Following the gradual return of peace to parts of Borno State after over a decade of insurgency, the state government has embarked on massive irrigation farming to boost agricultural activities across 25 local government areas of the state.
The state Governor, Prof Babagana Zulum, during an inspection tour of a 35-hectare irrigation farm on Friday in Mafa town of Mafa Local Government Area, described the irrigation farm as a pilot scheme project aimed at returning the state to its pre-insurgency agrarian status.
Zulum stated that the government would take advantage of the arable land in the state which, over the years, had been underutilised to engage farmers and returning IDPs in order to provide food security and also improve their socio-economic status.
He said the aged, youths, women and young girls would be engaged in agricultural chain productions as it was the only way to address rural-urban migration and also encourage villagers to return to their communities.
“Borno State has vast arable land and 70 per cent of Borno land has never been cultivated while the remaining 30 per cent is underutilised due largely to activities of insurgents over the years.
“We, as a government are looking at how to engage the rural dwellers in meaningful ventures that will address the challenges of unemployment, food provision and security and self-dependency as they return to their communities after years in IDP camps.
“This is one of the reasons we stopped donors from distributing foodstuffs to returning communities,” the governor said.
If we can use 40 per cent of our arable and fertile land, we can produce foodstuffs sufficient to feed the whole nation, Zulum said.
He said irrigation farming would be a major priority of his administration in which government would invest huge amounts of money in farming activities across all the LGAs in line with the predominant agricultural activities of the area starting with the Mafa project.
“In Mafa, we have examined our ongoing establishment of the irrigation scheme. We have started the pilot scheme. So far, the pilot scheme is good but we also want to plant grasses so that we want to provide ranching in many communities of Borno State. This is a pilot scheme and after the success of this, many more irrigation schemes will be established in Borno State so that we will be able to provide crops and grasses for our animals’ consumption.
“Here on this farm, as you can see, we have planted rice, onions, tomatoes and cucumbers. The idea is to see which produce grows best in particular LGAs so that we can go ahead and invest our resources in such produce. The government does not have enough resources to waste on projects that will not yield the desired dividends. That is why we want to study the system very well to know what we can do at specific locations.
“We have already provided land for Ruga in two local government areas. Therefore, we have to provide grasses for the animals that will be reared in those settlements and other farmers that are engaged in animal husbandry in order to avoid clashes,” the governor stated.
Zulum said he had already instructed the Ministry of Agriculture to work with other agencies and institutions to provide seedlings and farming equipment for all the farmers willing to go into dry season farming to motivate them.