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Thursday, April 14, 2011

THISDAY, VoL 16, No. 5834, Page 25

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Different.Strokes against Food Crisis In the last four'years, Lagos .State Government has been exploiting itsagriculfural .potentials to create wealth and , jobs. I~ policy initiatives have given birth to over 250,000 fann families whose impacts have substantially boosted the state's .food security and agriculfural ;produpion programmes. With the achievement made so far, the administration has pledged renewed efforts on food security. GBOYEGA AKINSANMI writes

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e grnduated from Olabisi Onabanjo University in 2008 with good grnde. He has passion for agriculture and plant, which he attributed to why he chose to study Plant Science in the tertiary institution. Hailed from Lagos Island , Mr. Salami Bolaji finally keyed into Lagos State Agriculture Youth Empowerment Sch'eme (Agric-YES), which he said , has availed him profound opportunity to realise his dreams and make input into the country's development. _ At different times, Bolaji has gone through a series of rigorous training both in Nigeria and Israel, which he said thought him the rudiments of egg and vegetable production as weU as aquaculture. Today, Bolaji rakes in a minimum earning of NlOO, 000 each month, though he hopes to double his income in the nearest future. During a discussion with THIS DAY, Bolaji said Agric-YES "provides me avenue to broaden my knowledge of agriculture:' Likewise, Miss. Olarewaju Oloko also completed her first degree in the same year, though she studied Biochemistry at the Lagos State University. Oloko's desire has always been to contribute her quotas to socia-economic development. By implication, Agric-YES now provides vast opportunity to play this critical role, which she said, Nigeria needs to achieve sustainable agricultural production and realise its food security objectives. This explains why Oloko quickly described food as "a special need in human life. It is a weapon in term of war. So, I desire to do whatever that can help me contribute to the development process in my immediate community and beyond. This is in line with the vision of Agric-YES to ensure food security" in the state. Currently eking handsome monthly earning, Oloko exuded optimism to be the country's leading farmer in the future . 111e above are testimonies of two beneficiaries of Agric-YES , which the administration ofGovernor Babatunde Raji Fashola initiated almost two years ago to hold back the rate of unemployment and ensure food security. On this note, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Dr. Yakub Olajide Bashorun strongly held.", view that agriculture has the greatest potentials for job creation. At least, from a feat of 125,000 farm families, which he said the administration of former Governor Bola Ahmed Tmubu was able, to raise to before his tenure ended in 2007. Balogun said the effort of Fashola's administration "has raised the population of farm families in Lagos State to over 250,000 in the last four years:' He added that the number keeps soaring, thus creating new opportunities and brightening the state's future. Bashorun 'attributed a 100 per cent surge in the population of farm families to the commitment of Fashola's administration to

• Fasho/a ... inspecting one of Ihe poultries in Ikorodu

. hamess the stale'S agricultural potentials 10 creale jobs and ensure food security. He said an average farm family "consists of four pe0ple. At present, we have 250,000 farm families. The figure shows thai one million people are directly employed through agricultural production:' The state government's inroad in agro-aUied development are not limiled 10 about 1,000 youths, which the administration has trained in different fields of agricultural production and an increasing number of farm families it has raised in the last four years. Bashorun also mentioned other efforts of Fashola's administration in establishing various agricultural estates 10 Lagos residents interested in food and animal production. Bashorun said the agricultura\ estates are classified into vegetable estale, poultry estate, fish farm estate and arable crop estate, which he said, had given major boost to food production in the state and Nigeria allarge. He said aU the services including forestry services, beautification of the environment as weU as greening "are meant 10 benefil the general public. We also engage in agricultura\ cooperative development. "Everything we have talked about is on the basis of cooperation. It is indeed difficulHor a farmer to do something on his own. But when they come together as a group, it will be possible for them to achieve more. We therefore encourage our farmers to set up co-operative societies. We also register, train and supervise them constantly. Co-operative societies are very important for agricultura\ development:' Bashorun explained. Besides, Fashola's administration has been taking advantage of the World Bank Assisted Project tagged Commercial Agric Development Project (CADP), which the permanent secretary said, had transformed the agricultural sector. Under Ole project, Bashorun said a 45-kiIometre road to Ikorodu Fish Farm "is being constructed with drainage system and asphalt:' which he said, had started yielding desired outcomes. Basorun also specifically mentioned another 20-kiIometre road "to be construcled to link farms together and facilitate farm produce to clifferent markets across the State. With the opening of these roads, there will be reduction in the cost of production and this will generate employment. The road cost a sum ofNI40 million:' the permanent secretary held a view that it would improve future evacuation of farm produces in aU five division in the state. "CADP is meant to support the commercial agriculture in the stale. The two major areas CADP will offer support is in the provi-

- - Tackling the Electricity Challenge Headlong Accoi-ding to him, "my appraisal of the sector over the past few years has revealed that the factors that impede electricity service delivery in Nigeria include absence of a sustained and deliberate deployed long-term ' development strategy; under-exploitation of abundant energy endowment; and the absence of adequate and nonnnplementahon of reform. In order to·fast-track the resolution of aU critical .issues pertaining to power sector reform and achieving stabilIty m el!'Ctnclty supply, I constituted Presidential Action Committee (PAG ; the Presidential Task Faroe on Power (PTFP). The l'rimary objective was to eliminate bureaucratic red tape while. exhibltmgl"spon~lbility. He ~d, "In drawing up this road map, we have Identified tariff as the COhcal factor in resolving the entire value chain of supply of electricity. The idea is to ensure that the relevant agencies achieve a tariff structure that will give incentives to investors?' He said in the interim, government has devised a plan to fast track · ':""~·lhe fuU implementation of instaUed capacities at various power plants across the country through rehabilitation over the· next one year. He also outlined specific plans by government in the next few years for .power generation, Fuel-ta-Power, National Integrnted Power ProJecl (NIPP), Transmission, Distribution,Tariff, and PHCN \vorkers .

