Farming To Banish Famine (II)Agriculture Background Before Inception of Ogbeni Aregbesola CONTD.

A PEOPLE’S work or vocation is a true reflection of their ways of life. This fact implies that a definition of culture or even its concept is not adequate except such definition includes the work or means of livelihood of the people. At the beginning of this report, it was unravelled how God endowed the work concept and made man adaptable to his environment on its basis. This God­given endowment does not leave our geographical delineation called Osun State unaffected. Even, Nigeria, of which Osun State is a subset, is also involved, as agriculture wields its influence as the most potent endeavour that offers mea1-ticket to a majority of the people.

Agriculture had been the mainstay of Nigerian economy prior to the nation’s independence fifty years ago, precisely, on October 1, 1960, and prior to the oil boom that came sometimes later. As at the pre-independence era, it was estimated that between 80 per cent and 95 per cent of Nigerians in the workforce category were employed in the agricultural sector. While we agree that the neglect of agriculture for the prospects in the oil sector affected the whole parts of Nigeria, it becomes a most heinous sin that is beyond pardon, to fail to resuscitate and revitalize this sector, especially in an agriculture-friendly environment like the one that Nature has bestowed on us in Osun State.

Generally in Nigeria, the percentage population of workforce employed in agriculture and its allied areas had declined sharply to about 60 per cent since the oil boom of the 1970s. The percentage has since declined further due of factors not unconnected with the after-effects of the oil-boom, which include desire for white-collar jobs, cravings for urban sophistication, rural-urban migration, among others.

In Osun State, the rich, fertile soil, the abundance of streams, rivers and springs, the abundant rainfall, the farming-friendly climatic/weather conditions and other enabling factors mark the state out as a potential “food basket” of Nigeria and the· Diaspora. Unfortunately, this dream has not yet been accomplished. The government of the day, especially, has however kept hope alive to translate dreams to actions that could transform the state from a status of mere consumer to that of a robust producer.

Under Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola in particular, the state fell victim of wasted opportunities and squandered resources. Time and again, the ousted governor reverberated his conversance with agricultural concepts – ‘tractors’, , fertilizers’ , , insecticides’, ‘pesticides’, ‘irrigation’, ‘all-year-­round farming’,’ integrated farming’, and the rest – with huge amount of money, running into billions of naira going into the bargain, without visible results.

For an upward of eight years, Osun State had been plundered and devastated under the misgovernance of the Okuku-bom prince. Due to morbid indiscretion and crude ignorance, most of the state’s former helmsmen have neglected the most vibrant .aspect of the state’s economy, which would have boosted her revenue base and lifted her to a greater pedestal as a productive, rather than federal allocation-seeking, civil service state.

To make matters worse, the fastly-impoverished farming class remained unaided. Claims by consecutive administrations to have brought relief their way all this while were found out to be false as these. reliefs, in form of cash and materials were found to have flown away untraceably like winds into the pockets of those who are not in any way close to the practice of farming.

In this series of edition, OSUN DEFENDER Magazine has devoted quality time, energy and resources to tracing the crux of the problems, as well as the frantic efforts of the Aregbesola administration to salvage the sector and improve the standard of living of the people by turning waste to wealth. A Yoruba philosophy reasons that one major means by which you could increase a people’s misery and squalor is to stifle and scuttle their occupation, vocation or means of livelihood. Aregbesola has come to revive the sector and revive hope for the generality of the citizens and dwellers of the state.

THE place of Osun State in the comity of states was quite impressive. Even before the state was created, the geographical expression which constitutes the present­-day Osun 5tate was reputed for a number of unique and exemplary attributes. The citizens were noted for hardwork and industry. Agriculture and western education throve. Citizens of the area that is now called Osun State made success in these areas of endeavour, as they became distinguished. A proof of this lies in the fact that when the cultivable land area at home became inadequate for the scale of farming of their taste, many of our farmers migrated to other parts of the state, or to neighboring states in the present-day Ondo, Ekiti Ogun or even Edo, to hire land or procure sizeable areas for farming purposes. The inadequacy of land at their home base was majorly, as a result of the prevailing land tenure system, the imprints of which still subsist till date.

It is incontestable that Osun State is blessed with good arable land and excellent climatic conditions. The vegetation and rainfall conditions are also favourable. The presence of rivers, streams and springs, which continually keep the soils damp and properly moisturized, make the area friendly to faming and other agricultural activities.

Unlike many areas in Nigeria where climatic and soil conditions are hostile to some or most crops, the list is endless of the crops that could be successfully cultivated on the soils of Osun State. Cash crops like cocoa, kolanut, palm trees and rice could be found in great abundance as well as food crops, consisting a wide variety of cereals – maize, guinea com in particular are cultivated. Other crops are groundnuts, cowpea, and melon etcetera. Citrus crops – sweet orange, tangerine, lime, lemon and grapes are also in abundance.

The above does not present an exhaustive detail of Osun State’s agricultural potentialities. Naturally, hunting is made possible in its forests by a good deposit of wild animals therein. This indicates that livestock farming is possible both on our lands and in water. To some extent, even cattle-­rearing is possible in Osun State. A proof to this is the presence of nomadic cattle-rearers in the state.

These positive conditions that enhance smooth and productive agricultural operations are not just present everywhere. The fact is that Osun State enjoys rare blessing from God. In the desert, arid and semi-arid regions of the world, harsh climatic and soil conditions militate against safe, productive agricultural exploits. Yet, some of them are distinguished leading farmers today. Take the Israeli example, the land which could otherwise have been most unsuitable due to dryness has been turned around to yield multiple blessing. So much is this blessing that Israel has much to lend to other nations today in terms of agriculture and technology.

We can also cite the Nile Basin as example, which comprises Egypt and Sudan. Irrigation has enhanced an all-­year-round cultivation, a case of man making the best of his environment through lots of modification efforts. The Israeli example earlier cited is also a living testimony to irrigation technology.

In Nigeria, there are areas where irrigation farming has been employed to keep them abreast of problems associated with harsh soil and climatic conditions. In the Northern part of the country where rainfall is sparse and the impact of sunlight intense, irrigation is employed today to create an enriched agriculture-friendly environment.

If, as it happened towards the end of year 2009, South African farmers had to seek for cultivable land to hire in Congo, then, the degree at which we are blessed in these parts is astronomical. Some Zimbabwean farmers drifted to Nigeria some years ago to explore the “milk and honey” that flow in our soil and derive the best from it. They are still around till date. As a matter of fact, they accepted with great enthusiasm to be called Nigerian farmers, instead of their true contextual name: Zimbabwean farmers.

If all these instances are true, then, why has Osun State not been making ends meet in the area of agriculture, especially, given her multiple endowments? Her vantage position, which makes her to share boundaries with five different states, makes this question more probing. OSUN DEFENDER Magazine, in this segment of this edition is all-out to trace and identify the true position of Osun State among contemporary states with which it shares physical boundaries. What is her position, vis-à-vis other adjoining states? What has it over-done? Are there things it has failed to do or are there unexploited areas of blessing in the state?