By Solomon Attah
Giving the massive agricultural activities, potentials, fertile land and surplus of water from the bank of Benue River as well as dams strategically located across the state, it is obvious to say that, there is no better place in Nigeria for agricultural business to thrive than Nasarawa State.
This is in consideration of the opportunities and sustainable business projects the State Government, Central Bank of Nigeria and other development partners have initiated and financed for the citizens and small business holders as beneficiaries, which make Nasarawa the best state for Agribusiness in Nigeria.
Being the home of solid minerals, the state is also known to be an agrarian state, with the land mass of 2.7 million hecters, out of which, one million hectres is certified fertile and arable for cash crops farming and any form of agricultural business, which alone enticed about 80% of the state’s population to engage in agricultural activities for economic advancement, better livelihood and to be self-reliance.
That, the State is fast becoming Nigeria’s food basket is living no one in doubt, because of the various sustainable agricultural activities the people are engaged-in on daily basis and in all season.
Additionally, the good and friendly climate and disease free environment, livestock and poultry production, such as goats, cattle, ram and birds that are reared in large amount are commodities that have contributed significantly to the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the first half of 2020, hence the desire of the state government to aggressively focus on agriculture, after the COVID-19 pandemic, as an alternative to cushion the plights of the people and it impact on the economics of the state.
The arable land and the amount of food being produced to Nigeria markets from the state alone is enough prove for many to believe that the state is capable of feeding the nation.
The conducive environment provided by the state government and the potentials endowed therein is attracting private investors, who are currently opening up large scale farms across the state.
Already, the presence of Dangote Group of Company, Azman, Flour Mills Nigeria among other partners, and their contributions is immensely adding value to the economic prosperity of the state, providing job opportunity, increasing the state revenue profile, creating investment opportunity, economic empowerment and industrialization of the state.
This no doubt demonstrates government commitment to boosting investors’ confidence, creating robust farming activities in dry and wet season farming, as well as ensuring food sufficiency and security in the state and by extension the country at large.
This is why the State government, under the stewardship of Governor Abdullahi Sule has continued to evolved policies that will entrench collaborative approach to woo partners to the state in order to engender agro-economy society, through mechanize agriculture and agro allied industry, which is the key driver for industrialization.
It is against this backdrop that the Nigeria Farmers’ Group and Cooperative Society (NFGCS) is practically translating the Federal and State Governments agriculture programmes and initiatives for the economic benefits of the people.
The NFGCS which has it based in Ga’ate in Kokona Local Government Area of the State was established about 4 years ago with the commitment to contribute to the economy growth of the country, building the next generation that will drive the country’s economy as well as addressing the problem of food security and sufficiency.
The NFGCS is basically a group of young Nigerian Farmers’, who believe in agro revolution, came together under the leadership of Retson Tedheke to establish what is today benefiting the community, the state and the country.
Ga’ate is a community located along Keffi-Akwanga road, where most of the inhabitants are farmers and before now, they share thesame source of water with cattles, with virtually nothing insight of government, presence, projects or facility in the area.
But the presence of NFGCS in Ga’ate in the past three and half years, has really gave the people a new ease of life, from their primitive ways of living.
As of today, the Nigeria Farmers’ Group and Cooperative Society is being credited for doing alot as well as initiated (ing) life’s changing projects in Ga’ate.
Their activities have in no small measure reduced the rate of crime and criminality, birth control, unwanted pregnancy, early marriage, school drop out and hooliganism in the community, as some even went back to school and others engaged in meaningful ventures.
It is evident that, the group has invested huge resources in the project in Ga’ate, such that no government will ignore, aimed at enhancing federal and state government drive in food security, economic diversifications and job creation.
This explained why the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo visited the farm last year to commission a number of projects, with an assurance of federal government support to the farm to deliver on it commitment.
The activities of the group which attracted massive support from public and private organizations, initially they started the farming business through crowed funding with a capital of N1.5 million.
Institutions that have shown interest in funding the farming activities of the Nigeria farmers group are confident that their support was and/or, will yield positive results, considering the turn over of the cooperative group in the last three and half years of N4 billion.
