Life Returns To Ekiti Farms

October 18, 2012

Gov Fayemi has laid new foundation for agric, says commissioner

Across Ekitiland these days, exciting things are happening on the farms. And if the vegetables, cassava, rice and other crops scattered around the newly resuscitated farm settlements in Orin, Iyemero, Ikun and other places in the state could talk, they’ll tell you that the refreshing transformation is being driven by the Kayode Fayemi administration. That, of course, would be nothing but the truth.

From time immemorial, Ekiti has been an agrarian enclave. Since when their forebears migrated from Ile-Ife and settled amidst the hilly terrains of Ekitiland, agriculture has remained, for the rural folks, more than a pathway to economic empowerment. Blessed with fertile lands and a clement climate, agriculture soon became a burning passion, a way of life. In the old Western Region, for instance, it is known that Ekiti land offered more than 40 per cent of the entire cocoa products of that era.

A few towns in Ekiti land are even named after some food crops! Ijesa-Isu, for instance, simply translates, Ijesa of yams! But over the years, just as it happened in many other sectors of the economy all over Nigeria, the agriculture potentials of Ekiti were abandoned. Thick thistles invaded the flourishing farms, and the crops simply disappeared. In no time, agriculture in Ekiti fell into a coma and died. Totally bereft of ideas that could rid their state of its beggarly attitude, some past leaders of the state just forgot the farms, electing to line up perpetually for the paltry funds from Abuja.

But a new breeze is blowing all over the land. Across Ekiti, life is gradually returning to the farms, courtesy of the current administration in the state. And as the Kayode Fayemi administration celebrates its second year in office this week, the government can give itself a pat on the back for deciding to get back to the basics in its resolve to banish poverty that has for long ravaged its people. Babajide Arowosafe, an agriculturist and agric administrator, is Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources in Ekiti State.

He explains that the government of Kayode Fayemi has been working on unleashing the commercial potential of agriculture in Ekiti. He tells Daily Sun that the government has been doing a lot in the area of production and of course, getting markets for the products turned out in the state. “What we’ve done is to lay the foundation,” Arowosafe informs. “If you look at the eight-point agenda, you will realise that it is in number three, which relates to agriculture, that we have specifics.

We said we would create 20, 000 jobs using agric as a platform for job creation, and in terms of our internally generated revenue, we said we would contribute 50 per cent. We also said we want to become the world leaders in cocoa, oil palm and cassava, rice and vegetables, which can actually do very well here.” As proof of its passion for agriculture development, the government acquired thousands of hectares of land and got them ready for agricultural purposes. Vast lands were acquired and cleared in different parts of the state, including Oke-Ako, Iyemero and Irele.

More were cleared and made ready at Iyemero area for irrigated agriculture, designed to be used for dry season crops. The government also expanded the Ero Dam for irrigation purposes. The security challenges bedevilling parts of Northern Nigeria, especially bombings by the Boko Haram sect, led to a scarcity of food items in the southern parts of the country, including Ekiti. But it was also some kind of blessing. The commissioner explains that the state was forced to try out some seeming impossibilities, which led to a number of revealing results. “Early in the year, prices of vegetables just skyrocketed. So when I came in, we said we should try vegetables in some of the farms.

It became an eye opener. We discovered that we could grow peppers, tomatoes, onions, carrots and other crops. We discovered that they are even better than what we have from some parts of the North. So, we are just setting the pace for huge productions now. We have some of these vegetables at Gede farm settlement. Just recently, we discovered that water melons can grow very well here. What that tells you is that Ekiti State is beginning to plan for possible export of vegetables.

It will take one year for us to get the certificate that is required for us to do that from the relevant federal agencies, but we have started the process.” One of the initiatives being applauded, not just in Ekiti but across the country, is the Youth Commercial Agricultural Development (Y-CAD) programme, through which the Fayemi government has been stimulating the interest of the young ones in commercial agriculture. “What we just did was to create a programme that would cause a crowding in of youths into agriculture and sustain them within that particular state,” he noted.

And the programme is achieving results, declares the commissioner. At its inception, some people had expressed scepticism at the programme, saying youths could never be lured into agriculture. Such doubts have since evaporated, as the programme has continued to astonish many people with its success. Designed to take 1, 500 youths off the labour market, Y-CAD (Youths for Commercial Agricultural Development) was also programmed to turn the farm settlements across the state into centres of excellence in agricultural production as well as ensure an all-year production of cash crops.

Participants are engaged in the production of rice, cassava, vegetables, oil palm and cocoa. Government also made available an enabling environment for the youths interested in the programme. Today, Y-CAD is adjudged a huge success in all ramifications. “Right now, the participants in the programme are 150 on the arable side alone,” says Arowosafe. “They are on the farms, doing cassava for the government.

They are not just doing cassava one hectare; they are doing five hectares, 10 hectares, 15 hectares.” Those recruited were given training in agro-business start up and management, during which they were tutored in the commercial production of high value crops including rice, cassava, oil palm and cocoa. The programme was launched on April 12 this year, by the state governor, alongside the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. The government gave the participants access to land and access to credit facilities. But it’s not the usual way of doing things where you would cut some land for the people to farm.

What the government did was to invest heavily in opening up land for agriculture to thrive. “In the past, what government did was to procure tractors, and then say, ‘we’re developing agriculture.’ But Governor Fayemi said no, we must first make the land tractor-able. So we opened up lands. We also deal directly with manufacturers of fertilizers and agrochemicals. And each Y-CAD participant is entitled to an expandable credit facility of N1.4million minimum. It’s performance-based, which means you can get up to N50 million if you are performing.

So, if you do five hectares and you spend N500, 000, and you want to expand it to 10 hectares, you have that facility. So the limit is endless so far as you can perform on the field.” Besides the direct participants, many more people are also being engaged under the programme. Those who work with the participants on the farms are indirect beneficiaries of the programme. Overall, the programme would take 1, 500 youths off the labour market. 7000 hectares of cassava plantation has been established already, while an additional 1000 is being prepared for additional cassava production at a total cost of N280million. A huge cassava processing factory has been established at Orin.

The British America Tobacco Nigeria Foundation and FADAMA III project are also collaborating to construct a million dollar cassava cottage industry in the state. The factory is expected to hire about 3, 450 women and youths. In other areas of agric too, the administration has not fared badly. Cocoa production has been resuscitated, and the farmers are just too happy. The government also initiated the Cocoa Growth Enhancement Programme, where 15,000 farmers are supported with agro-chemicals and fertilizer worth N46, 000 each.

Already, 150, 000 cocoa seedlings have been distributed to cocoa farmers, and the government plans to raise 500,000 cocoa seedlings for next year. The government is also doing a lot to transform the oil palm business in the state. And on the rice farms, a lot of positive things are happening. Right now, over 200 farmers have been trained in modern rice production. It is learnt that over 750 hectares of rice have been cultivated, costing the government N58million.

Ekiti is also involved in several projects that promote and develop agriculture. These include the National Programme for Food Security (NPFS), Root and Tuber Expansion Programme (RTEP) and the New Rice for Africa Dissemination Project, among others.

This article was first published in The Sun on 18 October 2012.

Last modified: October 18, 2012

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