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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

FEATURES

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THISDAY, Vol. 16, No. 5783, Page 25

Osun: The Birth of an Agricultural Revolution Before overdependence on crude oil revenues affected the sector, agriculture used to be the mainstay of the economy of the old Western Region. But in a bid to reverse the situation, present administration in Osun State has re-ignited interest in the sector. And, IDOWU SOWUNMI writes that this may be the beginning of an agricultural revolution

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s soon as he was sworn in, Governor Rauf Aregbesola hit the ground running with his resolve to make the state the food basket of the nation. He commissioned a consortium of agricultural experts to carry out field assessment of all farm settlements across the state. This was done swiftly and what promises to be a revolution in the state's agriculture sector has commenced . Expressing satisfaction with the field assessment, the governor's aide in charge of Community Development, Mr. Tunbosun Oyintiloye, Assistant Director (Community Forum), Bureau of Public Communication and Strategy, emphasised the seriousness the state government attached to grassroots fanners, saying this has opened a whole new window of opportunities for a symbiotic relationship between real farmers and the government. The aide reiterated that part of the integral plan of the new administration is to make life abundant by banishing hunger and poverty. He nOled that with the state's agricultural action plan and the report of the experts, the governor is determined to ensure the much-needed revolution in the agriculture sector. A committee has been set up to breath life into these dreams. And, the committee, which comprises of agricultural experts, geographers, soil scientists and engineers, in conjunction with the Community Forum Unit, Bureau of Communication and Strategy, office of the governor, rounded off a week-long tour last Tuesday after moving round all the local government council areas, inspecting farm settlements, farm centres, agriculture training schools and villages. The committee members had discussions with active farmers on their farms in different villages, with a view to getting firsthand information on how to assist them towards increasing their productivity thlis year and beyond. The exercise took off from IwolEde axis of the state where farmers enumerated the problems they have been facing in terms of finance, bad roads and storage facilities for their farm produce among others. Addressing the farmers, the leader of the team, Engineer Joseph Abioye stressed that the state government under Aregbesola had set up the committee to go round all the farm settlements, agricultural training schools and villages in all the council areas of the state to appreciate challenges facing them. He added that though the agriculture policy of the new

administration was still on course. in order not to miss the next rainy season, the governor was looking at how to assist active farmers in the form of capacity building so as to increase their output this farming year. Farmers who spoke with the experts in Iwo, Olupanna, Osogbo, Ede and their neighbouring communities as well as I1e-Ogbo farm centre called on the state government to assist them in ensuring the eradication of problems facing them, with

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food and other farm produce. The farmers demanded that government should provide an enabling environment for them through good road networks, storage facilities which would contain' their produce during the harvest period, and soft loan that could encourage them to rehabilitate their huts and improve their standards of living. The farmers also identified other challenges such as nonavailability of tractors and other farm equipment; non-availability of chemicals, including fertilisers to assist them in cultivation; construction of irrigation and lack of storage facilities, just as they demanded that if the government wants to assist them, especially in the area of loans, the assistance should come in time for them to effectively commit the loans to their businesses as soon as possible .. The Olupo of Oluponna, Oba Emmanuel Onaolapo, who is also a farmer, addressed the team in his palace. The monarch said the main problem facing farmers in the country is the lack of infrastructure, calling on the Aregbesola administration to assist farmers through the provision of infrastructure that would make farming attractive. Addressing journalists, after rounding off the tour, the leader of the team said that the field report had exposed the committee members to challenges facing farmers in the state, saying the report would be submitted to the governor on time for nec-

essary actions. According to him, while the agriculture policy of the new administration is at an advanced stage, the purpose of the field assessment was to get the input of the farmers themselves as well as ensure that the next farming season is not missed for massive food production.' Abioye reiterated that he had listened to the farmers' complaints that the ousted government had held several similar meetings with farmers without any reasonable outcome. He however assured them that the administration of Aregbesola would do everything possible to fulfil its campaign promises which include re-invigoration of the agriculture sector in the

state . The assessment tour, which began in Ayepe community in Isokan Local Government, took the team to Orile-Owu, Mokore and Ago-Owu farm settlements in Ayedaade Local Government area.

