The sorry state of Agric Services, Training Centre (ASTC) and Marketing Limited has been a major concern to many farmers in Plateau State.
The centre was set up over 10 years ago to help create self-sustaining agricultural growth and boost the sector through training farmers on modern best practices, rendering tractor services to farmers that can’t afford to purchase and maintain them.
It also sells agrochemicals and fertilisers that are tested, as well as offers advice on how, when and the right quantity of inputs to use s continuous research.
The center’s head office is in Jos, the state capital, while they have offices in Kassa/Vom, Mangu and Shendam. They also have substations in Saminaka and Samaru, both in Kaduna State.
Because of its level of decay, the Vom district of Jos South Local Government Area attracts the attention of passersby.
Passerby hardly miss the sight of the bushy environment, dilapidated structures and rotten equipment, including grounded tractors.
But according to their website, they are helping farmers to transform their activities and the agro technique they inherited from their parents, as well as introducing them to modern methods of agriculture, which is simpler, efficient and more productive.
It added that they recently expanded their tractor hiring services to other states, and their computerised dairy farm is the state-of-the-art in the industry and the dairy produce is one of a kind.
“Our goal is the application of modern and scientific practices to management, production, training and marketing, taking services closer to the farmer at local government, district and village levels for self-reliance.
“Our vision is to increase farmer’s productivity and income and attain self- sufficiency in food production through modernised agricultural practices, while our objective is raising agricultural production, boosting yield and improving the quality of produce through mechanised agricultural services, training for the welfare of farmers and the entire population, employment generation, wealth creation and food security,” the ASTC further stated on its website.
However, what is stated above has faded into the past for the Vom centre, which is in ruins despite its agricultural development potentials and community development possibilities.
The impact of the dilapidation of the centre and lack of proper use and operation is more felt on the people and farmers in Vom, who said that at its commencement, the place was flourishing, the farmers benefitted tremendously in several ways and employment/business opportunities were created for the people. But now that everything has become a shadow of itself, it is a thing of concern for the people, who also explained that they were deeply surprised that such a place with so much viability could be left to rot.
Our correspondent gathered that the centre was flourishing when it was managed by a white man until he left. They also cited administration change and lack of government’s political will.
A farmer who was a beneficiary of the centre when it was in full operational capacity, Mark Yusuf, said it was actually functioning well as expatriates were brought in to train farmers on different techniques that would produce good yield until lack of continuity made the place to collapse.
Yusuf said it was through the training that he learnt how to produce strawberry and greenhouse usage for rainy/dry season farming, adding that after the training they were equally supported with fertiliser, chemicals and funds to make them self sufficient.
“After the training and the provision of other facilities, the expatriates would usually come around to supervise our farms to see what we were doing. They also had tractors, which we hired at a very cheap rate to plough vast hectares of our farms, which we could not do with other farm implements. And should our farms have a problem or our crops are raved by any kind of disease, they would tell us what to do.
“Honestly, we truly benefitted from the centre. We are still applying what we learnt from there. Even those who did not have interest in agriculture were motivated, and they came in and did well. Again, the expatriates went into villages and rural areas to teach the people an improved agricultural technique.
“But the situation of things now is that nothing is working there any longer. As you can see, even the greenhouses are not functioning. Besides, the centre laid off its staff, and even the services rendered now are just skeletal.
“So we are begging the government to do all they can to revamp the place because agriculture remains the bedrock of this country. If revamped and put into proper use, the whole country would benefit and the state would even derive good income from here,” he said.
Joseph Boyi Gyang, who farms carrot, strawberry, green beans, lettuce among others, said the government should take urgent look into the centre, with the aim of revitalising it because since it stopped operating effectively, many youths have become redundant, while others have taken into drug abuse and other forms of vices.
On her part, Esther Timothy said her sister, Faith Job, worked there as their marketing representative for about six years before she was laid off.
She said Faith went through a lot of suffering after the layoff before she picked up herself, using the knowledge she acquired from the centre.
She called on the government to endeavour to bring the place back to life because farmers have been badly affected. She added that those who are still farming are not making the needed yield because of lack of proper training, understanding and empowerment, which they hitherto got from the centre.
Efforts to get the management of the ASTC for reaction were not successful as the managing director could not respond to questions on the situation.