Ilorin – The Kwara Government on Monday said it would make about 13,000 hectares of farmland available for unemployed youths to engage in commercial agriculture.
Gov. Abdulfatai Ahmed made this known in his address of welcome at the National Cashew Festival and Awards in Ilorin.
Ahmed said commercialisation was the available option if diversification from a monopolised oil economy to agriculture must thrive.
“Kwara State is taking the issue of commercial agriculture very serious.
“ On this premise, we have already identified 13,000 hectares of land to be cleared and made available to the unemployed youths.
“Again, one of the crops that have been adopted to be farm on the land is cashew; we are also generating a new generation of farmers with training of farmers at our integrated farm,’’ he said.
The governor also said that the state was empowering farmers through a micro credit scheme.
He said 50,000 people had so far benefited from the programme while the state would be earmarking N2 billion over the next three years.
“One of the problems the sector faces is access to finance; as a way to encourage farmers, it is important for farmers to have access to affordable credit such as provided under our micro credit scheme which has benefited 50,000 SMEs, including farmers.[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”70560″]
“Over the next three years, we intend to inject about N2 billion into the scheme. I urge commercial banks and CBN to sustain lending for agriculture,’’ Ahmed said.
He also said that the state had identified agro business development as a means to diversify the state’s revenue generation sources.
“In Kwara, we have identified agro business as one of the strategies to diversify our economy, to cut unemployment and of course to create wealth for our people.
“Hence, in our drive to empower farmers in the state we have established an agric hall and the off-taker programme to ensure economic prosperity of farmers in the state,’’ he said.
Ahmed urged the Federal Government to leverage on the growing demand for cashew to develop the value chains embedded in the crop.
“The global demand for cashew is growing strongly in terms of volume and value and the world demand for it will continue to increase rapidly.
“This presents an opportunity for us to increase our foreign exchange earnings, diversify our agric products, develop our agro industry and of course provide employment for our teeming youths,’’ Ahmed said.
The Chairman of the Local Organising Council (LOC), Mr Sotonye Anga, said that it was a successful event which had shown the importance of cashew in the development of the sector.
NAN reports that more than 2,000 delegates from across the world were present at the festival.
Awards were given to members of the society who had contributed to the growth of the crop.
Mr Segun Awolowo, Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Export Promotion Council, who received the Cashew Ambassador Award, said cashew export generated $250 million in foreign exchange in 2015.
Awolowo said cashew was one of Nigeria’s main export commodities, adding, however, that the sub-sector was not doing enough because lands were not utilised. (NAN)