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Ondo: Farmers demand more support from government

By Oluwaseun Akingboye
17 July 2016   |   1:26 am
Aside the lethargic attitude of the state government towards improving agricultural output, the farmers are facing serious challenges, which are not only negatively impacting on their livelihood, but also forcing them out of business.
Women farmers

Women farmers

If the recent warning by farmers, under the aegis of the Ondo State Agricultural Commodities Association (OSACA), of an imminent scarcity of food in the state is anything to go by, then government needs to brace up to forestall whatever might further worsen the already bad situation.

Aside the lethargic attitude of the state government towards improving agricultural output, the farmers are facing serious challenges, which are not only negatively impacting on their livelihood, but also forcing them out of business.

Maize, soya, cocoa and palm oil plantations in the state are in ruins, likewise fishponds and bee farms, all of which run into several billions of naira, as the farmers lick their wounds helplessly. The farmers’ travails arise mainly from three angles: Recurrent menace of Fulani herdsmen, climate change and an outbreak of armyworm.

Chief Akin Olotu, chairman, OSACA said farmers in the state are currently receiving three deadly punches and if these continue unabated, “then one doesn’t need to be a prophet to know that famine is looming large in this part of the country.”

Olotu blamed erratic rainfall pattern, which Nigeria Meteorological Institute (NIMET) had earlier predicted, plus other natural disasters. “By May, the rain was not yet steady,” he explained. “Those that planted maize in anticipation that the rain would be steady by now are licking their wounds. Our agriculture in this part of Nigeria is largely rain fed.

“As if this was not enough, the outbreak of army worms came as another blow. Most of the maize farms are presently ravaged by the worms. The outbreak is triggered by the change in climatic condition generally.

“The third blow is coming from the herdsmen. Farmers are leaving their farms, as they consider it useless and needless to invest their scarce resources, time and energy only for the herdsmen and their cattle to ravage it overnight and even attack them with impunity.

“This problem of nomadic cattle rearers include rape, robbery, burning of our tree crops, such as cocoa, oil palm and kolanut. Plantations are all over the state, and they constitute our main internal source of income as a state and an agrarian people. It takes years to nurse and get them established. They are heritage usually kept from generation to generation. When set ablaze, they hardly recover. It is, therefore, a taboo here to set fire anyhow.”

The chairman advocated the urgent need to adopt a new farming system that is sustainable in all ramifications, adding that it will only become a reality with a complete re-orientation of the farming populace. He said it is time to emphasise or give preference to organic fertiliser, which will assist in improving soil structure and better water retention.

Said he: “Our research institutes should come up with drought tolerant varieties and also, farmers down South should begin to try their hands on crops such as sorghum and potato, which have less demand for water.”

Chief Ayo Abiola, chairman of the State Agricultural Inputs Supply Agency, said government has already taken steps to ensure food security and prosperity in the sector. He listed the interventions to include—procurement, distribution and overall subsidisation of agricultural inputs for farmers.

Abiola stated that at the inception of the Olusegun Mimiko-led administration, it provided N200m revolving fund in addition to N41m for the procurement of agro-inputs for the benefits of the state farmers.

Mrs. Bolanle Olufunmiloye, chairman of the state Wealth Creation Agency (WECA), said government has initiated measures, which recently included an all-time inclusive arrangement to partner the African Development Bank (AFDB), to address the factors militating against agricultural development and youth empowerment programmes.

Olufunmiloye, who led officials to the Ore and Epe Agro Business Cities (ABC) in Odigbo and Ondo West Local Government Areas, noted that the collaboration would enable government transform the socio-economic status of the state.

Aside facilitating the creation of wealth and jobs through agriculture, Olafunmiloye stressed that the government would continue to seek the support and collaboration of reputable organisations towards achieving its present agricultural agenda.

She explained that the wealth creation agency is currently working with 400 graduates, while 100 youth graduates are presently engaged for training in collaboration with the support of Partnership Initiative of Niger Delta Development (PIND) and FADAMA.

“The Ore Agro Business city has over 3,500 hectares of land, of which over 1,000 were cleared for cassava and maize plantations,” she said. “Two hectares are allocated to each pro-farmers for maize cultivation and four hectares for those that are into cassava plantation.”

Olufunmiloye added that egg production in the newly constructed poultry houses will help to secure food security and engage the youths and make agriculture more attractive to them.