Turaki Hassan, Abuja: Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara has explained that he was inspired by his father to embrace farming, because he made him understand it as a noble profession at a tender age.
He said “My Dad told me farming is a noble profession, because without farmers we will have no food and without food we will all be in trouble. Although a successful business man in his days, he did not give up farming. In my formative years, my Dad wasn’t into farming personally he only had a farm. Except on days when he could spare time, he cleverly ensued that I go to the farm almost every day by sending me there to go pay off workers their daily wages. Even as a University student, anytime I was home, I must go to the farm to supervise what was been done and pay those that must be paid. My Dad raised me as a farmer….”.
The speaker has however reiterated the need for a concerted government effort at ensuring widespread mechanized farming as way out of the country’s poverty and food security, noting that “If we must grow what we eat and eat what we grow, then government must ensure that our farmers remain on the farms no matter the cost, and lay the foundation for mechanization of agriculture and smart farms”
Dogara in an interview with Daily Trust Newspaper said: “As at today, I am not deeply into agriculture, although I am a part owner of a farm. I started my foray into farming in the late 90s when I first established an Orchard on the banks of river Tafawa Balewa which is still flourishing till date. Before I got into politics, I acquired the present farm land at Gidan Kura, Nasarawa State for the purpose of cultivating cassava on a commercial scale.
“Unfortunately, the policy on cassava farming introduced by the then Obasanjo government failed. We were left with so much cassava that we didn’t know what to do with. We sold a full pick up truck load for N30,000 then but there was no enough market to take all the cassava. When the cassava farming failed, we decided to turn the farm into an orchard.
“In 2006 before I joined politics, we planted 37,000 mango seedlings consisting of 12 different foreign varieties and 17,000 jumbo guava seedlings on the farm. We lost quite a number in the process of nurturing the trees to maturity but right now it’s an established orchard. We have added Banana trees, fish ponds, poultry and a small ranch as the years go by. In collaboration with partners, we want to expand the poultry and begin processing rice and maize on the farm. But that is work in process”.
According to the Speaker, “It is also true of Nigeria that as long as we are not running mechanized farms, any talk of progress in agriculture is mere cheap talk. When more than 99 percent of farmers still go to farms with small hoes, big hoes, etc, there is no way we can successfully feed our ever increasing population. Something has to be done and very urgently too as we are not near any breakthrough in agriculture, if the truth must be told”.
On fears that if what is needed to guarantee food security in the country is not urgently done, Dogara said “I have no doubt in my mind that if we don’t increase and continue to expand our capacity to grow enough food to feed our citizens, with the population explosion starring us in the face, we don’t need a seer to warn us of the coming implosion. With current practices, the prospects for our nation is not looking good at all.
“The challenge we have as a nation is recruiting the next generation of farmers. We have to make farming attractive to the millennials otherwise, we face a very frightening and insecure future. I don’t know how we can achieve this, but it’s a task that must be accomplished. The youths must be encouraged to take to farming as a profession of choice. There are so many young persons out there in this country that have never gone to farm or work on the farm, even once in their lifetime and that’s unacceptably and worrisome”.
The Speaker while explaining how he also motivated his children out of their initial hatred for farming said “I had to work hard to break the walls of resistance they had built inside themselves. Right now, anytime they are home, they are looking forward to when they will go to the farm. I know exactly what I’ll do to cement their interest in agriculture but I cant let the cat out of the bag now as they may also read this interview”.