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Sitting On A Goldmine: Katsina State gargantuan agricultural potential and matters arising, by Prof. M. K. Othman


Sitting On A Goldmine: Katsina State gargantuan agricultural potential and matters arising, by Prof. M. K. Othman

Deep Thoughts with Othman

Katsina State is the home state to two illustrious sons democratically elected presidents, the former President, the late Umaru Musa Yar’adua of blessed memory, and President Muhammadu Buhari whose two 4-year consecutive tenures winds up on May 29th. Katsina state dubbed as the home of hospitality covers a total land area of 23,938 sq. km and is ranked 7th in total land mass and 6th in population size-. Of the total land resource, 1.6 million hectares of land is under intensive cultivation, while the forest reserve is now mostly bandits’ den. The famous Rugu forest was the envy of all due to its rich array of fauna and flora now a dread that only men of the underworld occupy from where they unleash their mayhem on the peace-loving, hapless, and agrarian communities. The other forest, Kogo in Faskari LGA, which was recently converted into National Park has been a virgin land with the utmost potential for economic activities. Moreover, a large expanse of undeveloped, and underdeveloped land is sparsely available across the state for utilization. The land can be ostensibly utilized for rainfed and irrigated agricultural production. The state is blessed with plenty of surfaces and underground waters that can be harnessed for irrigation. Major rivers which originate in or traverse the state include Koza, Sabke, Tagwai, Gada, Turami, Karaduwa, Bunsuru, Gagare, Sokoto, Tubo, Chalawa, and Karma. Most of these rivers, which flow only during the rainy seasons, are dammed to provide water for irrigation. The state has a tropical continental and semi-arid climate with annual rainfall ranging from 600mm in the northern part to 1000 mm in the southern part.

The state is blessed with three major vegetation zones, namely the Northern Guinea, Sudan, and Sahel Savannah, which support agricultural diversification. The state has 39,190 ha of potentially irrigable land in the Fadama and over 10,000 ha of land can be developed for irrigation under the Federal Government Irrigation schemes in Zobe, Jibia, and Sabke. Furthermore, there are several pockets of irrigation schemes with weak infrastructural support that were initiated by the state government over the last four decades. Several crops can be grown under rainfed and irrigation in the State. Cereals, tubers, legumes, vegetables, and horticultural and tree crops were introduced, tested, and found to be performing excellently.

Nostalgically, Katsina State housed important agricultural extension and training centres during colonial and post-colonial periods such as farm settlement schemes in Daudawa, Kafin-soli, Ajiwa, Tambu, Ladanawa, and Layin Minister. The famous World Bank Agricultural support program, coined Agricultural Development Project was first introduced in Funtua, Gusau, and Gombe in 1975.

The successes recorded in these three pilot project sites continued to expand to cover more areas and mandates until the model was escalated to cover the entire 36 states and FCT. At one time, Katsina state was the leading producer of cotton, groundnut, shea-nut, sorghum, sugarcane, cocoyam, tiger-nut, millet, and livestock. However, the discovery of petroleum in the country made agriculture suffer a very serious setback. Agricultural productivity nosedived abysmally while the demand for food and livestock products continues to be on the increase due to the population explosion. Katsina, being an agrarian state was the worst affected by the gross negligence of agriculture. The ugly trend that manifested in the mid-1970s continued unabated up to 2008 when the then governor Ibrahim Shema approached Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) for a holistic solution to the state’s agricultural challenges. ABU assembled over 20 different agricultural experts including yours sincerely for a rescue mission. After a painstaking, 8-month burning of midnight oil, and rapid appraisal that covered the entire state, a comprehensive document was produced for short, medium, and long terms agricultural interventions. The government did what it wanted and left the bulk of the recommendations undone. In the last decade, the underdevelopment of agriculture in the state worsen and was aggravated by bandits’ seizure of productive land thereby causing food insecurity and skyrocketing prices of food items. This pushed more people into hunger and abject poverty. As we herald a new dawn, our hopes are rekindled for a better tomorrow. Can we anticipate a better tomorrow under the incoming administration? Why not?

Today, governing Katsina State requires the services of a discerning mind with vision, skill, deftness, industry, acumen, and high intellectual capacity to design people-oriented policies and programs. This, in my opinion, is the first step to addressing the herculean developmental challenges of the state. Katsina State is facing a fierce infestation of bandits in some rural areas making agrarian life difficult. High poverty rates and malnutrition are highly prevalent in the state. In September 2022, the UN was quoted saying “No fewer than 70% of people living in Katsina state are living below the poverty line”. Can Dr Umar Dikko Radda, the governor-elect be the square peg in a square hole, capable of converting the agricultural potential into tangible reality?

One and half years ago, Dikko was a relatively unknown politician compared to those highly profiled politicians contending to replace Masari in 2023. He was a dark horse racing in the darkness whose racing speed was difficult to assess until he emerged as the veritable flagbearer of the ruling party, APC in the state. The major opposition party, PDP was entangled in an internal crisis that made individual-party moguls more powerful than the party. In recent times, the party suspended one of its czars for alleged anti-party activities, and the suspended mogul sternly warned the party to withdraw the suspension or risk his party membership withdrawal. A clear analogous message sounding to an ailing patient under intensive care, “Keep quiet or I will remove the oxygen” will make the party’s fatality a matter of few minutes. This was the epileptic situation of the PDP in the state when it was fielding its traditional candidate, Senator Lado Danmarke for the 2023 gubernatorial election. The outcome was almost predictable as the contest was between the lightweight against the heavyweight. Dikko garnered 859,892 votes against Lado’s 486,620 votes. The rest, as is being said is now history.

Dikko, 54 years old agricultural economist/extensionist with a PhD is a shrewd teacher, technocrat, and politician who was at one time elected chairman of Charanci Local Government Area. He held the position of the Director General/Chief Executive Officer of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) from 2016 to 2021. His tenure as DG of SMEDAN was said to be eventful with several feats recorded in the creation of new enterprises while consolidating the new ones with financial accessibility and inclusion.

With the goodwill expressed as exemplified by the overwhelming votes cast for him, Dikko cannot let people down by squandering this huge amount of gemutlichkeit. Consequently, Dikko must hit the ground running for the total revival of the Agricultural sector. The ABU Agricultural document can be handy, Dikko may wish to dust and update it for possible implementation. With that Agricultural Blueprint, Katsina State will be Eldorado. The prognosis is bright. On a final note, as with the global democratic tradition of celebrating 100 days for any new administration; Dikko’s 100 days as Executive Governor of Katsina State will show the world the direction and priorities of his administration. I pray for a better and more prosperous future. May God help Katsina and the nation at large.

Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.

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