The over dependence on oil over the years relegated the most vibrant agricultural sector to the background in Nigeria. Before the discovery of oil in the 60s, the agric sector of the economy remained the main source of revenue for the country.
As a major branch of the economy, it was the main employer of many in the country, especially in ‘the rural areas as well as providing employment for over 70 percent of the population.
The four regions then – North, East, West and Mid-West, before the creation of states, used to produce crops in large quantities for consumption locally an~ for exportation.
The nation was involved in major crops like beans, sesame, cashew nuts, cassava, cocoa beans, groundnuts, gum Arabic, kolanut, maize (corn), melon, millet, palm kernels, palm oil, plantains, rice, rubber, sorghum, soyabeans and yams, while the most important food crops are yams and cassava in the South and sorghum and millet in the North.
The South West used to be major producer of cocoa and was the leading non-oil foreign exchange earner. This made the country to be self-sufficient in food production prior to the civil war, but increased steeply after 1973.
This has since dropped drastically, as the country started importing food from abroad and neighbouring countries.
But on assumption of office· November 2010, the present administration in Osun State led by Rauf Aregbesola, frowned at the state of agriculture that used to be the mainstay of the state’s economy, engaging 70 percent of its total population then, had been relegated to the background for years.
While promising to transform the sector of the economy that has been neglected for years, the governor assured the people that priority attention would be given to agriculture and food security, promising that his administration would not relent in its effort to invest massively in the sector.
Aregbesola explained that a survey was carried out 0n the sources of food in the state, and indicated that most of the food items consumed in the state were being brought from outside the state.
Declaring that the situation was unacceptable, the governor asserted that mere description of Osun State as an agrarian state was not desirable and must be changed.
According to him, “we discovered that rice imported from Asia flooded the market, meat from Niger Republic and Burkina Faso dominates the market, while most of the fish displayed for sale are imported frozen fish of dubious hygiene and health status.
This is what informed our agriculture policy of giving priority to food production so that we can feed ourselves and even sell excess to other state.”
This also informed the earmarking of N5.6 billion in the 2012 budget to cater for the various programmes that will transform the agric sector in the state.
To achieve the agricultural revolution that is encapsulated in his six-point integral action plan, which seeks to banish hunger and unemployment, and restore healthy living. The first step taken by the present administration was to embark on land validation exercise in the nine farm settlements owned by the state to determine the status of settlers.
After this was done, to facilitate the transportation of agricultural produce from the farms, 49 kilometres access and 25 kilometres feeder roads were constructed during the year to link the Mokore, Esa-Oke, Esa-Odo, Iwo/Patara and OrileOwu/Ago-Owu farm settlements with the urban centres.
More so, 30,000 hectares of land that had been acquired for food production in the state as part of the agriculture policy would soon be transferred to the farmers involved in the scheme, while the administration set up Osun Rural Enterprise and Agriculture Programme (O- REAP) to assist rural farmers.
Through the Osun State Agricultural Corporation, 2,683 hectares of farmland were tractorised for farmers across the state at subsidized rates, while it also prepared 8,000 hectares of farmland and opened up 5,000 hectares of virgin land for fanning across the state in 2012.
For proper disbursement ofN340 million out of the NI billion loan obtained under the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme, a tripartite scheme between the state government, Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) and a scheme manager for the disbursement was set up by the government.
Aregbesola, while promising that a large number of poultry farmers in the state who benefited from the scheme last year would also be able to expand their poultry farms under a well-guaranteed market for their broiler production in the coming year, noted that 66 out of 3,776 registered farmers’ co-operative groups benefited from the Nl53 million loan disbursed by his administration under the Quick Impact intervention Programme (QIIP).
To further boost farming, the state has also disbursed N60 million as grants to Fadama Community Associations and users’ groups. Wale Adedoyin, the state commissioner for agriculture and food security, at the public disbursement, noted that payment of state’s counterpart fund had, been made a priority every year.
While lauding the achievements of the Osun Fadama III project as the best performing state in the South West zone and second best in the country in the just concluded mid-term review mission, the commissioner said “the payment of counterpart fund is the key that opens the door for accessing the World Bank Fund.”
Adedoyin also commended the 20 local government councils participating in the Fadama III project for their timely payment of N2 million yearly counterpart funds.
The national project coordinator of the project, Tayo Adewumi in his address, commended Governor· Aregbesola for the payment of the annual counterpart fund for the state, adding that it was on record that the state government had paid over N200 million so far from project inception to 2011.
To ensure that the distribution of fertilizers get to farmers, the Osun State Fertilizers Distribution and Monitoring Committee developed a comprehensive data of all farmers in the ‘Living Spring’ state.
The committee directed the Osun State Agricultural Development Programme (OSSADEP) to design a one page application form to facilitate fertilizer request by medium- and large-scale farmers, and the form simply designed is made to capture necessary detailed information about prospective farmers who are requesting for fertilizer supply.
This is aimed at preventing middlemen from hijacking the sale of the product, which had led to the diversion of the critical farming input to various markets where they are sold at cut-throat prices.
The committee considered various options including the use of standardized application forms, procurement of certificates and use fertilizer vouchers by those applying for the supply through government stores.
Having noted that the major challenges of fertilizer distribution in the state was that of differentiating fertilizers necessitated by· genuine needs and those aimed at reaping profit from the highly traded commodity, the committee then considered 154 outstanding requests totaling 22,533 bags or 1,126.65 metric tons but resolved to expedite action on supply so as not to jeopardize the interest of genuine farmers and consequently gave 37 approvals of 954 bags of fertilizers. Apart from this, beyond cultivation and harvest, the present administration in Osun State is partnering the Osun farmers to tap into the daily N3.6 billion food market in Lagos State.
The move is aimed at assisting the farmers move their goods to Lagos by rail into designated markets that have been secured for them.
To make this possible, the state government has acquired four locomotives of 40 coaches and 40 wagons to assist farmers and boost the economy of the state by transporting agricultural produce to Lagos through rail line free-of charge, while it has the Nigerian boost the economy of the state by transporting agricultural produce to Lagos through rail line free-of- charge, while it has the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) as the key driver in the project.
According to Aregbesola, we are developing agriculture in Osun State with the aim of making food available and cheap to the people we also target 10 percent of the daily food supply value to Lagos State in a bid to generate money for our state.
“Lagos has a daily food exchange value of about N3.5 billion. That is the daily value of food commodity that exchanges hands in Lagos on a daily basis. If the South-West states take 10 percent each; that is 50 percent altogether. The remaining can be left for other states to supply the governor noted.
Under the plan, farm produce will be better preserved, thus almost virtually eliminating scarcity. This will stabilize food prices and make it easier for low income earners to feed themselves and their, families.
Under the project code- named: Osun-Hub, the state government will provide warehousing facilities for manufactured goods and fresh farm produce, modem marketing facilities, vehicle terminals, including trailer parks, among others, in Osogbo, the state capital.
These facilities are intended to receive manufactured goods brought into the state capital by rail, which buyers from surrounding states and cities could easily buy. Also, farm produce from the state’s various agriculture programmes would be transported to the Lagos market, from Osogbo, using the rail transport system.
As Osun State keys into the Federal Government’s efforts at reviving the agricultural sector, the giant stride taken is expected to liberate the state from the league of states that over-depend on federal subvention to run their’ economy.