On generation, he said plan for exploitation of hydrd sources had already reached advanced stage, saying, "Coal will also be fully

Cont'd from Pg, 24 -

exploited over the next few years to instaU power plants in such places as Gombe, Enugu, and Benue:' He said the federal government would engage companies that have requisite instaUed capacities to . expand production capacities and seU electricity to the national grid and this concept will generate over 5, OOOmw within the next three· years. Part of the revolutionary policies the President enunciated include fuel-ta-power where he said most of the power plants to be built in the south~rn part of the counlry over the next few years would be gasfired, addmg that although there was enough gas to support available generation capacity for now, generation capacity would outstrlp ayaiIable gas in the nation before the end of next year. On NIPP, be said they were expected to begin 10'come to fruition by the end of this year, with a cumulatively total of 4,775mw upon completion. As for the transmission, he also said the transmission infrastructure in the country could no longer bear the load, adding that the federal government had planned to embark on significant increase in transmission that would begin to address anticipated capacity prolr lems. "We plan to build a super transmission network at the voltage level of 700KV that will go from Afam in Rivers, through Makurdi to Jos Kaduna, 'shiroro, Jebba and then down to Lagos, through Osogbo; before gomg through Benin to Onitsha, to AJaoji and finaUy back to Afam:' he said.

sion of modem lechnology and development. We are introducing a collapsible tank for those who wish to practice aquaCUlture in their houses. The tank is constructed in a way that those who rented house can also purchase it. When the person wishes to leave the house, he can take his property along. "We are introducing it to Lagos State government. CADP is supporting these categories of farmers. The FADAMA project is supporting farmers in the area of asset acquisition, markel development, provision of rural infrastructure, capacity building and enhancement of food security through basic technology dissemination. We have other projects on food security. Presently we are working in nine communities in the state:' he explained. This brought Senior Special Assistant on Special Projects, Mr. Gbolahan Lawai to a conclusion that the future of the state lies in the extent to which the successive govemments can hamess the agricultura\ potentials of the state. His assertion was premised on the use of modem technologies to impmve the state's food and animal production, which he said, would realise food security objectives of the state. Gbolahan therefore cited the Agric-Yes programme which he said, was conceptualised as a form of social intervention response aimed at "solving a twin pmblems of mass unemployment and food insecurity in the state. The scheme is a three-phase intervention pr0gramme spanning a period of five years with a target of producing 1,000 elite farmers within phase one made up of a six-month intensive training programme. 'The second phase focuses on a six-month internship stage. which will enable those who scale through the first phase pmceed to the cornmercial farm to learn best practices on running successful farms . The third stage is the exit stage where successful trainees are settled in farm estates fashioned after the Israeli KibutzlMashev, and Lagos Micro Fmance Institution (LASMI) will provide credit facilities and settlement for them:' bOlahan therefore reduced the three phases to training, internship and settlement, which he said, "is being handled in collaboration with Israeli and Nigerian consultants." Already, about 200 youths have benefitted from AgricYES; another set of 50 youths is currently being tutored and menlored aLthe state Agricultura\ Training Institule. This has raised hope, which informed Fashola's resolve to radically transform the sector. At the graduation of the first set of the stale elite farmers , Fashola said it was indeed a harvest of the most critical resource, the fuUy trained and highly skilled manpower that "is the bedrock of ourpursuit of food security in our state. I am delighted that we have walked our talk again in the agriculture sector of the Lagos economy. 1'hfs has been possible because great men and women in the state public service share a new belief." Fashola traced the history of how the scheme started, thereby relaying account of some critics, "who specifically said our administration was too much in a hurry; thai would get tired; and that we were running a marathon like a sprint:' He referred to what some of . his opponents even said the state government was aU talk and no . action. But according to him, even if they disbelieve what we say they cannot disbeUeve what we have done. ' Fashola hoped the beneficiaries "will take charge of the future that will ensure that Lagos residents do not worry about what 10 eat. Because if a country as small as Israel can do it, Lagos too can double that feat. In order to support the take off of the programme, our administration has approved micro -finance funding for their caoperatives which has been developed and is receiving suppon from the Ministry of Agriculture". Fashola now obviously sees a promising future in the elite farmers the state go~ernment has started training, thereby expressing a strong will that the elite farmers would lead Lagos metropolis "into a new experience of high qUality farming methods, packaging techniques, marketing and distribution network and strategies that will truly revoluuoruse the .mage and concept of agriculture in our state and country. I see the birth of other supporting industries such as canning and other services commencing not too long from now".

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THISDAY, 14 APRIL, 2011  

Different Strokes against Food Crisis

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