Some of the institutions that are supporting the farmers group are the Keystone and Zenith Banks, who gave a loan facility of N734 million and N1 5 billion respectively, while the African Development Bank (AFDB) offered $100 million debt financing as well as $4 million debt and equity financing from Europe.
The $100 million by AFDB was used to finance the bagging of rice, as part of it private sector COVID-19 recovery package for Nigeria’s less privileged.
Ga’ate, which used to be a-near none-existing-community, with the inhabitants wallowing in abject poverty, has today turned to be a market hub for agribusiness, a suburb, where NFGCS create value chain activities for the people.
In achieving it objectives, the group first secure a 5000 hecters of land in Ga’ate, where is currently croping on 2500 heaters, with over 600 people from within and outside the communities are engaged as labourers, while some others were trained in various skills as rice Millers, tractor operators, carpenters, engineers, electricians and so on.
As part of it social responsibility to the people and government, the NFGCS has established a vocational and agro training center, with an accommodation, where 50 youths from each of the 13 local government areas of the state would be trained in skills of their choice after every three months.
Interestingly, the Fulani’s people neighbouring Ga’ate community were also engaged as one of the measures adopted by the group to stem cases of encroachment, fulani herders/farmers’ crisis, as most of them have been trained about the importance of hydroponic feeding system.
In furtherance to it determination to impact positively on the lives of the people, especially the host community, the cooperative society has built a N90 million dam, alongside water treatment plant that is currently serving 17 neighbouring communities with good drinking water.
The dam which has the capacity to hold more than 500 million cubic liters of water, to also service irrigation farming, fulani cattles. This is in addition of the 3 kilometers fish pound constructed in Ga’ate.
Aside from these, the NFGCS has upgraded Ga’ate road linking the farm, and has connected the people with electricity by installing a 100 KVA transformer to the host communities and a 500 KVA for the farm at the cost of about N35 million.
Before the connection to national grid, NFGCS were spending over N3 million naira monthly servicing the 15 standby generator sets, as this alone would have run down their business if they had continue in that direction.
As at today, the NFGCS is one of the largest farms in Nigeria owned by a cooperative group and the largest employment organization in the state that have invested so much in fabrication, rice processing with 7 upgraded Rice Mill in the farm, Yarm and cassava processing plant, animal husbandry, poultry farm, and crop cultivation.
On the animal husbandry, the Group have a greenhouse where it grow it own grass locally for 7 days to feed it cattles.
This is different from the technology develop in the west. They are using local methods of wood, zinc, water and grass that is easy and natural to the people, which in the whole sense, was to make the local people understand what hydroponic animals feeding technology is more than so many educated people.
Apart from this, they also have one of the largest warehouse and a well equipped health center, name after professor Dora Akunyili that is serving Ga’ate people and beyond.
It is worthy to note that, in Ga’ate, nothing is a waste, just as the NFGCS is not only providing market for rice, yarm and cassava farmers, the are rapidly transforming the community, and as well adding value to the lives of the people.
This is apart from the 3 to 5 trailerload of Ga’ate Gold rice that is been transportation to Nigeria markets every month, with special attention to Lagos, Portharcourt, Ibadan and Abuja.
From the foregoing, let it be mentioned that, what the NFGCS is doing in Nasarawa is typically a spring board, that is positively impacting lives and driving the Federal and State governments agricultural revolution.
The National coordinator, Nigeria Farmers’ Group and Cooperative Society, Redson Tedheke said, “the community is being planted in he heart of Nigeria and Nigerians due to it services, products and delivery”.
Tedheke who is a repentant militant from the creek of Southern Nigeria, reiterated their commitment to provide services that would better improve on the livelihood of the people.
He said: ” if the project were to be in his place, he would have been paying alot of money to various people and various groups every single day.
Tedheke added that, the acceptance and recognition given them in Ga’ate, gave them courage to not only settled there but to develop the community.
According to him, “in Ga’ate, we are one indivisible body, operating equally without sentiments.
“There is no problem of insecurity, fear, ethnicity, tribalism and religion because we integrated the locals and Fulani herds men to be part of our trainees and security architecture.
He stressed that, their commitment was to make Nasarawa a center piece of agricultural revolution, which is the foundation for growth.