Governor Babatunde Fashola
By Crusoe Osagie
Lagos State Commissioner, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Prince Gbolahan Lawal, has underscored the present administration’s commitment towards attainment of food security in the State, with the partnership of interested organisations and individuals.
He disclosed this during the 2012 Ministerial Press Briefing on the commemoration of the first anniversary of the present administration’s second term in office.
He expressed delight over the report of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives activities during the last 12 months, which he noted coincided with the period when the global concern for food security and adverse effects of climate change reached their highest levels and became more topical than ever.
He said with world population reported to be seven billion in 2011 and widely expected to increase to 9 billion by 2050, experts have also estimated that the present level of global food production must increase by 70 per cent in order to bridge any major supply deficits.
“In view of the low rate of increase in agricultural production worldwide, a concerted effort has to be taken to prevent rising prices and food shortages in the next few years. The State, as a mega-city with a population density of about 5,000 per square kilometre, symbolises the world-wide situation in Nigeria,” he said.
He revealed that the aggregate food supplied internally was less than 10 per cent of total consumption but the State was poised to increase this to 25 per cent within the next five years through its various projects, programmes and partnerships.
Lawal disclosed that despite the State’s high industrialised status, population density and pressure on land for non-agricultural purposes, it has intensified productive farming activities in the areas where it has comparative ecological and socio-economic advantages.
These areas, he stated, include fisheries, livestock and vegetable production as well as agro-processing with emphasis on rice and cassava, adding that marketing and the whole value chain were also given attention.
He said that the Five-Year Strategic Food Security Plan for the state was being implemented vigorously through projects and programmes that have had remarkable impact on food security in Lagos.
He also noted that government aims at getting supplies from other parts of the state and processing same for distribution as part of the food stabilisation scheme; in view of the increasing food consumption and demand in the state.
One of such projects, he stated, was the Strategic Food Reserve, which commenced with the construction of a 20,000 tonnes-per-annum capacity Rice Mill that has been completed and ready for presentation and launching. He said the initiative commenced with rice which used to be a ceremonial food but has now become a staple in every home.
The commissioner also revealed that the state, bearing in mind its limitation for agricultural land, has commenced the acquisition of land outside its territory for dedicated food production in line with the global practices of advanced nations.
He further disclosed that the pioneer farm was located at Osogbo (Osun State) and its products would hit Lagos before the end of the year, adding that further acquisition would be carried out through River Basin Development Authority where production infrastructure already exists.
The commissioner also noted that the Government’s Agriculture Youth Empowerment Scheme (AGRIC-YES) has completed two full cycles of training, internship and settlement with 100 youths each during the period under review.
He said the first batch of youths that graduated in December, 2010 has been settled in newly built 100-unit 2-bedroom flats at Araga Farm Settlement fashioned after the Israeli-type Kibbutz, and that they were also empowered with N454 million loans for the establishment of their farms payable within five years.
He disclosed that products from the scheme which include over 1,500 crates of egg per day, 32,000 broilers per month, 18 tonnes of fresh fish per cycle and about 160 tonnes of cabbage, water melon, cucumber, pepper and assorted leafy vegetable per month were already being marketed in the State.
Lawal noted that in view of the potential of the cooperative movement in economic and social development of the State, government has established a modern Cooperative College at Agege. The College will train staff, trustees of the societies and other stakeholders on cooperative principles, modern book keeping, entrepreneurship and internet cooperative trading activities.
He said that the College, which has reached 85 per cent completion, would be opened to co-operators and other stakeholders in July, 2012 to assist in the development of the movement.
According to him, the State, with over 12,000 cooperative societies and an asset base of over N40 billion in the private and public sector, deserves well informed and competent trustees as well as executives for its continuous growth.
He further listed other programmes and projects initiated by the state government in its drive towards food security to include the Farm Estates Initiative; Eko Farmers Mart Chain development and the Cage and Pen Culture initiative popularisation.
He also mentioned the rehabilitation of Coconut belt of Lagos State; Commercial Agriculture Development Project (CADP), Third National Fadama Development Project; Input Subsidy and organic farming promotion; Farm Mechanisation and Agricultural Land Holdings and management.
His list also included implementation of Nigerian Incentive based Risk Sharing Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL)/Credit Delivery; Development of modern Abattoirs; ‘Green Lagos’ campaign/Climate Change mitigation; Piggery development programme, Agricultural Extension Services and animation.
Lawal also mentioned the Agric-Yes project in Abia, Badagry, which was fashioned after the Project-Songhai of Benin republic and replicated in some states in Nigeria. He noted that the Songhai model was a blueprint for translating the socio-demographic opportunities into reality, and turning agriculture into a productive, efficient, sustainable, and remunerative enterprise.
He said that it was designed as a catalyst for a broader, multi-partnership programme to support the State Government in promoting access of youths, men and women, to appropriate agribusiness entrepreneurship, leadership and management skills in agribusiness.
He disclosed that an average of 1,000 youths would be trained in the programme per annum at the Centre, which would start on a pilot basis before the end of the year.
The commissioner also revealed that the ‘Rice for Job’ initiative which has successfully re-introduced modern rice farming on 200 hectares annually with 200 youths has been deepened during the year and that 35 hectares of modern irrigation facilities has been provided at Itoga, while additional 300 youths are being selected to broaden rice cultivation.
On collaboration with Federal Government on agriculture he said, “I wish to align myself with a realistic Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) of the FG that seeks to ensure food security and improve internal agricultural production towards reduction of food importation and its attendant bills. To this end, the State is collaborating in the areas of rice processing and fish production.”
Already, he noted that the state has benefited from the programme through an ultra-modern Agro-Processing Centre at Noforija, Eredo LCDA of Epe, which has been completed.
Also, he informed that a Farmers Wholesale Market with 100 Shops, cold storage facility, mini-abattoir and ample space for Trailers Park and expansion has commenced at Araga, Poka, Epe, which would serve as a better alternative to Mile 12 Market when completed, and has reached 30 per cent completion.
He assured of the state’s readiness to collaborate with the Federal Government and multilateral Agencies in all programmes that would provide food to its citizenry at affordable prices all year round.