From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Farmers are currently preparing for a new planting season, which is regarded as a period of investment and hard work. They put in a lot into the planting and expect bountiful harvests that would turn to money for them.
The rush to become farmers began since the government started encouraging Nigerians to go back to the farm. The rush, however, skyrocketed when the country was plunged into the current recession as a result of crash in the price of crude oil in the international market.
When Federal Government began diversification into agriculture, many natives of Oke Ogun, comprising 10 local government area in Oyo State, tapped into the policy. Many of them went back to their communities to join their parents in engaging in planting and growing of cotton.
But the cotton farmers under the aegis of Oke-Ogun Cotton Growers are currently afraid of planting this year. They lamented the loss they suffered in the last planting season, as a result of lack of access roads and poor financial motivation.
According to them, they experienced a lot of disappointment from the banks that encouraged them from the start of the last planting season and neglected them later in the farming season.
Chairman, Cotton Growers Association, Sepeteri Division, Saka Adeleke, thanked Oyo State Government and Saki East Local Government for their supports so far in encouraging farmers to go back to the farm. But he is unhappy that more than 90 cotton growers in Sepeteri alone have been incapacitated because their hopes have been dashed by banks that promised them loans.
With the next planting season, expected to begin April, he urged the government to help the cotton farmers with fund and other inputs, adding that government should make haste in coming to the aid of farmers this year in order to have high yield.
Balogun of Ago Amodu in Saki East Local Government Area, Chief Stephen Fatokun, said many people in the community went into cotton farming when they heard of Federal Government’s promise to assist farmers.
His words: “They asked us to go back to farm, that agriculture is the next mainstay of the economy. We heeded this call and invited our children that have travelled to the cities in pursuit of green pastures to come home. But what we realised was the rejection from banks that had promised us loans and low backing from the federal and state governments.”
One of the major challenges being faced by the cotton farmers in Oke-Ogun, according to them, is the destruction of their plantations by unmanned cows. They lamented that they had lost huge harvest as a result of the destruction.
Mrs. Toyin Obaniyi shared her bitter experience over how unmanned cows destroyed the crops in her farm last year.
“To me, it is once beaten and twice shy. I am not sure I will take such risk I took in the last farming season. One, I don’t have the financial backing earlier promised by my bank. Two, I am afraid of unmanned cows that may destroy the cotton in my farm.”
Balogun of Ago Amodu in Saki East Local Government Area, Chief Fatokun, also stated: “We are appealing to the government to assist through the local government and the farmers association to make available, soft loans, ensure access road to the farms, protect against marauding headsmen and express patronage from cotton buyers.
“Oyo State government, through the Saki East Local government provided cotton seed and little finances to the farmers but this couldn’t help, see our farms as lack of water has affected the growth and consequently the harvest.”
Obaniyi, however, urged Oyo State Government to help cotton growers by distributing fertilizers and water for irrigation like it is being done in the northern part of the country.
A surveyor, Kunle Busari, explained the process of planting cotton and the potentials of cotton farming in the state. To harvest two hectares of cotton farm, about 40 workers would be engaged for three days, he said.
He stated further that the tax that would be paid by international buyers and local processing factories would boost government revenue and the other values.
The values, according to him, include extraction of seed oil, which, he said, is expensive while textile industries would benefit from getting the raw materials cheaper than importing the product from other countries.
Busari said the state government should fast track its Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Arewa Cotton Buyers and other agencies to establish a ginnery at the Oke-Ogun area for cotton processing.
This, he said, would assist the Agric-Oyo Initiative Programme of Governor Abiola Ajimobi in the state, adding the cotton farming and its value chains would generate more jobs for the youths and improve the state government’s revenue.
“Establishment of a ginnery in the Oke-Ogun region will be the major contribution the state government can do to assuage the pains of the farmers with other inputs they have been giving to us. This will improve government’s revenue through tax payment and other levies while job opportunities will abound,” Busari said.
Special Adviser on Communication and Strategy to Governor Abiola Ajimobi, Mr. Yomi Layinka, who said the Oke-Ogun cotton growers should make their requests formally known to the governor, noted that Ajimobi is committed to agricultural transformation of the state and would leave no stone unturned in ensuring farmenrs get the necessary encouragement.
He assured them that through Oyo Agric Initiative of the governor, the cotton farmers would have access to credit facility, adding that due attention would be given to provision of access roads for agricultural purposes, especially in Oke Ogun axis of the state, which is regarded as the food basket of the pace setter state.
On the alleged destruction of cotton farm by unmanned cows, Layinka stated that the state has put necessary mechanisms in place to ensure peaceful co-existence between the farmers and herdsmen. He said Governor Ajimobi would always take sides with the law.
Meanwhile, the Police Public Relations Officer for the state command, Mr. Adekunle Ajisebutu, a Superintendent of Police said the command has brought farmers and herdsmen together on several occasions, during which the leadership of the two groups signed peace accord.
He noted that the complaints by the herdsmen has always been that farmers usually poisoned the water reservoir where cows drink, while farmers always complained that herdsmen usually grazed their cows in their farms and destroy their plantations.
The peace accord signed by both parties, according to him, centred on agreement that farmers would no longer poison the water reservoir for cows and herdsmen would no longer leave their cows unmanned and they would not let their cows destroy farmland again.
Dr. Gabriel Owoleyin, Deputy Director, Planning of Raw Material Research and Development Council, whose responsibility it is to synergise with farmers, noted that government remained committed to restoring the lost glory of the nation’s textile industry and making it a viable source of employment, hence cotton farming is considered important.