'Members 0/ cocoa/armers ... getting fresh boost Presenting their requests to the government at the settlements, the farmers who were in their 60s and 70s told the team that they lack improved seedlings, access roads to their farms, tractors and hygienic water. Speaking in Ago Owu farm settlement, whicb was established by the late Obafemi Awolowo in the 1950s, the Osun State President of the Farm Settlements Association, Mr. John Oyesiji and the General Secretary of the farm, Mr. Gboyega Olarliyi lamented that the farm workforce had depleted,leaving only ageing farmers. They however called on government to assist them disengage civil servants who occupy farmlands without using them. Receiving the team in his palace, the Olowu of Orile-Owu, Oba Moses Adejobi expressed delight at the initiative of the state government, describing it as a right step in the right direction. Mr. Tunbosun Oyintiloye, Assistant Director (Community Forum), Bureau of Public Communication and Strategy told the traditional ruler that government was looking up to the royal institution to mobilise farmers for the success of the programme. He explained that the state government's attention to agriculture was to empower real farmers to function optimally, hence the outreach to them in their locations. The tour also took the team of experts to Ijesa-North and South federal constituencies comprising of Oriade, Obokun, I1esha-East and West, Atakumosa-East and West Local Government areas as well as Ife Federal Constituency, compriSing of Ife-Central, East and South Local Governments. Speaking at the Agriculture Farm Settlement in Esa Oke, Obokun Local Government area, one of the farmers, Mr. Sunday Fasesin said farmers are faced with enormous challenges in the area of workforce, as most of them are aged. necessitating the need to engage labourers. Labour, he said, is

expensive to secure and sometimes not available. Two other farmers, Mr. Adewole Samuel from I1esa East and Madam Esther Ologbenla from Ife Central also catalogued other problems faced by farmers, noting that lack of irrigation, fertilisers and herbicides are major sources of worty for the farmers. They said if the government could surmount these challenges, its vision of food security would be actualised. Addressing the farmers at different ports of call, Abioye said the intention of government was to start the development of agriculture using the real farmers and from there engage other interested indigenes of the state. Abioye explained that the purpose of the visits was to assess the situation to enable government come up with appropriate short and long term strategies towards meeting the needs of the

farmers especially as the farming season is fast approaching. Also speaking, Oyintiloye used the occasions to call on residents of all the communities in the state to explore the vast uncultivated land available in the state so that the vision of the new administration to make the state the food basket of the nation could be realised. The tour also took the team to Oke-I1a in Ifedayo Local Government area of the state where the monarch of the town, ihe Oraogun of Oke I1a, Oba Adedokun Abolarinwa expressed delight at the Governor's initiative. He commended Aregbesola for taking the bull by the horn in the area of employment generation and agriculture. ccording to the monarch, "The present crop of youths is dissatisfied with political, traditional and religious leadership because of backwardness in the society; hence the need for the leaders at all levels to rise to the challenge of meeting the urgent needs created by unemployment and the under-utilisation of human and natural

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The monarch then suggested that the government should encourage the establishment of fruits aod juice cottage industries in his area to tap into some of its agricultural potentials. He lamented that farm produce from the area has been rotting away over the years. Speaking at the palace of the Orangun I1a, Oyintiloye pointed out that the policies and programmes of the present government are geared towards addressing problems of unemployment and under-utilisation of resources especially in agriculture. He added that the Osun Youths Empowerment Scheme (OYES) designed to engage 20,000 youths as well as the planned engagement of local tailors to sew 40,000 kits for the candidates of the scheme were parts of measures to meet the yearning of the masses and boost the economic capacity of local industries. The team also visited Molufon Community in Orolu Local Government area, Igbaye farm and OSAYEP farm centre in Odo Otin Local Government area as well as Ila-Orangun farm settlements and met with farmers who lamented that previous policies of on agriculture have not benefited the real farmers. They however called on the new administration to take timing into co~sideration. hoping that government would be proactive enough to meet their needs. Along the line, questionnaires administered on farmers were collated, a step that further put into perspective, the untold hardships faced by farmers. By setting the machinery in motion to even begin the tour, the state government has kick-started a revolution that promises to make agriculture a major revenue earner.


THISDAY, Vol.16, No. 5783, Page 25