The success of Kebbi state in rice production is not only creating more wealth for erstwhile peasant farmers, but the state is also recording fewer crimes and enjoying better security than any other part of the country, particularly in the North. These were some of the claims made by stakeholders in the agriculture value chain and even ordinary farmers during a recent visit to the state.
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics is also backing these claims. The NBS in its 2017 report, “Crime Statistics: Reported Offences by Type and State”, stated that Kebbi State has the lowest percentage share of total cases reported in Nigeria, with 205, which is 0.2 per cent of all cases reported throughout the country.
“The success in rice farming is evidenced even in the level of security we have in Kebbi state,” noted Muhammed Augie, chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Kebbi State Chapter during a recent visit to the state. According to him, in other parts of the country, especially in the North, the youths are not engaged (productively) like in Kebbi state, making it more likely they turn to crime.
“Under the rice industry, we have youths, retired civil servants, we have those in service, businessmen and politicians all going to produce rice, which shows you there is something good in that industry,” said Augie. “You can produce rice, you can sell, you can make profits and take care of your financial obligations.”
When President Muhammadu Buhari launched the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), an initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on November 17, 2015 in Kebbi state, 78,000 farmers were said to have been captured. Many more farmers still cultivated rice even though they did not participate in the ABP. Kebbi had in 2016, declared that it recorded over 40,000 “rice millionaires”, following the planting season, a claim that attracted understandable scepticism.
However, the arithmetic seems quite simple. With the improvement in farm practices through trainings, and provision of farm inputs under the ABP, farmers reported one hectare gave an average yield of 90 bags of rice paddy on optimally performing land. The least was about 75 bags. Cultivating only one hectare and a bag of rice paddy selling for an average price of N12,000 (at the time) implied returns of between N900,000 to N1,080,000 for most farmers. However, many either cultivated more than one hectare or realised more than the average number of bags, conveniently hitting the million-naira mark after one planting season.
With more rice mills springing up in different parts of the country, ultimately driving up demand for paddy rice, the business appears to be even more lucrative.
“Whoever wants to know whether Kebbi is producing rice or we are only talking about rice, this is the right time to visit, and let us take them round,” said Muhammed Shehu Argungu, acting Permanent Secretary, Kebbi State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources during an interview. “We have an endowment for rice production which no other state in this country has,” he bragged.
According to Argungu, no other sector can employ as much people as agriculture, and it is how the state intends to keep the youths engaged so they do not embrace crime. As it was observed many young people “do not want tedious jobs,” as he put it, the state government is trying to modernize agricultural production (acquiring tractors, threshers, reapers, and power tillers), to attract and ensure young people are productively engaged.