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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

'THISDAY, Vol. 16, No. 5804, Page 25

FEATURES

n assumption of offICe in ?JJJ7. Governor Gabriel Suswam IeIl no one in doubt as to his deremlination to trnnsform the agrobased rumI economy of tlle state which had hitherto collapsed and was yearning for far reaching economic po~cies that would completely rejuvenate the sector and place it on the _ pedestal of sustainable growth. Suswmn told e>eryone that eared to listen that the resuscitation of a baltered agrarian economy like tltat of Benue required a solid base~ne anchored on sustmn.1ble agricultural policies that would trigger tlle much desired economic growtll mxl developlllCnl. 11le governor at the ti.1llC maintailted that agriculture remained pivotal in the policy tnlSl of the administration, since according to him, tlle much talk about food basket starus of the state would amount to a big sham if concrete steps were not taken 00 the part of govcll1I11CI1t and stakehold· ers to herald a new dawn in that all encompassing sector. And determilted to revitalise tlle ocooomic base of Benue State tluuugh Ole government's well laid out programlllC of action as encapsulated in the 'Our Bem", Our Future' working docuI11Cnt, the adminis· tration coofronted the rot in that sector headlong by introducing farreaching reforms in the sector. Aocording to the State Commissioner for Inforntation, Mrs. Diana Ochoga, agriculture as a critical sector in an agrarian ocooomy like that of Benue, was given all the necessary impetus through sound po~cy direction and the appropriate implelllCntation of same, all geared towards uplifting the condition of the teeming populace of the state, 'Xl per cent of whom are fanners and in dire need of fanning inputs that were hitherto lacking. HavinJ! aggressively refonned the sector, the administration embarked on tlle'ntaSSive supply of all agricultural inputs especially assorted feniliser products, which were distributed, to the peopleat a highly subsidised rate. It IS on record that in 2008 to 2010 alone, the Suswam-Ied administration procured and distributed over 5 ;1.76 trucks of assorted feniliser products after having established a distribution centre in each of the 23 local govemlllCnt councils of the state. lltis huge procurelllCnt, which was lauded. by critics and supporters of the administration alike went down in history as the largest single haulage of the product to tlle State by any successive government SUKe the creation of Benue State. And worthy of commendation is the manner at which these products were distributed to farmers across the State, which was devoid of all encumbrances and racketeering, a major feature of previous exercises. This singular accomp&hment by the State government through the Ministry of Agriculture has effectively stifled black marketeering of fertiliser products in the state. Fertiliser procurement for the year 20 JO was no different, as huge quantities of the assorted product have already been procured by gov- ' ernment and distributed to farmers at 60 per cent subsidy, while government has effected some modifications in the distribution chain with a view to ensuring tltal every single fanner in the stale had enough through the fanning seasqn. And in a swift response to pen;istent outcry by fanners over the inen· ace of weeds in farmlands across the state, the govemlllCnt through the agric ministry purchased and distributed over 5.000 urtits of knap sack sprayers to farmers at 50 per cent subsidy. l1te gesture, according the state leadership of the farmers' association, would go down in history. being the fir>t time a governrnent in the state would show tremendous commitment to the needs of the state's farmers. Determined to actualise the vision of properly repositioning the state m1l-leading food producer in the country. the Suswarn administration also embarked on a fun·scale mechanisation of agricultural practices in the middle belt Stale. That bold doci ion was COI1S«[uently accompanied by Ole release of substantial sum for the importation of over 146 tractors. harvesters and planters for that pwpose, while 44 other state owned tractors under the Benue State Tractor Hiring Agency (BENTI-lA), were rehabilitated and put to use for elfective service de~very to farmers. Similarly, 23 field operations urtits of BENTI-lA , which were hitlterto cl~ down \\>ere reopened and positioned to meet the needs of farm-

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Meeting the Global Challenge on Agriculture Det~rmined to actualis'e the vision of properly repositioning the state as a leading food producer in the country, the

Suswam administration has also embarked on a full-scale mechanisation of agrieultural practices in the middle belt state. GEORGE OKOH writes ers in each of the local government council area just as the government procured and distributed tree crop nursery tools for use by the Divisiortal Agricultural Officers (DAO), across the 23 local government COWlCil headquarters of tlle state. l1te live slock se<.1or was not left out in the agricultural revolution enlbarked upon by the Suswam administration with the rehabilitation and restocking of the livestock-breeding centre at Raav. That centre has been re-<:apacitated to ensure the improvement of the local breeds with exotic breeds for enhanced performance in terms of meat quality, milk and numbers of offspring; today that centre remains a major source of the protein needs of the people of the slate. Not ignorant of the ravaging effects of live stock diseases and its attendant COI1S«[uences, the ministty of agriculture ernbark~ on a massive facelift and restocking of the state owned veterinary clinics at Gboko, Katsina-Ala and Otukpofor effective ~ve sloek disease control even as quarantine centres were constructed in Gboko and Makurdi to ensure that strange live stock diseases did not penetrate the state just as tl10 abattoirs in all the major markets in these towns were rehabilitated and repositioned for increased activities. These measures have indeed encouraged ~ve stock farming in parts of the stnte, evident in the sudden upsurge in the yield and sudden drop in the prices of various live stock products. And being the host state of one of the biggest rivers in tlle country. the fisltery sub-sector also received the attention of government with til<: reactivation of the long abandoned fishc:ries department wxl construction of a perimeter fence and three large fish ponds at the hatchery which has started servicing the fish needs of the people. Mention most also be made of the revival of the acclainted Akata Fishing and Cultural Festival. l1te festival, which drew visi tors from across the globe has been celebrnted in three coosecutive years, 2008, 2009 and 20 I0 drawing visitors' attention to the rich cultural and tourism potentials of the slate.l1tis leaves an indelible impression in the minds

of all auendants who have repeatedly confessed tlmt they all look forward to visiting LakeAkata to savor the rich cultural heritage of the pe0ple of Benue State. ccording to the state Commissioner for Agriculture. Mr. Shapero Naako, government was determined to make good its promises to the people of the State, especially on 010 complete trnnsformation of the agro ~ed sector. He intimated that the current global economic down tum is a walee up call to the pe0ple of the state to take up the driving seat of the nation's economy by devoting energy and resoon::es to that sector assuring that the Suswam-Ied administratioo is ever ready to provide the enabling environmentlO aid them accomplish that feal. He further Stated that the state has remitted its counterpart funds to the FADAMA m programme, which has fully taken olf in the 23 council areas of tlle state just as it has made payments and collected 1;200 tons of sorghum and maize allotted to it by the federal government for distribution to the populace to cushion the effects of the global food crisis. l1te agric commissioner stated that in a bid to develop and enrich the technology of Benue farmers, the governrnent invited a team of agriculturalists from Iowa State University of tl10 United States of America, to assist the stale government establish demonstration farms in four locations in the state. According to him, a good number of officers in the state establtshments have been trained at the university, while others are currently undergoing training at the institution at the erxl of which they would manage the demonstration farms established across the state. He added that under tills programme, efficient extension services wiD be rendered to Benue farinersfor increased productivity and yields in all spheres of agriculture and coupled with the all encompassing direct revolution initiated by the Suswam administration in that sector, Benue St.1te would elfectively retain its enviable position as the ' Food Basket of tlle Nation' .

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THISDAY, 15 MARCH, 2011  

Meeting the Global Challenge on Agriculture

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