There are three basic essential needs of man. These are food, clothing and shelter. Food is necessary for man’s survival. Hence, priority that is often placed on agriculture by government at all levels. Nigeria’s initial greatness was hinged on agriculture when the country was renowned for mass production of cash crops such as cocoa, kolanut, palm oil and others.
However, the country’s story changed with the discovery of crude oil in the 1950s and agriculture experienced a nose-dive but even at that, subsistence farming became a major vocation for many communities in the country. In spite of the place that oil has come to occupy in our national life, agriculture still remains the most reliable and sustainable avenue for income for many Nigerians. Food security is deemed as one of the surest ways to gauge the strength of any country. Many Nigerian households depend on agriculture for their daily survival.
In recognising this fact, government at all levels have in diverse ways through well-thought out programmes and policies, continued to accord the agricultural sector topmost priority, introducing one programme after the other, to stimulate and sustain the interest of citizens in agriculture. Till date, an estimated 70 to 75 percent of Nigerians still live in the rural areas and agriculture has remained a viable alternative to crude oil and a major source of employment, income and survival.
In terms of arable land, Nigeria is a blessed country and to sustain and effectively tap the vast agricultural potentials of the country, successive administrations at one point or the other, initiated agricultural programmes to enhance the livelihoods of the people.
Following the steps of successive administrations, a few years ago, the Federal Government of Nigeria in collaboration with International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), introduced Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) in several states of Nigeria, including Kogi State. Kogi State given its vast arable land, remains Nigeria’s food basket. This fact is not lost on the present administration which has made agriculture one of its areas of concentration.
It is interesting to note that the objective of VCDP is to among other things reduce rural poverty using the instrumentality of agriculture; increase food security and accelerate economic growth on a sustainable basis. For more specifics, the programme is designed to improve the incomes and food security of rural households who are engaged in production, processing and marketing of rice and cassava in targeted pilot Local Government Areas.
In implementing the programme, the respective benefiting states are to adopt holistic and demand-driven approach to address constraints along the cassava and rice value chains. Hence, the need for inclusive strategy to strengthen actors along the chain i.e producers, processors, marketers and their respective organisation.
Given the fact that upon assumption of office in 2016, agriculture was accorded a front burner position by the government of Alhaji Yahaya Bello, as one of the thematic areas of the New Direction Development Blueprint, IFAD VCDP and Kogi State Government entered a partnership that would change the ugly narrative in the agricultural sector in the state. It is a partnership that has paid off and it is still paying off.
There is no denying the facts that Kogi IFAD/VCDP has demonstrated unequal feat with arrays and galaxies of positive impacts on VCDP farmers and the State in general. These are intended to stem the tides of poverty in the system.
Explaining how the VCDP-IFAD works, the Programme Coordinator in Kogi State, Dr. (Mrs) Stella Adejoh, said strong emphasis is placed on developing commodity-specific Value Chain Action plans at the Local Government level and this, she explained, serve as the basis for rolling out relevant and sustainable activities.
Adejoh further explained that the programme strategy is anchored on a long-term vision of value chain development for poverty reduction and accelerated economic growth and setting the fulcrum for fundamental organization and functional capacity of key actors in the agricultural sector.
The overall aim, she enthused further is to enhance food security, increased production and productivity, as well as expand income-generating activities and create larger employment opportunities. To achieve this objective, Kogi VCDP has consistently kept its eyes on the ball and has through its activities put smiles on the faces of farmers in the state.
The programme which started in Kogi State fully barely over two years ago, has with the support of the Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, made tremendous impacts in the lives of rural families with testimonies following. The programme has become a dependable burden-bearer for farmers across the state with the farmers seeing it as a friend in time of dire need.
This is understandable given the fact that between 70 and 75 percent of the total farming population in the state is made up of smallholder farmers.
Against this backdrop and the fact that poverty has remained a rural phenomenon, with at least two-third of the rural population captured in the poverty net, the programme has come at a very crucial time and it is making impacts in the lives of people who are in dire need of help in terms of funding and technical know-how on how to improve their yields and enhance their livelihoods.
IFAD/VCDP programme is a success story in Kogi State given the testimonies of beneficiaries spread across the benefiting pilot Local Government Areas of the state. Speaking on some of the completed and ongoing projects of the IFAD/VCDP programme in Kogi, the State Project Coordinator, Dr Stella Adejoh, identified the provision of rice processing centre with a drying slab located at Kungbani cluster also provided with solar powered borehole and a Transformer for the community.
Others include; construction of a market stall/store and crèche for the marketers where passer-by and travellers can easily stop over to purchase agricultural products and items at the Gaskiya Rice Processing Centre at Kungbani in Lokoja Local Government Area.
Similarly, the programme also constructed a market store for Ejule-Ojebe community, drying slab at Ichalla Ajode, Solar powered borehole at Ayeke, market stall at Egah and a solar powered borehole and drying slab for rice farmers at Aluko-Ina, all in Ibaji Local Government Area of the state.
Like other benefiting pilot LGAs, market stall and solar powered borehole were also constructed for farmers in Oke-Dayo and Bolorunduro communities as well as a cassava processing centre with a Solar powered borehole and a Creche for Agalupa community in Kabba/Bunu Local Government Area. Also in Oke-buku a Creche and solar powered borehole as well as a processing centre were constructed for the community.
Continuing in its drive to lift rural residents out of poverty by helping them create sustainable livelihoods, Kogi VCDP built a rice processing centre, aggregation centre, solar powered borehole, crèche, access road with culverts and a drying slab, and 30KVA transformer at Asco Camp while a crèche was built for Geregu community in Ajaokuta Local Government.
The Dr Stella Adejoh-led VCDP through the poverty alleviation strategies of the present administration in the state, installed Solar powered borehole for Garri Processors at Igah-Ikeje and Ogugu communities as well as a market stall, Solar powered borehole and a processing centre at Imane in Olamaboro Local Government Area of the state.
Out of a deliberate strategy to assist farmers with a view for increased production, Kogi VCDP developed 200 hectares of cultivable land for farmers across the three senatorial districts in the State.
Several Advocacy and training programme had also been held to sensitize small householder farmers on the adaptation and mitigation measures on climate change.
As a deliberate attempt to ensure youths and women participation in the project implementation, Kogi IFAD-VCDP sponsored twenty youths on entrepreneurship at the National Institute of Roots and Tubers for training on the production on Cassava stems and Badegi for Rice seed multiplication.
The list is endless, but being conscious of the role of partnership in networking for the success of the programme Kogi IFAD-VCDP entered into bilateral partnership with some reputable organizations and stakeholders for effective and efficient project implementation.
The organizations, according to Dr. Stella Adejoh include: UNICANE, CREST AGRO, VERTEX NIGERIA LIMITED, JOSAN, Seed Council, NRCRI, NCRI and BADEGI, among others.
These of course, was why the State Programme Coordinator ascribed the modest achievements over two years of the programme implementation in the State to the commitment and the political will of the present administration of the Agriculture friendly Governor of the State, Governor Yahaya Bello who has consistently given nods to the programme’s move to achieve greatness in Agricultural sector in the state.
Also, Beneficiaries, IFAD/VCDP officials at different fora have consistently showered encomiums on Governor Yahaya Bello for creating the enabling environment and full support for the implementation of the IFAD/VCDP activities in Kogi State.
Kogi State government and the programme coordinating unit should be particularly commended and appreciated for modestly blazing the trail among the committee of States in the implementation of IFAD-VCDP programme in Nigeria.