In the 1960s, before oil became a major source of revenue, Nigeria used to be one of the most promising agricultural producers in the world. Cocoa, oil palm, and groundnut were some of the agricultural produce that fetched Nigeria a majority of its foreign income. Agricultural communities thrived as they produced food not only for local consumption but also for export. All that changed with the discovery of oil in commercial quantity as agriculture and farming communities were left to rot.
A World Bank Senior Agriculture Economist, Adetunji Oredipe, on September 6, said Nigeria’s neglect of the agricultural sector costs the country about $10 billion annually.
In an effort to tackle the problem, in April, the former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, advised Nigerian youth to deepen their interest in farming before struggling for political positions.
However, one factor that could deter young people from farming is if they look at the fate that befell the farmers and farming communities that thrived in the 50s and 60s.
One of such communities is Olorunda in Oyo West Local Government Area of Oyo State. It is one of the major ‘garri’ producing communities in Nigeria but has never had electricity. That was arguably normal in the 1950s and 60s, but the situation has remained the same in the 21st century.
Olorunda’s problem is not just the lack of electricity, the only major road that leads there has also been destroyed by years of neglect and lack of repairs.
The community is now about an hour drive (120 kilometres) from the nearest motorable road.
Lack of electricity and motorable road are joined by the absence of a school and functional health centre for the thousands of residents of Olorunda, majority of whom are cassava farmers and garri processors.
Garri is a staple food in Nigeria and many other sub-Saharan African countries.
Garri production involves the peeling of cassava, grinding of the cassava, extracting water from the grounded cassava with the use of a jack and frying the extracted grains.
In 1989, the government of General Ibrahim Babangida provided a garri processing factory to help Olorunda residents add value to their cassava. The factory had its own power generator. But the facility was no longer functioning at the time PREMIUM TIMES visited the community in August with residents saying that had been so for over a decade.
Despite the situation in Olorunda, the community still continues to be a major source of garri from residents of Oyo and other South-west states in Nigeria. Our reporter observed hundreds of vehicles with farmers sitting atop conveying yam, cassava, processed garri and other agricultural produce from the community to Oyo town for sale.
Despite the community’s agricultural prospect, residents say they have never had electricity. Many residents of the community lack the knowledge of what a television, electric bulb or even refrigerator looks like.
As a first timer in the community, the presence of electric poles, a transformer and electric cables may suggest that Olorunda has in the recent past had electricity but these are mere ‘decorations’.
PREMIUM TIMES findings revealed that the electric poles, transformer and cables were brought in the year 2000 during the regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo. Then, the community felt their years of darkness would soon come to an end, but that remains a dream.