A strong economy dictates the phase of political development. Prominent Nigerians have lately advocated the need to diversify the economy of the country. There were strong comments that the country should diversify from oil based to agro-allied based economy. Thus, since the advent of the current political dispensation about 14 years ago, many states have embarked on various shades of commercial agriculture. However, some of the states have turned the lofty policy and programmes into a political propaganda rather than the intended objective. In the light of the above, a critical appraisal of some of Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s agricultural policies and programmes of activities is necessary.
Governor Rauf Aregbesola, while justifying the huge amount committed by his administration to agricultural sector in the state opined that; “The neglect of agricultural sector by successive administrations in the country has the tendency of exposing the nation to famine as it is being experienced in some developing nations like Somalia, Niger Republic and Sudan.”
Warning the country, he said: “The phenomenon could also affect Nigeria’s foreign earnings if the current development in all nations of the world as regards the discoveries of oil is anything to go by. The United States of America, China and other developed countries which Nigeria rely upon for consumption of its oil produce could now guarantee large deposit of oil in its land, by implication, Nigeria is heading to a doom.”
He added, “To this end, Nigeria would find it difficult to meet its obligation through proceeds from oil, hence there is urgent need for the nation to diversify its economy to agricultural sector.”
“It is in realisation of its green book called: Six Point Integral Action Plan of banishment of hunger, poverty, unemployment, provision of functional education and restoration of healthy living and enhancement of communal peace and progress that make government to reposition the sector for economic gains.
The state Commissioner for Agriculture and Food sufficiency, Hon. Richard Adewale Adedoyin in giving the score sheet of the administration in the sector said that :”In recognition of the agrarian nature of Osun State and its enormous potential for employment generation, a deliberate policy for mass food production, the Osun Rural Enterprise and Agricultural Programme (O-REAP) has been designed to enable the Ministry gives priority attention to agriculture commodity value chain spanning production, processing, storage, preservation and marketing.
“The mission of O-REAP is to achieve food security, wealth and job creation, youth empowerment, economic transformation and making the state the hub of agriculture and an emporium of commerce in the South-West. The mission is a strategy to capture Lagos market through supply of at least 10% of the daily three billion worth of food in the state. As part of efforts to fulfil its social contract with the people of the state, Aregbesola placed considerable emphasis on hunger and poverty alleviation which is the core value of National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy, (NEEDS) and attainment of Millennium Development Goals.
“The present administration is working round the clock towards the attainment of the objectives of the O-REAP programme through sustainable implementation strategies to aid the operation of farmers through land acquisition, land clearing, tractorisation and private public partnership as well as provision of enabling environment for farmers to maximise their potential. O-REAP programme focus on different agricultural initiatives which include Osun Broilers Out growers’ production scheme. The Beef Chain Development Programme, O-REAP Fish Farm Estates, Osun Fisheries Out-growers production scheme, O-REAP Youth Academy, Agricultural credit, Farm Service Centres, Provision of storage facilities and seedling production as well as farm settlement scheme.
“These schemes have drastically redefined agricultural system in the state as farmers have access to over 1,000 day chicks under the Osun Broilers Out-growers Production Scheme (O-BOPS). Most of the farmers who participated in O-Broiler scheme made sustainable profit. The O-Broiler initiative is yielding positive results due to its linkage to O-Meals, a school feeding programme which provides a sustainable market for poultry farmers in the state.
“O-Fish scheme of the present administration has opened window of opportunitiess for fish farmers through public private partnership arrangement. Over 800,000 kilogram of cat fish are expected to be produced and processed by over four thousand fish farmers yearly in the state.
“Having realised the need for Youths Empowerment through agricultural programme, the present administration in Osun State under the leadership of Aregbesola established O-REAP Youth Academy. The Academy is expected to serve as tool for youth empowerment and job creation. Over nine hundred youths selected from Osun State Youths Empowerment Scheme,
OYES Cadets are undergoing eight months training in modern skills and techniques in agricultural practices. Upon their graduation, the government would equip the youths with farm land, farm inputs and credit facilities.
The training centres are located at Osogbo, Ila, Ede, Ile-Ogbo, Wasinmi, Ilesa, Oyan and Esa-Odo, as well as Ile-Ife.
