What existed in the agricultural sector in Ekiti State before the Governor Kayode Fayemi-administration came on board was a grim opposite of what modernised agriculture should be. Only old people seemed interested in farming and it was mainly subsistence farming. The state Ministry of Agriculture was just an office building involved more in civil service bureaucracy than in turning around the agriculture sector in the state. To underscore this failure, between 1996 when Ekiti State was created and 2010 when Dr John Kayode Fayemi (JKF) assumed office, the state government never cultivated more 350 hectares of land combined in a year. This is not to say that there were no beautiful agriculture policies, but these policies took their life and form only on paper. This, no doubt, adversely affected productivity in the sector. A once thriving agrarian state became a thriving market for farm produce from other states.
The Fayemi administration, well aware of the situation, made the modernisation of agriculture one of its 8-point agenda. However, the situation looked worse than imagined upon assuming office. The Fayemi administration had to quickly carry out a precise surgical operation in the sector if any meaningful achievements were to be recorded.
The first step was to incentivize youth, the most productive sector of the Nigerian population, into farming, build a base for tractorisation and also look at major commodities like rice, cocoa, oil palm and cassava to see how government could intervene.
The need to inject fresh blood into farming birthed the Youths in Commercial Agriculture Development (YCAD) programme which was also designed to create employment for youth. Each of the 150 participants in the scheme employed between four to six people as labour. That is between 600 and 900 extra jobs provided.
The youth were provided with expendable credit facility and all the input needed to do commercial agriculture. The story took another dimension in 2012 as almost 1, 200 hectares of cassava, the largest in Nigeria in that year, were cultivated. This figure dropped to 700 in 2013 due to land constraints, so the Ekiti State Government had to embark on opening up 2, 000 hectares of land. This will be more appreciated when one realised that the Federal Government has been battling with opening up just 15,000 hectares of land across the country.
The large scale cassava cultivation makes Ekiti the state with the highest cultivation of cassava in Nigeria. Before the Fayemi administration came on board, farmers were selling their cassava tubers in trickles, but the situation has since changed with the increase in cultivation. Over 400 days (more than a year) would still be required to harvest the the remainder of the cassava planted last year in Ekiti. This monumental turn-around has attracted institutional buyers such as Thai Farms (the largest processor of cassava in Nigeria), Nigeria Starch Mills in Ihiala, amongst others to Ekiti State. One of the ripple effects of this, apart from the money being made by the YCAD participants, is an increase in the IGR of the local governments where these cassava farms are located as they regularly collect taxes from the buyers whenever they come to truck the cassava.
Just as the aquaculture unit, the YCAD poultry has also recorded tremendous achievements. Ekiti State hitherto did not have comparative advantage in poultry production, hence the need to aggressively force such to happen. The State Government had to acquire moribund poultry facilities for this purpose. Initially, live birds were being trucked out of the state as far as Lagos State, but in 2013 the Fayemi administration initiated a processing facility at Erinfun, along Federal Polytechnic road in Ado-Ekiti.
As I write, the processing of 27,000 birds were just completed and 1.2 metric tonnes were supplied to Ondo State on Tuesday, 25 February, 2014. Besides the achievement of selling processed birds for the first time since Ekiti was created in 1996, the state government has captured the local market and is making inroad into neighbouring states such as Ondo State.
The plan is to hit between 100, 000 and 150, 000 processed birds every two weeks and the state has its sight set on the Abuja market.
Another noticeable anomaly in the agriculture sector when Dr. Kayode Fayemi assumed office was that Ekiti which used to be known as a state of tree crops had gone from bad to worse so much so that it didn’t have seedlings to give to farmers. The Fayemi administration immediately established 18 nursery points across the state in towns such as Ado, Emure, Ikole, Ise, Igbara-Odo, among others and tasked the YCAD youths to nurse tree crops on a commercial basis. In 2013, 300, 000 cocoa seedlings were nursed and 210, 000 oil palm seedlings which would be distributed to farmers during this year’s rainy season are being raised. The target this year is to nurse 1 million cocoa seedlings and 500, 000 oil palm. Already, 500, 000 out of the one million cocoa seedlings targeted in 2014 had been nursed. Under the cocoa cultivation expansion programme of the Fayemi-led administration, close to 100, 000 hectares of cocoa were cultivated last year.
The hitherto existing farmers in Ekiti are not left out of the total turn-around in the agriculture sector as they are being supported with 50% subsidy. In all, 130, 000 farmers are currently being supported. A loan facility of N600 million, partly contributed by the Bank of Agriculture and the Fayemi administration, has also being made available to the Farmers’ Cooperative.
Few weeks ago, someone asked if the Minister of Agriculture, Akinwumi Adesina, was from Ekiti State. His question was borne out of the perception that the Minister of Agriculture, despite working for a PDP-led Federal Government, seems to have a good working relationship with the Ekiti State Government. My answer to him was that Dr Akinwumi Adesina is from Ogun State, but beyond where he hails from, success has many relations.
Having been to Ekiti to see how the Fayemi-led administration had turned around an almost dead sector into an envy-generating wonder, Dr Adesina, who is himself a professional above the usual pedestrian politicking in the country, cannot but identify with the gargantuan achievements of the Fayemi administration in the agriculture sector.
When Dr. Fayemi listed ‘Modernising Agriculture’ as the sixth item on his 8-point agenda, not a few felt it was the usual fruitless proclamations of government about agriculture in Nigeria, but as in every other sector, the Kayode Fayemi administration has walked its talk and has earned the people’s trust that it is not only capable of making promises, but also ably capable of fulfilling all its promises.
By Dimeji Daniels
This article was first published in The Nigerian Tribune on Tuesday, 11th March 2014.
Last modified: March 12, 2014