By Funmi Branco
There is something unique about quality: it speaks for itself. This fact was quite evident when, recently, the Ogun State governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, again carted home the Governor of The Year gong in agriculture. Abiodun, who came top at the 2020 edition of the award organised by the Nigeria Agricultural Award (NAA), was celebrated at the ceremony of the Feed Nigeria Summit held at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja. And he did not hold back on his administration’s intent on a paradigm shift in the sector: “In line with our resolve to partner with the private sector and provide enabling environment for investments and agribusinesses, we have become the world’s epicenter as a dependable host and partner, especially with the government initiative of establishing a cargo airport to supplement the Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone (SAPZ) of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and other donor-funded projects, including the IFAD/FGN Value Chain Development Project (VCDP), in which our state has recorded tremendous success with 12,000 beneficiaries supported with technology, inputs, and credit.”
The governor, apprising the gathering with the anticipated gains of the cargo airport that his administration intends to deliver to global agricultural value chain actors and players next year, posited that his government had a firm belief in inclusive agricultural opportunities that would not cut out smallholder farmers, youths and women. The agenda, according to him, is to increase support to smallholder farmers and ensure job creation, food and nutrition security, agricultural industrialisation and linkage of growers/farmers to the industrial process, in an innovative value chain approach. He added: “Ogun is the largest egg and broiler producer, largest producer and exporter of lemongrass oil, largest hub for aquaculture in West Africa (according to FAO) and many others…The Ogun State Economic Transformation Project (OGSTEP) aimed at supporting 40,000 smallholder farmers and Nigeria COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (N-CARES) are two major World Bank Projects that are fully operational in the State to support our Agricultural Agenda. The Agro-Processing, Agricultural Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement (APPEALS) Project is another World Bank project that is in view.”
This, apparently, is great stuff. When he was decorated as Best Governor of the Year award in agriculture last year, it was for the various milestones that his administration had reached in such a short while, including its integrated approach to production, processing and marketing through land provisions/inputs distribution, processing and marketing with individuals and corporate organisations. He was honoured for supporting 40,000 smallholder farmers with inputs such as seeds, cassava cutting, insecticide and herbicide during the 2020 planting season; giving 10,000 farmers fertilizers, palliatives and continued support across the state; supporting young farmers with over 900 hectares of land preparation in 17 locations, with some 2,500 unemployed youths and farmers engaging in cassava production; setting up strategic partnerships with international development partners and farmers in large-scale cultivation of rice and cassava in 36 locations in 11 local government areas, and empowering 54 pilot youths in broiler production with each making a profit of at least N150,000 per cycle for three cycles.
The panel of assessors were awed by the linkage of 4,462 participants to inputs and credit to the tune of N700m in the cassava value chain, and the linkage of 1,065 participants to inputs and credit to the tune of N300m in the rice value chain. They applauded the linkage of 800 participants to inputs and credit to the tune of N360 million under the Ogun State Government/Federal Government/IFAD Assisted Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP), with 394 maize farmers, 54 rice farmers and 21 poultry farmers benefitting from the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) through the CBN. They saw the point in the construction of14 solar-powered water schemes in select local government areas, and the establishment of a rice processing centre in Eggua.
The list of interventions were countless: the CBN Cassava 5-Star Programme, Cocoa Development Initiative and Oil Palm Expansion Programme, FG/Ogun/IFAD Assisted Value Chain Development Programme for over 3,000 farmers in 11 local government areas; the World Bank COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (CARES) Project; World Bank-Assisted Agro-Processing, Agricultural Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement (APPEALS) Project; EU/GIZ/Federal Government/Lagos State/Ogun State Nigeria Competitiveness Project (NICOP) for 3,000 farmers including youths, in tomato and chilli pepper value chains; International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)’s technological innovations and support to farming and related activities, including technical backstopping, demonstration farms and enterprise development in Ogun State.
The Ogun State Economic Transformation Programme (OGSTEP) targeted at empowering over 40,000 farmers took off even as the administration concluded plans to link farmers with tractors, planting material palliatives and help them reduce production cost. An Ogun-Kebbi Joint Commision on Rice Production came into the matrix. And what’s more, out came the Agro-Cargo Airport at Illisan-Remo in Ikenne local government area of the state, a phenomenal facility scheduled for completion by May next year. The point is to aid the development of the state as a destination of choice for agriculture in the country. As is well known, Ogun holds comparative advantage in arable crops like cassava, yam, maize, sweet potato, and cash crops like cocoa, oil palm, timbre, kolanut, cashew and rubber. But much more has been done since last year.
Last month, the Ogun State Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. Adeola Odedina, joined officials of Fan Milk Plc (Danone), CBN and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on a study tour of Danone Dairy and Stakeholder Facility in Cairo, Egypt. The study tour is a prelude to the commissioning and opening of the dairy facilities at Odeda Farm Institute, which is under construction. Prior to the tour, the French Ambassador to Nigeria, Jérôme Pasquier and his team paid a scheduled visit to agricultural investment locations in Ogun State on August 10th. In any case, a leading commodity player, AFEX, is already partnering with the agricultural investment company, South-West Agriculture Company (SWAgCo) and Ogun State for the development of 5,000 hectares for the production of multi-crops in the South-West geopolitical zone. Focus crops for the partnership include cassava, rice, and maize. As Dr. Odedina noted: “Our agricultural agenda as a state continues to be bold and exemplary, and this agreement is a very important step in that agenda. Together with AFEX and SWAgCo, we are creating a staple crop zone as a vital part of the execution of the Special Agro-Industrial Zone (SAPZ) for the state, being developed in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) and the African Development Bank (AfDB).” AFEX will deploy its exchange platform to raise financing for the project and enable market access for the produce derived from the project.
That’s not all: an integrated farm estate, garri packaging plant and a 200-trainee soil-testing programme are in the offing. The administration has signed a good number of MoUs with national and international development partners such as IITA, HarvestPlus and a host of other private sector partners on private sector-led initiatives, providing the necessary trust needed by investors. Although the interventions mentioned here are only a fraction of what is currently ongoing in Ogun State, they provide sufficient ground for concluding that as far as agriculture is concerned, the Abiodun-led administration is poised to take the state to the next level.
*Branco contributes this piece through firstname.lastname@example.org