A gubernatorial aspirant in Oyo State, Professor Adeolu Akande, has said the state has great potentials to feed Nigeria and use the accruing revenue to make life abundant for its people by focusing on agriculture.
Akande, who spoke with leaders of some farmers’associations in Iseyin, Oke Ogun area of the state on the occasion of the World’s Food Day, said Oyo State has the capacity to feed Nigeria and use the accruing revenue to solve the financial crisis that has listed it among states that cannot meet their obligations to their people.
He said Oyo State is about the most blessed in the country because of its large size of arable land.
“Oyo State has the largest land mass in the whole of southern Nigeria with 28, 454 square kilometres of arable land. This is a huge resource that could be harnessed with a mix of private sector, public sector and private-public sector combined investment in agriculture to rapidly expand the economic base of the state, enhance public revenue and create thousands of hundreds of direct jobs and benefits for the millions of people living in Oyo State”, he said.
“The World Food Day is an opportunity for us in Oyo State to remind ourselves that we are sitting on untapped goldmine”, he said, saying further that “ our attention should shift away from federal allocation to the for development and exploitation of the great resource under our feet”.
“It is time again for us to design our development agenda around agriculture for the benefit of all. A recent study has revealed that Lagos which is only one hour away from Oyo State consumes food worth N8 Billion every day. How much of this comes to Oyo State?. With the right mix of strategies, Oyo State can leverage on its huge land resource and proximity to Lagos to expand its economic base and raise the revenue that will make the government capable of providing for the needs of the people in education, health, youth empowerment, women development and provision of social services”,Akande said.
Akande identified ageing population of farmers, the dominance of small holding farming, reliance on nature for farming, challenge of feeder roads, absence of storage facilities, inadequate extension services and lack of assured support for farmers as the bane of agriculture in the state, saying Oyo State can only transform her huge potentials into agriculture to riches through a well-thought out agriculture development programme.
“We have to bring our youths into agriculture because the average age of farmers is between 55 and 61. We need to bring science and technology into agriculture to guarantee that our farmers can optimise the profit from their labour as it is in other countries. The reason why an hectare of cassava gives us four tonnes in Oyo State but gives the farmer in Asia 14 tonnes is science and technology. We need to address large scale commercial farming because it is the pull of industries. It is the combination of agriculture and the industries that will improve profitability of farming, create jobs and transform our rural areas. We must focus on feeder roads because research has shown that fifty per cent of agriculture produce in Oyo State is wasted because they cannot be evacuated to the market on time. We must have a support programme for small holding farmers so that they don’t sell their produce each time they need money instead of selling at optimal profit. Farmers cannot be motivated to stay on the job if farming cannot pay their bills. Our programme should be value chain agriculture that guarantees that our produce is converted to industrial needs at the season of surplus instead of having wastage during surplus season and scarcity at the off-season period of the products.
“Oyo State should pursue a vibrant Youth – for – Agriculture Programme that will motivate our teaming youths to embrace agriculture. We must exploit the capacity of agriculture to provide jobs for our youths, guarantee food security and enhance the socio-economic development of our country-side.
Akande said the comparative advantage of Oyo State in cassava cultivation, poultry and fishing should be harnessed through a well-articulated agriculture programme that drives development, provide jobs and transform the economy of the countryside for the well-being of the people.” The state should also take advantage of cotton, cashew, soya beans and other products that are enjoying huge market internationally.
“Oyo State cannot afford to be satisfied with its status as the largest producer of cassava and poultry in Nigeria. We should multiply or triple our production to meet Nigeria’s food need. If Nigeria imports N800 Billion worth of ethanol annually while Oyo State has the capacity of producing half of that ,our job is cut out for us to make Oyo State a prosperous state”, he enthused.
Akande promised to provide the leadership that will leverage on these potentials of the state to guarantee the social and economic well-being of the people.