At the inception of his administration, Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State said he would transform and rejuvenate the agricultural sector of the economy which used to be a major foreign exchange earner for Nigeria, especially in the western region.
Aregbesola said that agriculture which used to be the mainstay of the economy and employer of about 70 per cent of its total population has been relegated to the background for years. This, he noted, followed the discovery of oil in the 60s and has dominated revenue of the country in the last 50 years.
Apart from this, he said the sector had been neglected by past regimes, assuring the citizens that priority attention would be given to agriculture and food security, adding that his administration would not relent in its efforts at investing massively in the sector.
As an agrarian state, Aregbesola decried heavy reliance on food importation, a trend he described as “a road to economic perdition”.
“This is what informed our agriculture policy of giving priority to food production so that we can feed ourselves and even sell the excess to others outside this stat”, Aregbesola added.
To achieve the agricultural revolution as ennuciated in his six-point integral action plans that seek to banish hunger, unemployment and restore healthy living, the present administration has introduced many programmes to boost agriculture in the state which included Osun Farmers Trains project in which it partnered Osun farmers and was ready to tap into the daily N3.6 billion food market in Lagos.
The gesture is to assist the farmers to move their goods to Lagos by rail into designated markets that have been secured for them so that farmers would get the best for their work.
As part of this plan, the state government has also acquired four locomotives of 40 coaches and 40 wagons to ease this transportation.
Apart from tractorised 2,683 hectares of farmland for farmers across the state at subsidized rates, registered farmers’ co-operative groups have benefited from loans disbursed by the state government under the Quick Impact Intervention Programme (QIIP). The groups also benefited from subsidy schemes on land clearing and preparation, Osun Broiler Production Scheme (OBOPS) while fish farming projects are among programmes put in place to attain food security.
In furtherance of this effort towards self-reliance in food production, the state recently launched Osun Beef Production outfit called O’Beef located at Oloba Farm Settlement in Iwo.
The project is a 78.4-hectares of cattle ranch which has 10, 000 cattle capacity aimed at meeting the beef demand of the state as well as the entire South-West states. It is expected that when fully operational, the project would create a minimum of 55, 000 employment opportunities in agriculture and agro-business alone.
The governor hopes that thousands would be employed in animal rearing while thousands more will be engaged in cow fattening; animal feeds, modern abattoir services, cross breeding and veterinary services with the launch of the ranch.
He said that individuals private farms as well as small scale industries will spring up apart from food processing, packaging and haulage services while government will be supporting small holder cooperatives, such as the OYES cadets, to establish cattle fattening enterprises that will be funded from a proposed N500 million seed fund that will be raised for that purpose.
About 30 foreign species called the Zambian Boran would be introduced to the ranch with a view to genetically crossbreeding them with local ones to get a new indigenous species.
Presently, no fewer than 400 rams have been successfully fattened at the ranch for festive periods and this has been done in partnership with the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and the OFFER Centre, Oluponna.
For a start, the ranch which is being managed by a South African expert in conjunction with IITA and Faculty of Agriculture, Obafemi Awolowo University, has 1,500 cattle sourced locally.
Speaking at the commissioning of the ranch at Oloba, which is one of the abandoned farm settlements established by the administration of Late Obafemi Awolowo in the 60s but revived by the state government, the governor said that the ranch is meant to boost agriculture, food production and processing.
Aregbesola said that given the huge market for cattle in Lagos and other Yoruba states, animal rearing and production become a paramount economic programme for the state.
According to him, Lagos State alone consume 6,000 cattle daily none of which is supplied from the South-West, adding that the trend must stop as a government is not responsible and responsive if it is incapable of feeding its people.
He said that the N4.4 billion beef market has the potential to empower the South West people economically through wealth creation that would translate into increased household income.
The governor stressed that similar but lager ranches would also be established in Ede and Ejigbo, pointing out that “it is the objective of my administration to create the enabling environment that will make this happen,we will be dedicating and developing hundreds of hectares of land into grazing reserves, cattle markets, breeding centres, and fattening hubs,this will be in addition to the new central abattoirs that we are developing in selected towns across the state”.
Culled from Business Day