Making Ogun the Food Basket of the Nation

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Tunde Otegbeye

At the inception of the current administration in Ogun State, 16 months ago, the Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, made agriculture one of his cardinal programmes towards ameliorating the living conditions of the people. To him, apart from the administration’s pet dream of making Ogun, the food basket of the nation, agriculture could still serve as a mainstay of the employment generating sector for the teeming jobless youths and also, generate revenues into the coffers of the state government. Agriculture and food security as one of the developmental pillars have received major boosts.

Ogun state occupies a land mass that is well over 16,000 square kilometres, most of which are arable. From the abundance of the endowed natural resource, there is no doubt that the immense potentials of the favourable climate and fertile soil for agriculture have not been fully harnessed.
Reminiscent of his inaugural speech on May 29, 2019, Abiodun leaves no one in doubt about his commitment and resolve to ensure the ‘good-old-days’ agricultural revolution’s glory of the state is restored.
“The target of this administration is to produce enough food to attain self-sufficiency in food security in the short-term, and over the long-term produce enough to cater for other states and for export.

“To achieve this, government will implement a framework that will ease acquisition of land for agricultural processes, facilitates linkages between farmers and the industries, encourage local processing to enhance value-chain and thus, reward investment, and organise farmers into groups and establish an off-taker system to encourage more production and guarantee price stability.
“Other facilities, include facilitation of access to intervention funds to provide the much-needed capitals and encouragement of our youths to take advantage of the incentives in agriculture and become agro-entrepreneurs.

“Furthermore, our farm settlements that used to be the mainstay of the economy of the Western region under Chief Obafemi Awolowo will be revived and new ones will be established that will have the full compliments of modern- day living conditions and thus, be attractive to our youths. Rural roads leading to our farm settlements and rural areas in general will continue to receive priority to facilitate the movement of farm produce to markets”, the governor stated.

In fulfilment of this promise, the attendant responses to the gestures by potential investors in agro-business have been encouraging.
However, the administration is closely working with the federal government, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other local and multi-lateral development agencies, and research institutions to provide a holistic value-chain approach to the development of agricultural sector in the state, while facilitating the much-needed intervention funds available for use by the farmers.

While hitting the ground running, the government introduced and launched the “Anchor Borrowers’ Programme,” which signalled the commencement of an agricultural revolution in the state. The programme is a tripartite agreement between the state, as facilitator, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as financier; and the beneficiaries.

The ultimate goal is to turn the state into an agricultural hub, capable of feeding itself and other states in the country. Also, it is another avenue to boost the nation’s self-sufficiency in food production in line with the federal government’s gesture on food security to save foreign exchange earnings being spent annually on importation of food items that could be produced locally. To a large extent, the scheme is intended to help in creating employment opportunities for farmers, women and the unemployed youths in the state.

At the take-off of the scheme, 2,000 beneficiaries were selected and given certificates of acceptance and leasehold.
With this savoury development, the state government is exploiting and also leveraging on the advantages inherent in growing cassava, rice and maize as value-chain. Thus, the scheme is designed to link off-takers of agricultural produce with producers, so that farmers would know that there is demand for their produce at agreed and beneficial rates in order to improve production so as to guarantee abundant produce in the country.

Having provided the needed inputs, it is pertinent to note that under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), in March 2020, 2,947 farmers were credited with N500 million by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), while another set of 900 farmers received N180 million in April, thus, leaving a sum of N20 million as balance for other 103 farmers.

The ABP’s 2020 planting season is culminating in the distribution of inputs which was as a result of the partnership with the CBN and the National Cassava Growers Association (NCGA). And this is essential to make use of 12,800 square kilometres of arable lands to provide jobs and also to ensure food security by supporting youths and farmers. The state government has further provided funds and fertiliser inputs and fields to 3,500 farmers drawn from across all the 20 local governments, out of the total 60,000 registrations so far recorded for nine commodities, which include, rice, maize, poultry, fishery, cattle, piggery, cotton, oil palm and cassava. These young farmers were linked with 60 bundles of improved cassava stems each, four bags of fertilisers each and 11 litres of herbicides.

