Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu

The state government has enhanced investment in food security, writes Justice Erezu

With a population in excess of 25 million, Lagos understandably has a peculiar food security challenge. It is in order to tactically address this that the present administration in the state makes food security an integral part of its T.H.E.M.E.S. (acronyms for Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology, Making Lagos a 21ST Economy, Entertainment and Tourism and Governance and Security) Developmental Agenda of ‘Making Lagos State a 21st Century Economy’.

With most of its people engaged in activities outside the agricultural sector, if nothing radical is done, Lagos might be in danger of being engulfed in food crisis.

Consequently, in the last one year, the Babajide Sanwo-Olu Administration has put in place cogent strategies to stimulate food security. Part of the plan is to treat agriculture as a business venture by concentrating on value chains where the state has comparative advantage, and thus develop strategic partnerships that would stimulate investment in the state.

This is to deliberately develop an agro-economy that would serve the twin purposes of producing sufficient food for the growing population as well as developing a smooth-running agric sector that would truly transform the state into 21st financial hub.

In view of its high demand in most homes, the state government has decided to give a boost to rice production. Equitable and sustainable economic development cannot ignore basic food commodities. There is a high demand for rice. This has cumulated in a huge gap between the supply and demand for rice. In order to redress this, the Sanwo-Olu administration is on the verge of completing the state-owned Integrated Rice Mill at Imota, in the Ikorodu division of the state.

The mill, a 22-hectare facility with a complete set of new mills, consists of two warehouses, 16 silos with a storage capacity of 40 metric tons each, water treatment plant, effluent processing plant, staff quarters, administrative block, car park and firefighting facility, amongst others.

The current administration’s plan to accord the Imota Rice Mill a priority attention is, indeed, laudable. Upon completion, it would provide a boost for food security not only in the state, but in the country.

The Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support Project (APPEALS) is another strategy designed to build capacities of actors in the rice, aquaculture and poultry value chains towards large scale production and processing of rice, eggs, poultry and fish.

Some 35% of its beneficiaries are women while 10% are People With Disabilities (PWD) and youths. Under the scheme, a total of 1,700 women and youths, with interest in farming and agro processing, have been empowered through the Women and Youth Empowerment Programme of the project. They were trained and empowered with agricultural inputs in rice, poultry and aquaculture value chains. It was flagged-off by Governor Sanwo-Olu in 2019.

The whole essence of the initiative is to address healthiness of food items, reduction in post-harvest losses, improving linkages with industry in respect to backward integration as well as access to financial services and markets. All these efforts are targeted towards increasing the state’s self-sufficiency from less than 20% to over 40% of food needs by 2023.

Already the state government had begun the implementation of various projects in the agricultural space that were targeted at revolutionizing food production, meet food production targets and consequently reduce dependence on other states for food supply.

The APPEAL programme is not only targeted at farmers who are the direct beneficiaries, but also at service providers, transporters, input manufacturers and suppliers within the system whose services are required for the successful implementation of the project.

This project provides the opportunity of channelling needed support to smallholder farmers who are actively engaged in the various value chains and are thus able to create further wealth and job opportunities.

The implementation of this project has significantly improved the standard of living of fish farmers, fishermen, marketers and agro-processors in the state, expand food production by 3%, increase revenue to the state government in form of taxes and other levies. This project will also create direct employment opportunities for over 1,000 youths as farmers, processors and marketers across the value chains through farm expansion

The Eko-City Farmers’ Market (ECFM) is another initiative being used to boost food security in the state. It is aimed at showcasing what a standard produce market should look like in a 21st century economy. It is to also serve as a hub within the metropolis where farmers could meet with consumers/traders to sell their products under a well-organized structure and a beautiful outlay. The maiden edition of the market was held on Sunday, 23rd February, 2020 at Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), Lagos.

Other food security initiatives of the current administration in the last one year include Lagos Agripreneurship Programme (L.A.P.) which has empowered 15,000 youths and women in the various agricultural value chains, Lagos Seafood Day which projects the aquaculture and seafood potential of the state, Fish Farmers Cage Culture System, Home Grown School Feeding Programme, reform of red meat value chain, maiden international Coconut Summit, production of the state’s five-year agricultural road map (2020-2025), disinfection and decontamination of 26 major live bird markets and construction of a water project at Ikorodu Fish Farm Estate, Odogunyan.

Others include appraisal of farm estate and settlements in the state, commissioning of the FADAMA food market at Agbalata, Badagry, quality input supply with development of robust business model for our farmers, development of vegetables value chain in terms of production, transportation, storage, conditioning and handling, deployment of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for agricultural development and food security

The Sanwo-Olu led government has, indeed, enhanced investment in food security in the last one year. However, for the dividends of the investment to be enduring, spirited participation of all stakeholders in the sector towards mitigating the challenges of food security in the state is still desirable.

Erezu, a farmer, wrote from Badagry, Lagos