Benue State is richly endowed with natural resources of different types. The state has vast and fertile land which is worked by an enterprising rural population. The state's water resources includenumerous rivers, streams, lakes and underground reservoirs. Some of the rivers and underground reservoirs can be harnessed for industrial and domestic uses and also for irrigated farming. The water bodies also contain variety of fish which are caught and marketed all over the state. Fishing methods could be improved and the excess fish caught could be canned in an industry.
The natural vegetation, comprising grasses, trees and shrubs, is currently being used for grazing, firewood, timber, wood carving, palm products, fruit gathering and various construction purposes. This resource can also be used for water conservation, erosion control, grazing reserves or game reserves since the forests and grasslands contain abundant game.
Agriculture forms the backbone of the Benue State economy, engaging more than 70 per cent of the working population. Bush fallow using simple tools is the dominant system though mechanization and plantation agriculture/agroforestry are gradually creeping in. A tractor hiring unit, which specialises in land clearing and ploughing, has been established in Makurdi. In addition, some local governments own tractors which can be hired by farmers.
The use of farm inputs, such as fertilizers, improved seed, insecticides and herbicides is on the increase through the activities of the Ministry of Agriculture, BNARDA, the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) and their network of extension workers. However, availability of fertiliser at affordable prices at the right time of the year and in sufficient quantity is still a big problem.
Though the farms are generally small and fragmented, ranging from less than one hectare to more than six hectares, total output is generally impressive. Important cash crops include soyabeans, rice, groundnut and citrus. Other cash crops include oil palm, melon, African pear, hot pepper and rainfed tomatoes. Benniseed, which used to be the main cash crop of the area in the 1960s, and 1960s has been substituted.
Food crops include yam, cassava, sweet potatoes, beans, maize, millet, guinea corn and vegetables. There has been a gradual shift from a grain and root crop economy to a tree economy in much of the state. There is very little irrigated agriculture despite the abundance of fadama and surface water. Tables 7.5 and 7.6 show the main cash and food crops of Benue State produced over the years.
Livestock and Fisheries:
Benue State possesses shortlegged cattle, sheep, goat and pigs. The stunted growth of the animals is believed to be a consequence of phosphorous deficiency in the forage in this belt. These dwarf animals, plus the more lanky Fulani Cattle, provide abundant meat and fresh milk in the state. There is free breeding of pigs which, apart from pork can be used for the
A People United, A Future Assured Volume 2 production of bacon and sausages. Small holder poultry keeping is on the increase. Taraku Mills and Benue Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) provide poultry feeds among other items. There is a stateowned cattle ranch at Ikogen in Kwande LGA which has been more or less depleted of its stock. ADC stocks over 4,000 birds and operates a hatchery for production of dayold chicks.
Many mineral resources in the state remain either unknown, due to inadequate geological surveys or entirely unexplored. Known mineral deposits include limestone in Mbayion district of Gboko LGA, presently mined for the manufacture of cement at TseKucha. Other mineral deposits include baryte, gypsum, feldspar, wolframite, banzite, kaolin, mineral salt and precious stones.
Energy resources in the state include solar energy, which is invaluable to the growth and ripening of staple crops, drying of clothes and food, et cetera. This energy could have been harnessed for the development of solar heaters, cookers and electricity generation. Wood, as a source of energy, is used all over Benue State for cooking and the felling of trees for this purpose is a major cause of deforestation. Hence, the use of fuel wood should be deemphasised.
Coal at Owukpa is the only fossil fuel currently mined in Benue State. It could be used for the production of chemicals, fertilizers, paints, as well as being a source of energy for electricity generation. The numerous rivers in the state, characterised by rapids and cataracts, form ideal sites for hydroelectric power generation.
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