Ogun: Reviving Agriculture for food security and job creation - SALIENT TIMES ONLINE

Ogun: Reviving Agriculture for food security and job creation

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BY KEHINDE ONASANYA


It is an understatement that agriculture is the pivot of most economies. Aside from providing food and raw materials for industrial purposes, agriculture provides employment opportunities to a very large percentage of the population. Whatever side of the coin one considers, agriculture is intrinsically a sine qua non for nation's economic growth.
 


Aside from the need for nations, including Nigeria, to inch up capacity to feed their teeming populations, there is a dire necessity for a paradigm shift in the consideration of governments towards rejiging the agric sector in Nigeria if the country would be in a position to survive the present economic challenges, occasioned by the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken a devastating toll on global economies. This belief has further been accentuated by the continual plummeting of oil prices in the global market with its devastating consequences on mono economies like ours. 


Going by the crucial need for States to consolidate on and  complement concerted efforts in  agricultural revolution, Ogun State has actually taken the gauntlet in this regards, especially since the assumption of the present administration of Prince Dapo Abiodun. It is noteworthy that the State has continued to take bold, systemic and strategic approach towards ensuring food security, job creation and agricultural industrialization.  
 


 This policy direction could not have been better enunciated than in the words of the State Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. Adeola Odedina who noted recently that: The Ministry supports all actors in the Agro food sector to ensure food security, job creation, agricultural industrialization and prosperity. He averred that efforts are also being geared towards encouraging and engaging the youth (which is a critical sub set of the population) to take advantage of the various intervention programmes that will link them to land, credit facility, training, industrial opportunities,  among others. 

 For instance, there had been great zeal  and commitment of government towards the Federal Governments Anchor Borrowers initiative aimed at boosting food production, create employment and  generating credit for burgeoning farmers as well as grow the econmy. In Ogun State, as at today , up to 60, 000 registrations have been recorded in various commodities including   rice, maize, cassava, cocoa, tomato, cotton, palm oil, poultry, fish and livestock/dairy products were earmarked to be produced. Under the programme, 25, 000  registered for cassava cultivation alone, the highest ever recorded for any State,  3,375 registered  for rice, 9,875 for poultry while 2,000 registered for cotton among others. The Central Bank of Nigeria which selected the State as a model for cassava production, did not make a wrong choice afterall, not with the unflinching commitment of the State Government.  It is heartwarming that so far, 6,000 farmers have been cleared by the apex bank after fulfilling all the necessary conditions with  claim of farms authenticated , mapped and geo- tagged  hence the  fields are ready for tilling and planting of  improved and disease- resistant cassava varieties.  Out of these ABP nominees, 3, 397 have been credited with funds in the  region of N680million leaving  the remaining balance of N20million to be credited to 103 farmers under the first phase of disbursement of funds to  cassava farmers drawn from all 20 LGAs of the State. This paved the way for the flagging- off of the 2020 season and distribution of inputs including herbicides, fertilizers , bundles of improved cassava stems and other materials to these first batch of Cassava value chain beneficiaries.

 To gravitate this programme, land clearing has commenced in 16 locations in all  Agricultural Zones  in the  State and the plan is to clear 250,000 hectares of land for cassava plantation across the State. Already, over 50,000 hectares have been cleared at Apojula and Odeda farm Institute in Odeda Local Government, 200 hectares in Elemuren , Itoro, Yewa South  and 100 hectares in Abule Ojere in Obafemi Owode Local Government among others. With this arrangement, additional 2, 500 youths already registered for ABP would be linked to additional N530m by CBN with required farm inputs. According to Prince Dapo Abiodun " The target of our administration is to produce enough food to attain nutritional self- sufficiency in the short term and over long term produce enough food for other States in the country for export".   In a similar vein, the State  Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the State Chapter of the  Cassava Growers Association is set to train farmers to make them realise 20-25 tons of cassava per hectare as against the traditional 6-10 tons. To alleviate the challenges of getting markets for the produce, the State government has continued to create  markets for  cassava growers through strategic linkages. One of such is the Premium Cassava Products (formerly Thai Farms), in Ososa , Odogbolu Local Government which deals in Cassava processing. Another 175 hectare Private Cassava farm in  Ilaro, Yewa North Local Government of the State is also receiving technical backstopping from the State Government and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture,( IITA).

