Boosting Agric Productivity Through Partnership

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Agriculture in Ogun State has enormous potential to strengthen the economy and improve the lives of farmers.

Some challenges are obstructing the opportunities, but the government is collaborating with international organisations to bridge gaps in supply chains and alleviate the plight of farmers, reports DANIEL ESSIET.

Ogun State government is striving to boost the agricultural sector and promote export growth.

This is as rising demand for food in local and export markets has increased earnings’ prospect for farmers.

Addressing the 2017 National Trade Promotion and Knowledge Fair in Abeokuta, last week, the Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, said increasing the productivity of the state’s farm sector was essential in meeting its economic growth targets and boosting food availability.

Represented by the Commissioner for Agriculture, Mrs. Adepeju Adebajo, Amosun said by supporting agriculture, the state was helping to develop a more-diverse and competitive sector that can create jobs and promote economic growth.

In a state that is highly agrarian, with agriculture accounting for over 70 per cent of the total number of the employed, the governor said it made economic sense for Ogun to develop the sector and encourage greater export.

According to him, agriculture has a bright future and the government is doing all within its powers to tackle issues affecting the competitiveness of the sector, including the cost of doing business, regulation, access to capital and critical infrastructure improvements.

In addition, he said the government was pushing investments in rural areas to increase smallholder productivity and farm incomes by strengthening capacity building, service delivery and market linkages.

He said the theme of the fair “Market and Product Development for Competitive Rice and Cassava Value Chains” was in consonance with the state’s agenda of improved agricultural production.

According to him, value chain is a topical issue in sustaining agriculture and the state will leave no stone unturned in promoting it.

He added: “The issue of agricultural value chain has become topical in the promotion of sustainable agriculture in Nigeria. Agricultural activities should not stop at production level. Consideration should be given to processing and marketing as it prolongs the shelf life of products and guarantee good reward for farmers’ effort.”

The overall efforts of the state, according to him, have been complemented by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which has stepped in to assist. One area, IFAD partnership is helping the state, according to him, is rice and cassava production.

Having fulfilled its counterpart funding for 2014 and 2015 of N124 million, he said the state was able to draw N420 million from the fund.

The fund, he explained, facilitated the capacity building of over 4000 farmers on good agronomic practices, construction of 20km farm access roads in Obafemi-Owode, Ijebu North East and Yewa North Local Government Areas, and building of cassava and rice processing centres.

The fund, he added, enabled the state to provide agro-inputs such as fertiliser, cassava cuttings, rice seeds and herbicides for 3,044 farmers in five local government areas, cassava and rice processing equipment to six farmer organisations in Yewa North, Ijebu North East and Ifo Local Government Areas. The fund, he added, faciliated the development of 500 hectares (ha) of farmland for cassava and rice cultivation across the five local government areas.

He informed the forum that payment of 2016 and 2017 counterpart funding has been approved and released.

The National Programme Coordinator, IFAD-assisted Value Chain Development Programme (IFAD-VCDP), Dr. Ameh Onoja, said the agricultural value chain, included the set of actors and activities required to bring agricultural products from production to consumption, including processing, storage, transportation, marketing, and retail.

Onoja underscored that food security remained a critical issue , given expected population rise.

According to him, the programme presents an opportunity to reduce pockets of poverty and build the capacity of smallholder farmers to move from subsistence farming to commercial market-driven agriculture.

The programme, he explained, seeks to address multiple problems faced by farmers and rural households through a set of integrated, consolidated, and area-specific interventions responding to local constraints and opportunities.

Specific interventions, he maintained, included strengthening farmers’ groups and building their technical and business capacities; increasing the productivity of food and high-value crops through improved agri-inputs and technologies, and enhancing access to markets for farmers.

He said the programme is ready to support the Ogun State government‘s strategic plan of improving food security and agriculture productivity.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe, who was represented by his Special Assistant on Technical Quality Control, Mrs. HectarAkani praised Ogun State government for keying into its agricultural policies especially in the areas of cassava and rice value chain development programme.

The minister said the objective of the fair was in line with the Federal Government’s plan to boost agricultural market and increase waste to wealth through cassava value chain.

Special Adviser to the Governor of Ogun State on agriculture, Mr. Akin Lawson said IFAD and the state government are working topromote and make the state a leading destination in the national rice andcassava production.

A long-term vision for Ogun State agriculture, according to him, is to move towards more value added, productive and competitive agriculture to ensure that farm incomes continue to grow.