Towards food security in Osun
By Ibrahim Adefajo
Despite the enormous attention that crude oil production is receiving in Nigeria, agriculture still has an important role in the economic development of the country. The discovery of oil in the early precipitated the decline in the attention given to agriculture in Nigeria.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, agriculture contributed about 21.2 per cent and 22.12per cent to the nominal GDP in 2018 and 2019 respectively. This sector currently employs almost 70 percent of the working population, serving as the largest economic activity in the rural areas. Furthermore, the sector has a plethora of untapped resources for booming economic growth and development with the availability of fertile land, water and labour.
It is quite bewildering why successive governments have yet to harness these vast potentials of agriculture. For emphasis, agriculture will help to reduce hunger and poverty, create more jobs, improve standard of living, increase IGR, and stimulate economic sustainability.
The ongoing effort of the Federal Government to place a ban on the importation of foods in ensuring the effectiveness of local production has been a good step in the right direction and it has also yielded the much-desired result of local production and consumption of our food items. This is indicative of the enormous relevance of agriculture to Nigeria’s economic growth and sustainability.
Over the years, the Osun State government has demonstrated unflinching commitment and support to the agricultural sector in the state through different initiatives and programmes. The notable ones are O-Reap, O-Hub, O-Beef, O-Livestock, O-Bops and Osun State Agricultural Development Projects (OSSADEP). The O-Reap initiative facilitated the allocation of lands to farmers and interested individuals in the state with a view to boosting agricultural production.
This initiative also extends its reach to the predominant subsectors of agriculture in the state which include fishery, livestock, crops and forestry. But the agricultural sector in Osun State is still bedevilled by a plethora of challenges, ranging from low level of support from private investors in large-scale farming, shortage of modern farming equipment for large-scale farming, insufficient farm inputs, low productivity, land degradation and lack of adequate funding.
In 2019, the sector got 2.4 percent of the state’s annual budget while there was a slight increase in the 2020 budget with 3.82 percent. The 2021 budgetary allocation for agriculture was 5.75 per cent. It is my contention from the foregoing that there can still be more commitment in the budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector in order to boost the agrarian based economy of Osun State.
Argument has been advanced to the effect that if Osun State is to be an industrialised state, the development of agriculture is highly inevitable. Therefore, the government must implement the proposed Nine Farm Settlements, with a broad-based agricultural development of livestock, crops and fisheries through robust farm service centres.
Furthermore, food security has the capacity to provide enough food at all times to the entire state or nation. Food is a necessity of life, which is predicated on accelerated development in the agricultural sector. The adequate supply of food on the national scale is a joint task involving the governments at the Federal and State levels.
Food security implies availability, access and utilisation. To achieve food security in the state, the government must implement policies and programmes geared towards availability of foods, preventing food price volatility, provision of funding to increase productive capacities and the consolidation of internal security mechanisms for farmers amidst insecurity.
Training and empowerment programme by the state government: One of the fallouts of the pandemic is an unprecedented increase in the demand for food in Nigeria and the world at large. It is safe to submit that after the pandemic, the agricultural sector will be one of the most booming sectors in Nigeria. What this means is that the federal and state governments must show appreciable commitment to it by providing funds to concerned stakeholders in this sector.
Therefore, it is highly imperative for the state government of Osun, private organisations and relevant stakeholders to organise intensive training programmes in various subsectors in agriculture such as livestock, crops and fisheries for interested individuals. Not only that, the government must also empower the trainees with relevant equipment after the intensive training.
Also, under the training and empowerment programme, there should be a special training on soil analysis; this is because venturing into crop and livestock production requires in-depth knowledge of the soil condition or soil test analysis.
Granting of loans to the small, medium and large-scale farm enterprises: The government should provide agricultural credit facilities through the Bank of Agriculture and other financial institutions with a reasonable interest rate for farmers. Also, there must be a corresponding means of marketing with a good road network.
Provision of transportation and limiting of restrictions on the transit of agricultural produce from farms to their final destinations: The government should ensure that there is free transit of agricultural products from their point of production to their targeted destinations as this tends to improve supply.
Increasing the funding of the Ministry of Agriculture in the state to provide storage facilities for some agricultural products: There is an urgent need to increase the funding of this ministry in order to provide storage and processing facilities across the local government areas in the state. If this provision is, however, capital intensive, a central storage facility for all farmers can be provided instead. This is a viable way of booming the economic activity of the state with enough consumption at the local level and higher production on the larger scale: an increase in exportation of agricultural products to the neighbouring states in the country. Any investment in the agricultural sector needs a corresponding market to get the value for investment. Achieving this will of course contribute immensely to the revenue of the state.
Monitoring and patronage of the farm products by the government: Government, citizens of the state and organisations must patronise local farm produce. The ultimate consumers are the aforementioned relevant stakeholders. This must be a collective effort in promoting local farm products in the state.
If these recommendations, coupled with the existing framework and blueprints of the state government, are properly implemented with the political will of the government, the pathway to economic prosperity is very certain, and there is a plethora of opportunities with immense benefits for the state in the realisation of sustainable economic growth and development.
Ibrahim Adefajo can be reached through email@example.com