ideal political set up, security of lives and properties are uppermost priorities that need not to be compromised in any case. Unfortunately though, the much deserved security apparatus has been politicised, tribalised, and commercialised in Nigeria. In my view, security issues have unfortunately, almost crippled all sectors including farming activities in Zamfara and indeed the entire north-west to its poorest level. For instance, I, like many of my contemporaries, have been producing approximately 10,000 bags annually, but was able to produce only 900 bags last year due to insurgency. In the present 2020 farming season food production may be drastically impaired because the incessant banditry activities against the farmers across the entire region. Farming activities may not be possible any longer owing to the unfortunate sporadic attacks on innocent citizens by robbers who kidnap, rape and kill innocent village people.
What solution can you proffer to these aforementioned problems?
We need a secured environment. Governments at levels must be proactive in the provision and maintenance of security which is our major concern.
Secondly, in my own view, governments particularly in northern states, should emulate former Zamfara state governor Alhaji Ahmad Sani Yariman Bakura by implementing a programme that will empower farmers with interest-free loans for the procurement of farming inputs such as qualitative and genuine seeds, herbicides, fertilisers, insecticides etc.
Such loans should be disbursed through our traditional institutions, and farmers cooperative societies under strict conditions to ensure repayment. By so doing the loans would be revolving to enable many more farmers benefit annually.
Honestly speaking, I am happy that the relevance of crude oil in the world market has glaringly proved to be no longer a reliable source of our economic dependence. You can see that most African countries are now trying to diversify their sources of income. Regrettably, Nigeria is still lagging behind despite the numerous natural resources God has blessed the nation with.
However, I wish to suggest, as many also do, that President Muhammadu Buhari should think beyond party politics and take serious, long and emergency measures by diversifying Nigeria’s economy to agriculture, mining and others for the survival of our dear nation.
Reports indicate that most farmers default in paying back loans, don’t you think it is the reason banks place stringent conditions on agric loans?
Yes, I agree with you that there are farmers defaulters among local farmers. You need to ask what are the contributing factors to that default?
Firstly, the loans are given to the so-called farmers not genuine farmers.
Secondly, late disbursement of the loans also lead to defaulting by farmers.
How much do you think is sufficient for FG to budget on agriculture?
I wish and even pray, that every year’s budget would be risen up to at least 23% to 25% considering the impact of agriculture in the fight against hunger, poverty and food insecurity. Pathetically, only 1.8% of Nigerian budget was appropriated to agriculture in the year 2016. That was grossly inadequate, and un-serious of the government.
I was happy, there was an appreciable upward review of 20% on agriculture in the 2018 budget which was 173 billion. However, poor budgets implementation makes Nigerian farmers very angry as well as making food production always low. Only very little benefits were derived out of most Nigeria’s budget. When Nigeria closed its boarders to avoid food importation early last year, I expected a high increase on agricultural share in the budget. Surprisingly rather, there was a disturbing decrease to 18% i.e 138 billion. As I said earlier, despite the low budget to agriculture, poor and late implementation are the major problems Nigerian farmers and agriculturalists face.
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