- The Nigerian state Kwara is offering commercial farmers from Zimbabwe and South Africa, mostly of British origin, land to invest and resettle. A delegation from South Africa invited by Kwara state currently is investigating the offer.
Kwara's new Governor Bukola Saraki two weeks ago told Nigerian reporters his state government had entered into "negotiations with the British government" over the more than 2000 farmers of British origin "displaced by the Zimbabwean government."
The main purpose was to "bring in foreign investors" to Kwara state, according to Mr Saraki. In a later statement, the Governor added that "the state stands to benefit from the huge resources, international finance and high tech equipment available to the displaced farmers."
An official delegation of five white South African farmers, who also represent their Zimbabwean colleagues, yesterday arrived in Kwara's capital, Ilorin, to meet with Governor Saraki and to get a first-hand impression of the state. They are to stay one week at state expenses.
Zimbabwe's predominantly white commercial farmers have proven a popular export product since the Robert Mugabe government started expropriating their farms. In addition to the present Nigerian offensive, also several neighbouring countries - including Mozambique - have offered lucrative conditions to attract the skilled and capitalised farmers.
Kwaru state Information Commissioner Malam Abdul Rahim Adedoyin said the farmers were to hold talks with several "senior government officials" and inspect potential farming sites in three districts of the state. State organs were instructed to welcome the potential investors in the best possible way.
The Kwara government further has indicated it considers handing out land for free to interested Zimbabwean and South African commercial farmers. The relatively densely populated region was said to have large tracts of unexploited but fertile lands. In Kwara, however, the question has been raised, whose land Governor Saraki will be giving away, as many farmers in the state hunger for more land.
According to the Kwara Governor, however, giving under-exploited land resources to experienced commercial farmers - willing to invest in new technology and infrastructure and create jobs and new markets - could only be to the benefit of all parties.
Governor Saraki only came to power during the elections earlier this year, sweeping out long-ruling Governor Mohammed Lawal. Mr Saraki has promised to put an end to corruption and to encourage economic development of the poor state. The cornerstones of his administration are defined as being agriculture, education and water supply.
Agriculture remains the main industry of Kwara state. The principal cash crops in the state are cotton, cocoa, coffee, kolanut and tobacco. Climatic conditions are somewhat more tropical and moist than those Zimbabweans and South Africans are familiar to.
Kwara State is located at Nigeria's cultural boundary between the predominantly Muslim north and the mainly Christian south. The state, which was created in 1967, lies in the geographical south-west of Nigeria, bordering to Benin. It has an estimated population of more than 1.5 million made up of four main ethnic groups - Yoruba, Nupe, Fulani and Baruba.
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