By Yekini Alli
In December last year, Ogun State helmsman, Prince Dapo Abiodun, breezed into the Conference Room of Sheraton Hotels, Abuja, in a blaze of glory. And local and international stakeholders in agriculture stood still as he was decorated with the Best Governor of the Year (Agriculture) award, a fitting tribute to months of endless toils and triumphs in a pandemic year. The innovations in farming, farming techniques and technologies and agribusiness deriving from Governor Abiodun’s (ISEYA) mantra of infrastructure, social welfare and wellbeing, youth empowerment, culture and religion had not gone unnoticed. The year had been rough but as the old saying goes, a goldfish has no hiding place.
As is well known, the state is very competitive in arable crops like cassava, yam, maize, sweet potato, and cash crops like cocoa, oil palm, timber, kolanut, cashew and rubber. In actualising its objective, the government embraced an integrated approach to production, processing and marketing through land provisions/inputs distribution, processing and marketing with individuals and corporate organisations. There is, of course, the African Development Bank, World Bank/Ogun State Economic Transformation Project (OGSTEP) for 40,000 farmers in nine priority value chains: cassava, maize, rice, soybean, tomatoes and pepper, sesame, fishery and poultry, among many others.
During the 2020 planting season, 40,000 smallholder farmers were supported with inputs such as seeds, cassava cutting, insecticide and herbicide, just as 10,000 farmers were given fertilizers palliatives and continued support across the state. The administration supported young farmers with over 900 hectares of land preparation in 17 locations, with some 2,500 unemployed youths and farmers engaging in cassava production. In addition, it set up strategic partnerships with international development partners and farmers in large-scale cultivation of rice and cassava in 36 locations in 11 local government areas.
It cannot be a moot point that the broiler scheme of the state empowered 54 pilot youths who had successfully completed three cycles of broiler production with each making profit of N150,000 per cycle for three cycles. If the administration achieved success with the linkage of 4,462 participants to inputs and credit to the tune of N700 million in the cassava value chain, and 1,065 participants to inputs and credit to the tune of N300 million in the rice value chain through the CBN/Ogun State Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), the linkage of 800 participants to inputs and credit to the tune of N360 million under the Ogun State Government/Federal Government/IFAD Assisted Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) took things to another level entirely. But that was not all: 394 maize farmers, 54 rice farmers and 21 poultry farmers benefitted from the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) through the CBN.
To be sure, the construction of 20km access roads in Obafemi-Owode, Yewa North and Ijebu North East, 14 solar-powered water schemes in Ijebu North East, Obafemi-Owode, Yewa North, Ifo, Ijebu East, Odeda and Odogbolu LGAs, four cassava processing centres at Baara, Alapako-Oni, OkeIyemi and Ayetoro, not to mention the rice processing centre in Eggua, is all part of the scheme to make farming great again in Ogun State.
What is more, innovations such as the CBN Cassava 5-Star Programme, Cocoa Development Initiative and Oil Palm Expansion Programme and the Federal Government/Ogun State Government/IFAD-assisted Value Chain Development Programme for over 3,000 farmers in 11 local government areas in the state are gradually turning the fortunes of farmers and farming around in the state. This, of course, is in addition to the World Bank COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (CARES) project; World Bank-assisted Agro-Processing, Agricultural Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement (APPEALS) Project; EU/GIZ/Federal Government/Lagos State/Ogun State Nigeria Competitiveness Project (NICOP) for 3,000 farmers, including youths, in tomato and chilli pepper value chains; International Institute of Tropical Agriculture’s technological innovations and support to farming and related activities, including technical backstopping, demonstration farms and enterprise development in Ogun State. The list is virtually endless.
But here’s the real deal: the glory season is in fact only just beginning. For one, irrigation farming and weather-smart agricultural practices are in the pipeline. The Ogun State Economic Transformation Programme (OGSTEP) targeted at empowering over 40,000 farmers is scheduled to take off even as the administration has concluded plans to link farmers with tractors, planting material palliatives and help them reduce the cost of production.
An Ogun-Kebbi Joint Commision on Rice Production is set to be unfolded to meet the increasing demand for the staple food across the country. That is not all: rice farmers in the state are set to experience a marvel as the government deploys drone technology to scare away predatory birds, and will be linked with mechanical rice harvesters at the mere payment of a token.
Given the foregoing, it did not come as a surprise that a delegation from the Federal Capital Territory Agricultural Development Programme (FCT-ADP) and the Agric and Rural Development Secretariat (ARDS) recently visited Ogun State on a share-learning mission. According to the leader of the delegation, who doubles as the director, planning, research and statistics, ARDS, Yahaya Hussaini, the seamless land acquisition process, land management, farm settlement and farm estate operations of the state informed the choice of Ogun.
His words: “We are here because of the various success stories of Ogun State in terms of agriculture. It was indeed a fruitful visit, we have been to other states but what we saw in Ogun State is a wide margin, and we came to the conclusion that agriculture is the way out of our challenges.”
Yahaya added that the Ogun Broiler Project and fisheries production would be replicated in the FCT-ADP. The Ogun State government is in fact working with the Federal Government and the private sector to promote the consumption of the Vitamin A and bio-fortified food. As noted by the Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. Adeola Odedina, “We are privileged to be in charge of food security, industrial linkage and land administration, among others, accounting for the influx of investors into our dear state.”
Given the innovations highlighted above, you would be forgiven for thinking that nothing further is in the offing. But you would be wrong: this month, Prince Dapo Abiodun disclosed plans by his administration to have an agro-allied-based airport—yes, airport — to aid the development of the state as a destination of choice for agriculture in Nigeria. Speaking during the inauguration of Agbeloba Aquaculture Hub in Owiwi, Obafemi-Owode LGA of the state, Abiodun said the agricultural sector remained a sure way out of poverty and unemployment ravaging the country. As he pointed out, this year, at least 5,000 young people in the state would receive mentoring, support, and linkage to profitable agro-investment firms, as a prelude to setting them up in their respective businesses.
In his view, “We now need another Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) more than ever before. This time, it has to be urgent and with home-grown initiatives.”
Nothing could be more apt at this time when the nation faces threats to food security in the form of bandits and terrorists exterminating farming communities in the North-East and cutting down farmers in cold blood across the country.
•Alli sent this piece from [email protected]