“In its bid to make the state the food basket of the nation through adaptation of modern farming techniques, 20 youths of the state are currently in Germany for training in modern agricultural practices. The beauty of various training programmes often organised for the youths by the government under its Agricultural Intervention Programme lies in the provision of enabling environment for the application of their acquired skills with the conceptualisation of the state rural enterprise and agriculture programme, the programme has created opportunity for investors to come and establish agro allied industries in the state.
“Also, the present administration also designed quick impact intervention programme, which focuses on small holding farmers and micro-credit management for cooperative farmers. The programme has made significant impact as cooperative groups were strengthened and agricultural activities increased substantially in the state. Within two years, 77 farmers were registered for farmers’ cooperative groups and over 1,000 hectares of land were cultivated while over 1,000 jobs were created through the intervention.
“There is no doubt that the success recorded by government under the intervention programme informed the design of Central Bank, commercial banks and agricultural enterprises to support government to enhance production of maize, cassava, rice and vegetables in the state.
“Aside from making agriculture a key component of its economy, the present administration also belief in the ideal of making the sector more attractive to youth, government has designed an agriculture programme for the training of primary and secondary school students in the art of farming. To ensure actualisation of the dream, Osun State Government has provided schools in the state with necessary inputs for practical training for the production of cassava, maize and cocoa-yam, while about 10 schools were assisted on piggery and poultry production.
“In its stride to revitalise farm settlement in the state and make the state the food basket of the nation, the incumbent administration has focused on farm settlement with a view to repositioning the settlement to be in tandem with global practice. In the year 2011, about 50 hectares of virgin forest land were cleared, prepared and allocated to 10 farmers free of charge at Mokore Farm Settlement as part of efforts to enhance productivity of farmers and provide food in abundance for people of the state.
“In 2012, government extends the gesture to Iwo Farm Settlement with clearing of one hundred hectares of land to 20 farmers. Government also provided accessible road for the farm settlement so as to link farmers with the market. Other farm settlements that are also enjoying the presence of government include – Ago-Owu and Oyere Aborisade farm settlements, among others.
“Also in its bid to make life more bearable for farmers and enhance production, the state government has distributed farm inputs ranging from CP 15 Sprayer, Grammozone and Atrazine to one 1,830 (One thousand, eight hundred and thirty) farmers in the state. The beauty of the present administration’s agricultural policies and programmes lies in the application of technology into farming through provision of agro chemicals to farmers to encourage massive food production across the state. To say the present administration is working towards reclaiming the old glory of people of South-West is stating the obvious, This is as a result of the efforts of government in providing free cocoa seedlings to cocoa farmers in the state.
To crown it up, over N10m was released to cocoa farmers recently to boost cocoa production and boost Internally Generated Revenue of the state. The state has enormous Agricultural resources that can be optimally exploited to achieve laudable objectives of poverty alleviation and overall economic prosperity for the entire state.
The climate of the state is very clement and conducive for the commercial production of eight major categories of agricultural produce with extensive potential for industrial utilisation. The agricultural produce include cereals like maize, roots and tubers, e.g cassava yam, coco-yam, fruits and vegetable, orange, cashew, mango, tomatoes, etc.
“With the current stride in the sector, the present administration has opened windows of opportunity for both local and foreign investors to tap into production of produce for commercial purpose and industrial use, thus, attesting to government’s determination to diversify the state economy to agricultural sector.”
The commissioner maintained that various interventions of the ministry is yielding positive results towards attainment of the six point integral action plan of the present administration in the state. Adedoyin noted that the training of some youths in Germany on modern agricultural practice and training of over 900 youths in modern farming techniques under O-REAP programme would not only serve as source of wealth generation, but a viable tool for employment generation in the state.
The commissioner said further that, “O-Concept’ as strategy for the revitalisation of the agricultural sector in the state was aimed at transforming the state economy through the sector. Food is life, it is in realisation of this fact that the present administration under the leadership of Aregbesola increased budgetary allocation of the sector to over N8bn in 2013 fiscal year to cater for various programmes of the Ministry to make agriculture more profitable and attractive, as well as a good venture for making food available in the state, with spill over effects on other states of the federation”.