Government officials, farmers and foreign partners recently congregated in Osogbo, Osun State, to brainstorm on the need to improve capacity for agricultural production and economic development. It was the three-day International Agricultural Technology Exhibition and Conference.
The programme was aimed at accelerating research and education capable of stimulating farming activities and boosting production of agricultural products as well as the development of the agricultural sector of the economy.
In actualising the agenda, in-depth agricultural programmes and activities would be intensified in the rural communities and hinterlands where farming is the major occupation of the people. This would ensure high capacity production and harnessing of diverse farm produce which could further be converted to other products to boost the state and country’s export profile for economic development.
About 15 countries participated in the conference, including Israel, Cuba, Venezuela, Benin Republic, Brazil and Cote d’Ivoire. Executive director, AGRITECH, Yahaya Mojeed, called for the transfer of a bulk of budgetary allocations to local government areas in the state, which, he said, had the largest concentration of farmers and the hubs of agricultural business:
“If agriculture was localised and prioritised, there would be a shift from mere talking about agriculture to a bountiful productivity. Optimal production of agricultural products would not only boost the state’s economy but would also increase the country’s export profile. With such status, the Federal Government’s plans to diversify the country’s economy through agriculture would become easy.”
Governor Gboyega Oyetola expressed commitment to making the state the hub of agriculture and the food basket of the South West. He spoke through the Supervisor for Agriculture and Food Security, Mr. Remi Kolajo, adding that the conference would enhance agricultural productivity through education, introduction to new breed seedlings and encourage total development in the agric sector.
Venezuela’s envoy in Nigeria, David Velasquez, said the country’s decision to participate in the conference was against the backward of the need for cross fertilisation of ideas and agricultural products to drive the vision for economic progress of the state through agriculture:
“Nigeria and Osun State in particular were fortunate to be blessed with a very clement climate, fertile lands, experienced manpower and high yielding seedlings capable of boosting agricultural development.”
He pledged Venezuela’s readiness to partner with government by supporting it with technology and other resources with a view to increasing agricultural activities and economic development of the state.
The Chairman, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), Mr. Adetunji Ajagbe, noted that Nigeria had no reason to witness economic poverty with the vast agricultural resources at her disposal. He called on the stakeholders to develop capacity for increased productivity and harnessing of agricultural products to boost the state and country’s economic profile:
“Before the discovery of crude oil, the Nigerian economy was very buoyant because agricultural products and inputs were being maximally exploited and optimally harnessed. He called on government, stakeholders and farmers to collaborate and show more interest in agriculture with a view to making agricultural economy a priority.
Farmers under the aegis of All Farmers Association (AFA), Osun State chapter, noted that for government to diversify the economy through agriculture it must support farmers with adequate material and financial resources that could facilitate mechanised farming.
Scores of them exhibited diverse farm produce at the conference. The produce included kolanuts, palm oil and pineapples. Others were refined products such as special sweet potato bread, wheat flour, sweet potato flour and soya beans.
A female poultry farmer, Mrs. Oluwakemi Ogundipe, who hails from Ile-Ife, told newsmen that poultry farming had remained the means of livelihood for her household. She called on government to provide microcredit loans for farmers to enable them invest more in the business:
“I started poultry farming about one year ago. Since then, I have gained up to N150,000. I use the business to pay my children’s school fees and to assist my husband in family upkeep. I want government to give farmers microcredit loans so that we can invest more to be able to make more gains. This will improve the economy of my family and the entire state.”
Ayeni Olufemi: “I am into palm oil production. I am a secondary school teacher, but I decided to go into farming because of the poor economic situation in the country. I feel that I could contribute to government’s plans to diversify the economy through agriculture.
“I also need to plan for retirement. I started farming last year and I have found palm oil production as a lucrative business. Last year, I produced 25 kegs and each keg contains 25 litres. I made a profit of about N200,000 last year. As it is now, I can retire comfortably into farming.
“All I need is government’s support through bank loans to enable me buy acres of land and plant palm trees and to be able to go higher in production. This can even generate employment for young school leavers.”
Mrs. Taibat Adeoye is from Ejigbo: “Kola nut farming is a very lucrative aspect of farming. The farmers and dealers make a lot of gains. Without this, it would have been difficult to survive in this very harsh economy.
“A lot of us depend on it to send our children to school. Many of our children have graduated from higher institutions with the help of the money we realise from kola nut farming.
“Money is our major challenge. We want Buhari or our governor Gboyega Oyetola to give us loans to go further in the farming business. When we go to bank, we can’t get loan because of different conditions they give us. But with government’s help, we can get it. We want government to come to our aid.”
Mr. Israel Adedoyin is from Ikirun: “I am a soya bean processor. I use it to make bread, produce soya bean flour, and wheat flour. I also produce special sweet potato bread. All these consumables are rich with vitamin A, which has a lot of nutritional values.
“I earn a living with this farming business. All I need is government’s support to build a small company through which employment opportunities could be created for the youth. If government must diversify the economy through agriculture, it must encourage farmers by giving us loans.”