An air of excitement is presently sweeping through Gaate village, a rural settlement along the Keffi-Akwanga road in Kokona Local Government Area of Nasarawa State as a cooperative farming society begins the first harvest of maize which it cultivated in the last planting season.
Gaate community leased a thousand hectares of its land over a renewable 5-year period to the cooperative, the Nigerian Farmers Group, NFG-CS after a successful deal was brokered between both parties.
PREMIUM TIMES in June reported the launch of the cooperative farming project which is to enable urban dwelling Nigerians own and run farms.
This, the cooperative hoped would help stem the tide of the soaring prize of maize in the country.
The price of maize, a staple food in Nigeria, soared in the country, amid increase in the global prices of the commodity and other grains, an outlook review by Novus Agro Nig. Limited, an agro commodity price tracker revealed in June.
There is over 83 per cent price increase, as a metric tonne of maize now sells for N183,130 in Lagos, as against N100, 000 sold last year, the outlook, made available to the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN showed.
“We met with the village leaders and the king,” said Redson Tedheke, coordinator of the group.
“We discussed with them and we paid for a five- year lease of 1000 hectares. At the end of the lease, we intend to increase it by another five years. We don’t want to buy off the land, we want to take it as a lease because we believe that over time, we will allow them to manage the process as we go to other places to open up new frontiers”, Mr. Tedheke told this newspaper.
Duuring a tour of the farm by this reporter, it was observed that the cooperative is already harvesting the maize it planted during the rainy season as well as preparing and planting on new frontiers for the dry season.
Our correspondent was taken on a tour guide of the farm on how the harvested maize is being processed into finished products with mechanised tools, facilities and manpower already on ground.
A man-made dam was also constructed by the cooperative to water the lands for farming in the dry season with the use of ‘water guns’.
The coordinator, Mr. Thedeke, said about 7000 tonnes of maize is already harvested and currently being processed. He said about 10,000 tonnes is expected at the end of the whole process.
“So far we have about 7000 tonnes of maize ready and we have just gone half way. We are on the part to process 10,000 tonnes.
“We looked at agriculture as it worked in other places in the world like China and we are trying to replicate that here and that’s what you are seeing. We are already preparing for dry season farming at this axis while in the other axis we are harvesting.
“All of this is because we feel the energy to change this country should be invested in agriculture. We have enormous land in Nigeria. If we can commit 30 per cent into agriculture, we can change this country from within.
“What we need now is the right support. We already spent about N5 million to get the dam ready. We need to get the water to the farms.”
He also speaks on the source of funding.
“Our funding comes from 3 major sources: primarily from members of the cooperative; loans and lease and subsidy from government. Just recently, government opened its warehouse and for the first time since we started this project we received N556,000 worth of goods from government that we are going to use for part of our irrigation farming. If we go to the open market to buy this it will cost us more than two million naira so this is subsidised input from FG and that’s what we being looking for, means to reduce cost of production.
“Government should begin to send most of this N-power graduates to the farm to support us. At least it will further reduce cost of production as the government pays them. We have about 250 staff walking here for us and we pay them on the average of N1000 to N1500 per day, that is about N350,000 every week. So if the government can take away the burden of manpower from us then it means the cost of production has been reduced by more than 30 percent”, Mr. Thedeke said.
He also said the cooperative is creating a market structure for the sale of the harvested maize.
“We are discussing with a lot of feed mill companies in Nigeria, we are also discussing with government agencies that are interested in maize particularly the IDP camps.
“We are building a storage factory over there so we can hold up what we are producing, store and process our products and sell at a price that is reasonable.”
Mr. Thedeke said members of the cooperative are going to have a 100 per cent profit on investment. “If you put in about N280, 000 you are likely get about N500,000 return.”
Farming initiative transforming Gaate community
This paper reported how the agreement with the farmers group is raising hopes and transforming lives in Gaate community which lacked basic amenities.
During the last visit, it was observed that the community does not have a primary health centre, accessible road and a good source of water. The only primary school there is in ruins.
However when PREMIUM TIMES visited on Thursday, the cooperative have already begun to put words into action. A construction of a four blocks of primary school funded by the group is ongoing.
The president of the cooperative, Ibrahim Waziri, said the building will serve two purposes, a school by the day and a recreation centre by night.
“It’s not just a school, we transformed the place into a community centre while the students study during the day, the place turns into a recreation centre at night where the people can watch television and get entertained after a day’s job.
“We have bought and paid for DSTV subscription of 6 months for the men to watch football and GOtv for the women to watch any channel of their choice.
“We have not sold our products yet but the plan is that once we make sales, we will inject about 5 to 20 per cent of what we acquired into the development of the community”, Mr. Waziri said adding that the constructed dam serves as a water supply for the community.
He also described the relationship between the community and the cooperative as very cordial.
”Most of the people working here are from this community. We engage them as planters, labourers security guards and technicians. We train also them to do most of these jobs.”
Mr. Waziri said the cooperative has over 7,000 members both in and outside the country. He noted that they are 100 per cent against Genetically Modified Seeds.
Community express delight over farming Initiative
A member of the community, Michael Gatu, a student of Nassarawa State Polytechnic, said working in the farm helps him foot his bills in school.
“Before now, things have been very hard because there was no job. I am a student so I come here and work for like a month to raise money for my school spending.”
Monica Yakubu, a university admission seeker, said the farming initiative has become a source of livelihood for most of the people in the community.
“We plant here. It has helped a lot because most of us don’t have jobs. I am here to make enough money to further my education. We used to trek from here all the way to Sabon Gida to attend primary school but now the farming group is building a school for us so we are happy.”
Adamu Baba, the youth leader while thanking the cooperative on efforts to transform the community urged the government to also key into the initiative.