Regional economic growth is needed to reduce poverty and improve food security in the Southwest, some experts have said.
They spoke at the Southwest Agriculture Summit (SWAS) held at the Civic Centre in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
Its aim was to bring together states in the region to consolidate growth in the sector.
The theme was Achieving an agro-powered regional economy.
Stakeholders said harnessing regional strength in farming and food production would enhance sufficiency in the region.
The event was co-hosted by governors Rauf Aregbesola (Osun); Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos); Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo); Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti) and Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun).
Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission Director-General Dipo Famakinwa stressed the need for stakeholders to approach the agriculture revitalisation effort from a prism of ‘One Bloc” as advocated by the commission.
According to him, it is only by working together that the states could maximally deploy and benefit from their vast agricultural potential.
He noted that the political leadership of the region was developing a strategy to deliver sustainable agri-food resilience, encompassing the whole farming spectrum from arable, horticulture, livestock, value from waste and innovative end-user training.
Declaring the event open, Ajimobi stated it was essential for stakeholders to discuss the survival strategy for the region. “Now is the time to go back and reconnect with our glorious heritage. Now is the time to let go of our terrible dependence on the unsustainable oil and gas resources – two commodities with expiry date”, he said.
Aregbesola said the forum would allow for knowledge sharing on regional policies that could be adopted to foster synergy and further improve the agricultural value chain. “As a matter of fact, what is happening here today is that the states and other practitioners and stakeholders have opted to share lessons on what has worked and what has not with a view to seeing how some of these success stories can lend themselves to a region-wide adoption,” Aregbesola said.
In his keynote address, Senior Lecturer, Lagos Business School, Dr Doyin Salami, gave an overview of the state of agriculture in Nigeria with emphasis on the Southwest.
He noted that oil had failed the nation and it was high time the country developed agriculture to ensure economic diversification.
He said Nigeria scored 39 per cent in food security matters in the Global Food Security Index, while Mexico and Brazil scored 65 per cent and 69 per cent.
In the past, he said, 70 per cent of Nigerians were involved in agriculture. But today, 97 per cent of foreign earnings are from oil.
In 2013, he said Nigeria earned over $80 billion from oil. However, this year, the estimated income would not exceed $30 billion. Nevertheless, there’s hope in agriculture as one of the five sectors that will continue to grow despite the recession. He also stated that there were three requirements to ensure that the system was revitalised. These include: human capital, availability of technology and resources.
He praised AgroNigeria and the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission for the epoch-making event.
Senior Technical Adviser to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Ms Cynthia Mosunmola Umoru noted that oil, which had beclouded Nigeria’s planning process, would soon dry up. She lamented that Nigeria as a country has forgotten her heritage. ‘’When that oil which is taking our attention dries up, then we will think and concentrate on the most important alternative,” said Umoru, who is also a farmer.
The Chief Executive, AgroNigeria, Mr Richard-Mark Mbaram, expressed that it became necessary to hold such a summit in the spirit of agricultural renaissance in the country. ‘’We have gathered experts and stakeholders in agribusiness to brainstorm and discuss agriculture. The ultimate objective is to trigger a new development paradigm that will really have the sub-national governments and institutions have a major contribution in the con-ceptualisation, formation and implementation process of our country’s agricultural policies”.
The AgroNigeria boss pointed out that the private sector is also being galvanised to “play a more involved role in auditing policy implementation in agriculture by identifying the stress areas and proffering realistic and practical solution to same”.
Facilitator, Agric and Food Security Policy Commission of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) Alhaji Fatai Afolabi, explained the different partnership models within which agribusiness can thrive.
He noted that privatisation if properly done, holds the key to turning erstwhile moribund agri-businesses in the southwest into viable entities – citing Okomu Oil Palm Company and the Okitipupa Oil Palm Companies as instances