On rice production,   257 hectares is being cultivated for this purpose at Sowunmi village in Mokoloki, Obafemi-Owode Local Government .  

Also, rice projects  are  currently on-going across 8 Local Governments of the State oncluding ;Obafemi-Owode, Yewa North, Yewa South, Ijebu North, Ijebu North-East, Odeda and Odogbolu. 

 Rice farmers have also been provided with  necessary support in form of land clearing, provision of seeds , funding and input while they are also linked to off-takers and processors.

 According to the Agric Commissioner , "Rice is a big business and this government has been actively involved at all phases, including land preparation, water supply, milling, packaging and marketing". Dr Adedina said  government has continued to provide enabling environment for Agro Investors, especially in the rice value chain to boost food security. In his words: over 50 Private Sector investments have  responded to our call to participate in the Agricultural Industrialisation agenda of the State which links the Anchor Borrowers farmer to markets.  

To buttress this assertion, an investor, and Managing Director of Hyst Global Business Ltd, Mr Biodun Onalaja said he had to relocate his rice mill factory  from the Northern part of the country to Ogun State in order to take advantage of governments transformational initiatives in the sector. This was sequel to a letter he wrote to government to request  for support and partnership in setting up a new rice mill  for aggregation of farms for sustainable supply of paddy rice.  

Similarly , a sterilized milling machine of one tonne per hour donated by the Federal Government at Egua , in Yewa North Local Government is expected to cater for the needs of the 900 hectares of rice farm being cultivated by over 1000 youths in the area.

Additionally, poultry farming also received a boost and generated  employment opportunities for  54 young graduates who were trained to rear 1,000 day old broiler each for six weeks at the end of which an average profit of N130,000 was made each of them.  Life has returned to the moribund Odeda/Eweje  farm Institute with the continuation of the second phase of the 54,000 day old  broiler chicks project which is expected to fetch each beneficiary a profit  close to N200,000, while the cycle is expected to produce over 11,000 kg of broiler meat by the end of May 2020. 

 This will no doubt reduce dependency on importation while arrangement are on-going to replicate this project across the 20 Local Government area of the State.  A number of youths in the State have keyed into the project as the 54 pilot beneficiaries will serve as train-the-trainers for the 9000 youths already registered for the extension of the project. 


Suffice it to state that the agricultural re-engineering initiatives by Prince Dapo Abiodun  administration  has also raised  the hopes of Cotton farmers who had suffered serious setbacks  in textile production in previous years, despite the single digit loan provided by CBN.  The State government has earmarked 10,000 hectares of land for cotton production with an advice to the State Cotton Growers Association to expedite action on the completion of their documentation with CBN and other anchors for this years growing season under the State government facilitated Anchor Borrowers programme.  

The Cocoa farmers in the State are also solidly in the scheme of things to benefit from the various agricultural initiatives.

 In terms of forging profitable synergies, the  Nigeria Competitiveness Project (NICOP), a regional Intervention programme involving Ogun and Lagos States in collaboration with European Union is set to train 3,000 farmers on tomato, chilli, ginger, pepper , leather and garment value chain, while the trainees  beneficiaries will also be linked with credit, land and off takers.  


With the various agricultural policies put in place, , it has come as a cheering news that the African Development Bank (ADB) has rated Ogun State as number one in South-West to benefit from Special Agro Processing Zone for aquaculture, industrial cassava, and fishery hub while the  Apex Bank , CBN has given preference to the State in its oil palm extension programme.  

According to the Head of  Development Finance Of the bank , Dr (Mrs) Olukoya  In line with the Banks policy on the development of expansion of oil palm across the country, Ogun State aptly fits into the plan . 

To cap it all, the World Bank through the State Economic Transformation Project (OGSTEP) also targets to empower 40,000 youths in agriculture. All these are commitments based on trust and confidence of those institutions in the present government of the State. 

With the numerous agricultural strides being taken by Ogun State government, its becoming crystal clear that the Prince Dapo Abiodun-led administration is poised to fulfill its mandate to make the State a food basket, by boosting agricultural produce which would also have spiral effect on food security, employment generation and industrialization while at the same time helping to create the needed paradigm shift in the nation's economic mainstay.  

Onasanya is a Director  in the Ogun State Civil Service.