Besides, the government had cleared additional 2,500 hectares of land in 16 locations across all agricultural zones for 2,500 youths already registered and they have benefited from the N350 million credit grants, with inputs from the CBN. Apart from the registration of 70,000 farmers, with consequent enrolment of 40,000 small holder farmers with the Anchor/Agro-Processors, the government has ensured the linkage of 5,000 farmers to credit facility and land, while well over 1,300 rice farmers had also been brought onboard.
The sites of these agricultural programmes include Asa, Ewekoro, Obafemi town, Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Ojere (Abeokuta), Odeda Farm Institute, Apojola, all in Ogun Central; Mamu, Awa, Oru, Ojowo (Ijebu-Igbo), Ikenne Diary Farm, Alamure Atoba, Segan village, Akaka Remo, Omu Gbawojo, in Ogun East; and other sites in Imeko, Afon Farm Estate, Idose (Imeko), Aiyetoro and Itoro, among others in Ogun West. Meanwhile, it is a new dawn to usher in abundant supply of farm produce to cater for the ever-growing populace through the recent aggressive commencement of the utilisation of farm resources at the Farm Settlements/Farm Estates for youths targeted Agricultural Projects to precede planned resuscitation of Farm Settlements/Farm Estates.

Also, approval for the release of 10,000 hectares of land at Iwoye-Ketu, in Imeko-Afon Local Government Area of the state for cotton value chain to enhance the ABP for cotton growing farmers is another milestone to encourage local production and subsequently, export the raw materials to earn foreign exchange.

Through its transparency and prudent management, the Ministry of Agriculture under the leadership of Dr Adeola Odedina, the Commissioner for Agriculture, has generated a total sum of N50.2 million into the coffers of the state government.
However, other non-ABP’s farmers have continued to benefit from other agricultural programmes, such as the Ogun State Broiler Project, Rice Intervention in Mokoloki/Ofada (Ogun Central,) Eggua in Yewa North LGA, and other locations.

Furthermore, the government had linked the Third Batch of the young cassava production farmers. In the new scheme, a total of 1,065 farmers have benefited from a credit facility of N234, 590,745 only from the joint CBN/Wema Bank/Nigeria Cassava Growers Association (NCGA). Each beneficiary received a sum of N220,273 only for the creation of additional 1,065 jobs and food security in the state. They would be linked to inputs, herbicides, agro-chemicals and improved planting materials and guaranteed markets. The additional 1,065, it was gathered, brings to a total of 4,462 jobs created under the Cassava Value-Chain Intervention in the programme for the year 2020. This giant stride underscores the continued commitment and resolve of the government to link the farmers to credit, land, inputs, technology and assured markets, which are all parts of the Ogun State Agricultural Agenda of Industrialisation, food security and job creation.

Similarly, in another milestone, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has undertaken to establish the largest Agro-Processing Zone in the state in a bid to further boost the agricultural revolution.
From the 70,000 youths that are currently engaged in crops and livestock production, well over 3,000 farmers have indicated interest in taking advantage inherent in the dairy sub-sector. And these farmers are parts of the 9,000 workforce trained by Friesland Campina WEMCO, a leading milk producer.

Much as it appreciates the importance of poultry to the healthcare sector, the state government hasn’t shirked in its responsibilities to ensure that the people are taking hygienic poultry meats. To this end, the government, in collaboration with the Bank of Industry (BoI) and Amobyn Nigeria Limited, the largest producer of a day-old chicks and second largest producer of frozen chicken in the country, have empowered 54 youths as pilots to produce 108,000 broiler chickens in two batches of 54,000 each, equivalent of about 2.16MT broiler meats. The pilot beneficiaries who are in their third cycle make an average profit of N130,000 per cycle. These 54 youths would be supported as commercial broiler producers next year, 2021, while additional beneficiaries would be enrolled in all the 20 local government areas.

Notwithstanding, the era of cutlass and hoe as farming implements of the old past for cultivation has paved the way for mechanisation as a model to encourage potential farmers, especially unemployed young graduates. Land clearing, preparation, planting and herbicides application are all mechanised methods of farmland cultivation.

Apart from the 200 hectares of farmland acquired for the prospective beneficiaries of the ABP, additional 10 hectares demonstration farmland located at Ikenne Farm Settlement, in Ikenne Local Government Area of the state have come on stream to further boost food production, industrialisation and employment. This farmland is technology-based demonstration farm that would serve as a training ground for the Third Batch of the ABP’s Cassava beneficiaries and youths who want to venture into the programme. With the aid of the technology, the cassava farmers would be guided and exposed to training to get good yields, so that they can repay their loans, while the government would make available new agricultural opportunities and supports, apart from the provision of land, training and market for the output.
There is no doubt that, with the expertise to be used in the demonstration farm, 40 tons of cassava tubers are expected per hectare after harvest.
Otegbeye wrote from Ilaro, Yewa South LGA, Ogun State.