Your timely editorial “Food security and the motherland”, October 23, 2014 is fraught with challenges and the need for professional leadership and debate as well as regional consultations to help design a programme for food security to complement ongoing efforts. To put the issues on a better format, the potential to attain food security has already been unlocked, many times over. Given the generic definition of food security, it can be attained without cultivating an inch of land. BUT, given the population structure of most of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), which is essentially agrarian, the attainment of food security must, initially, be attained through agriculture; nowhere else. The problem with the African continent and our country and her people in particular is, essentially, impatience. You see, impatience is not a new phenomenon. You remember the Qur’anic verses on Prophet Moosa (AS) and Khidr (Qur’an 18: 60-82)? Due to the inability of Prophet Moosa (AS) to have patience with Khidr, He was not able to acquire as much knowledge as He would have had with due patience. Moosa (AS) once gave a speech to the Israelites and was asked: who is the most knowledgeable. Moosa (AS) relied: I am. Allah (SWT) reprimanded him, as he did not attribute it to Him. Allah (SWT) further revealed to Him: I have a slave at the junction of the sea, who is more knowledgeable than you. This is Khidr that Allah (SWT) is referring to.
One of the most important and timely policy directions for “agriculture” that came from the second Republic in 2004 was the cabinet directive for the institutional restructuring of the Department of State for Agriculture (DoSA). In the course of this exercise, one of the steps taken was to equip the farm management technicians (the subject matter specialists and other supervisors), who were the front line agents in the sustainable transformation of the country’s agriculture, to “change the change agents” through a targets-based production approach. This was based on the simple assumption that one cannot teach what one does not know. Besides competence in subject matter and manipulative skills, a by-product of this approach was designed to be a new work ethic essential to match the farmer’s awakened enthusiasm. Based on the draft operational strategies of a restructured DoSA, Dr Jacque Joof, FAO director general at the time, termed it a pathfinder exercise for SSA to learn from and, consequently, promised financial and technical support to ensure its sustainability.
You see, as a people, we resolve only to become irresolute. Due to impatience and lack of knowledge of what was being planned, the exercise which was eventually named national agricultural development agency (NADA) was repealed. How can an institutional restructuring programme without outlined operational guidelines and one that has not been functionally tested and evaluated, be repealed? Repealed for what? What has it been replaced with? These are some of the problems that have mortgaged agriculture to “death’s door steps”. The challenge now is to redeem this costly mortgage. Meanwhile, the cyclical crisis goes on, one after the other.
As a result of the restructuring exercise, there was a comprehensive study of the Mixed Farming Centres (MFCs) as a result of which six were to serve as pilot centers to be provided 24 hours electricity and water supply to support 6,000 broilers and 6,000 layers alongside sheep, goat and cattle rearing. There was the revival of the maize as well as bean growers association to provide feed for the programme. Food and cash crop farmers will be working on a targets-based production strategy designed to achieve “yields” that will ensure household food security and a surplus for the market. For the resource poor rural farmer, this is the surest way to attain sustained food security, wealth creation and asset ownership. This as well as other innovative activities were outlined in the agricultural improvement programme (AIP) at a cost of 89,000,000 to be funded under the counterpart fund, fully supported by the Japanese. One of the objectives of the AIP, scheduled to start in March 2007 was to do away with poultry and poultry feed import by 2010 and to also reduce, significantly, our dependence on foreign sources for sheep, goats and cattle by the same date. These were some of the goals, purposes and objectives of the AIP.
To support the AIP, the provision of agricultural support services was formulated at a cost of D51,000,000 which provided vehicles, time and labour saving equipments, 4,500 tons of fertiliser, in-house vehicle maintenance scheme and internal M&E system. These were all provided for from the Japanese counterpart fund. This is development planning and programming based on linkages. Most unfortunately, these unique innovative transformations were torpedoed by the wasteful system of “here-today-and-gone tomorrow” which has never worked before and it never would.
(To be continued)
Alhaji Suruwa Wawa Jaiteh