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For Lagos agribusiness, better days are here

By Gbenga Akinfenwa
08 August 2021   |   4:20 am
Lagos State is adjudged the smallest state in the country by landmass, lacking the large tracts of land available to other states for cultivation of crops and agriculture.

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu test-driving a tractor at the flag-off of the 2021 Agricultural Value Chains Enterprise Activation programme at Police College, Ikeja.

Lagos State is adjudged the smallest state in the country by landmass, lacking the large tracts of land available to other states for cultivation of crops and agriculture.
And though it accounts for 20 per cent of food production, the disruption in the food supply chain across the country, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the outbreak of zoonotic diseases, coupled with the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests, impacted heavily on the cost and availability of food items, leaving less disposable income in the pockets of average Lagosians.
This development has however renewed the state’s vigour and vision to increase its food production to, at least, 50 per cent by 2025, thereby creating new opportunities to feed itself, Nigeria, as well as stimulating economic growth and prosperity through agriculture.

One of the steps towards realising this vision was the initiative of empowering farmers, considered as a commitment to the development and expansion of the agricultural sector, driven by a “farm to table” model that aligns with its goal of making the state a truly 21st century economy.
During the flag-off of distribution of agricultural productive assets and inputs under the 2021 Agricultural Value Chains Enterprise Activation Programme last week, 3,000 farmers, comprising women, youths and vulnerable Lagosians, were supported with equipment and agricultural input to help them make a significant difference in the quality and scale of their agricultural practices.
The beneficiaries received tractors, ploughs, fishing boats and gear; harvesters, threshers, destoning machines, de-feathering machines, medication, herbicides, fish juveniles, pig growers, smoking kilns, eggs and other various implements and input, in farming communities across the agricultural zones of Badagry, Epe and Ikorodu. 
At the event, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu explained that the interventions cut across a wide range of participants in the agricultural value chain: farmers, processors and merchants of fish, poultry, pig, as well as rice and other crops. 
He said: “The goal is simple: we want to make life easier for our farmers and agriculture workers. We want to make it easier for them to clear their land, grow high-quality crops, raise healthy animals, and process their output. When they are able to do this successfully, everyone benefits, from producers to consumers. There are clear benefits in terms of health, productivity, employment, and so on. 
“I am pleased to note that Lagos State Government has put in place a strategy for the proper utilisation and continuous maintenance of these assets, to ensure that we derive maximum value from them. We are also working with a financial institution, regarding appropriate financing structures for the guaranteed sustainability of the programme.”
While noting that the state has emerged wiser and more determined to succeed in creating and nurturing a viable agribusiness sector, Sanwo-Olu said: “We may be Nigeria’s smallest state by landmass, lacking the large tracts of land available to others, but we will not allow that to stand in the way of our vision. 
“We will maximise the little we have, while also deploying the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit we are known for, to create new opportunities to feed ourselves and feed Nigeria, and create economic growth and prosperity through agriculture.
“Recently, we launched the Lagos State five-year Agricultural and Food System Development Road Map, aimed at charting a focused and coordinated path for the desired development of the sector.”
Sanwo-Olu said the implementation of this year’s intervention is aimed at consolidating ongoing ambitious and determined efforts towards the development and expansion of the entire Lagos State agricultural sector.
“You may have noticed that the programme has taken on a new format, different from what it used to be; and it has also undergone a change of name, into the Agricultural Value Chains Enterprise Activation Programme. We believe this new name will constantly remind beneficiaries that what we are doing is actually activating new business ventures for them, which means that they must reciprocate by working hard to nurture their businesses to maturity. It is only when today’s beneficiaries succeed that the programme can stand the chance of being sustainable. 
“So, by putting in your best today, and judiciously utilising the assets entrusted to you, what you are doing is opening doors for more people to benefit tomorrow. You were all selected on merit, so you are clearly all people who can deliver excellent results with these equipment and supplies you are receiving today,” he said.
The Commissioner for Agriculture, Abisola Olusanya, who said 13,976 persons have benefitted since the programme started in 2014, explained that it was the government’s desire to help committed farmers nurture their businesses into viable and mature agricultural enterprises through a deliberate monitoring and control mechanism.

According to her, team accountability has been put in place to ensure the proper utilisation of assets, which has resulted in the collaboration with Ecobank for the fisheries value chain, and the MSME Accountant Initiative of the Ministry of Finance for the Lagos Agripreneurship Programme (LAP) and Agricultural Youth Empowerment Scheme (Agric-YES) beneficiaries.

“These strategies are in addition to the window of opportunities that will be created for youth engagement as articulated in the Lagos State Agricultural and Food Systems Roadmap in the next five years.

“In the long run, it is envisaged that these efforts, and many others in the agriculture ecosystem will enable the state transit from being a food consumer to a major food producer, especially in fisheries, piggery, poultry production and coconut value chains, where it has a strong comparative and competitive advantage,” Olusanya said.

One of the beneficiaries, Omilani Oyegunle from Epe, who lauded the state government’s gesture, said the state is on its way to becoming sufficient in food production, especially with the provision of fishing boats to them to enhance the fish value chain in the state.

“This is worth emulating by other states, especially those in the Southwest. If farmers are empowered, we’ll be able to produce what we eat and not rely on food from the North. This is a good move towards making Lagos self-sufficient in food production.”

A member of the Pig Farmers Association, David Ogunmuyiwa, who lamented that the pig value chain was greatly impacted by zoonotic disease during the COVID-19 pandemic, said the gesture would make them to bounce back from losses incurred during the period.