Why We Are In Partnership With IITA, By Osun Rural Enterprise Coordinator

whoOsun State Government recently entered into partnership with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) on agriculture to boost food production in all the nooks and crannies of the state. In this interview with Correspondent, Gbenga Faturoti, Coordinator of the Osun Rural Enterprise and Agricultural Programme (O-REAP), who is also the Director General, Office of Economic Development and Partnerships, Dr. Charles Diji Akinola, speaks on the seriousness the state government attached to agriculture, the challenges facing agriculture in the state, and how the government intends to source for funds or partnership to meet the 10 per cent food consumption market of Lagos State:         

What informed the going into partnership with IITA on agriculture? 

At inception of the present administration in the State of Osun, the agricultural sector came under critical scrutiny and it was observed that the entire agriculture value chain required intervention and incentivisation on a continuous basis. Among others it was observed that the productivity from farmers and their farm holdings was quite low as a result of lack of access to high quality seeds and as a result of crop failure as was experienced in the 2013 planting season. Due to this occurrence, the present administration was therefore motivated to focus greatly on improving and developing the agro input sector, including seed, agrochemical, farm implement etc. in order to boost food production in the state and in order for it to meet its goal of meeting 10 per cent of the food exchange bill of Lagos, a model adopted by Osun to achieve economic development and growth.

In furtherance to government efforts, it has sought in the short term for avenues to ensure that its farmers are supplied with high quality and certified seed in sync with its strategy for effective agro input distribution through partnership with the private sector.

As a background, the state and the private sector participated in the distribution of agro input under the Farmers’ Input and Credit Support Programme (FISCP) of Osun Rural Enterprise and Agriculture Programme (O-REAP). As a result, the state in 2014 achieved the best penetration in terms of agro input distribution as a result of the effective participation of the private sector.

This has also encouraged the state in going for partnerships in the production and distribution of high quality, viable and certified seeds which led to what we feel is the beginning of a strategic partnership on seed and seedling multiplication in the State of Osun. The parties involved in the partnership would include the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the State of Osun (duly represented by the OEDP) and Agronet Limited, the private sector participant.

The IITA would support this process technically and help achieve the objectives of production of quality seeds, in terms of breeding, production and certification of seeds quality. It is envisaged that the IITA being a research institute with vast experience would provide technical advice in the establishment and operation of the seed laboratory which would enable a possible collaboration with the University of Osun (Uniosun).

Agronet as the private sector participant would handle and operate the establishment and the state would provide the land and the enabling environment with the active participation of key ministries and agencies such as Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and Osun Agricultural Development Programme (OSSADEP). The main benefit from this would be such that the farmers in the state would be guaranteed of having high quality seeds to plant and this would further increase their production.

It is our hope that this partnership will help achieve the goals of seed multiplication programme under O-REAP to prevent yield failure due to low quality seeds and lead to increase of farmers’ output. Also we hope that by this partnership, the objective of making the State of Osun to be the food basket state of the southwest and meet its overall goal of 10 per cent supply of food products to Lagos market will be met.

What is the level of seriousness of the Osun State as regards the new MoU in mass production of agriculture food?

The partnership with IITA is a very serious one for several reasons; Mr. Governor, you listen to what Deputy Director General of IITA has said about Osun and what the state has done in agriculture sector. He spoke in glowing terms about the seriousness Osun attaches to agriculture. Immediately Mr. Governor won the second term ticket, he and his team came back to IITA, where the IITA Deputy Director General told him that Nigeria is beginning a new idea of taking the agriculture seriously and he mention the fact that the Governor of Osun brought his team here for about four days to come and review his agriculture strategies after the first four years of implementation and we review also on how we can get it more effective. And so government must take agriculture seriously to go all that length and it is being noticed by organisation like IITA. When he first came into government, Mr. Governor designed Osun Rural Enterprise and Agricultural Programme (OREAP). IITA also was one of the first external organisations that he visited. He met with Director General at that time that showed the seriousness the Governor attaches to agriculture.

But there is no way we will embark on ambitious and aggressive programmes on agriculture through O-REAP as enunciated in our plans without working with partners. IITA stands out as the best in the class of research institution. It is globally recognised with focus in agriculture. We see our relationship with IITA as being very important, we are glad on how we are received here and I note that the Director General said that the new fresh partnership is the first working plans that the institute will signed this year and it is hoping that it is going to be one of the best projects this year.

What about finance and expertise?

Well, this is a very interesting MoU that we have drafted. The MoU is about a global class institution like IITA which recognises the seriousness that we attach to agriculture and it is ready to open its doors to us. They have in fact opened their doors to one of our private sector partners we introduced. The project we are discussing today even though we discussed about seed production, seed technology, seed multiplication because when you have the right seeds, we can increase yield by 30% to 40% and even more but the partnership is broader it covers a wide gamut of areas.