BREAKING NEWS: Femi Ogbonnikan: Abiodun’s renewed effort towards sustainable food production

Folorunsho Adisa: Dapo Abiodun: The Sun Newspaper and Silverbird Man of The Year

Femi Ogbonnikan: Abiodun's renewed effort towards sustainable production


The time has come for a deliberate policy of government on sustainable food self-sufficiency in Nigeria for social safety and security. Food security-the availability, accessibility, and affordability to meet the dietary needs of individuals-is a critical global issue that cannot be treated with levity. Food is everything. It is national security, it's the economy, it is employment, it is energy, it is all-encompassing. A nation that cannot feed itself is doomed to fail. Regrettably, successive administrations had neglected the early warning signals and dodged the responsibility of creating an enabling environment for food production.

For instance, on January 16, 2023, a United Nations-Supported Food and Nutrition analysis projected that 25 million were at risk of facing hunger between June and August 2023, if urgent actions were not taken. Yet, incessant terrorist attacks, intra-community conflicts, climate change, farmer/herder clashes, among others, continued unabated, causing inflation and rising food prices that resulted in pocket of social unrest recently witnessed in some states of the federation.

Following the storm, it has now become clear to all and sundry that agriculture is the most potent way to simultaneously tackle food security, poverty and other associated social consequences of a lack of food. Therefore, in his effort to key into the policy of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on food self-sufficiency, Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, has taken up the challenge in his stride, seeking collaboration with all the relevant stakeholders, including foreign and local investors, to boost up agricultural production in the state. When he recently received the Consul General, German Embassy, Weert Borner, in his Oke-Mosan, office, the Governor did not mince words, calling for the exploration of available partnership options between Germany and Ogun State in the area of food production. He stated that Ogun State was looking at ways of contributing to the food security agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

In line with the new policy of the Federal Government, Abiodun said his administration was on the lookout for partners in the area of mechanized farming, promising to support small farmers across eight extension services by teaching them how to grow. He assured that tractors and other types of mechanized farming equipment that would help his administration to achieve its plan would be provided for farmers in the state.

He said: “I will like to explore with you and have partnership that we can find with the German government in supporting us in our new resolve to up the ante in food production.

“Our new policy now is to anyone who wants to come and farm in Ogun State by providing the land, by ensuring that the lands are accessible, by also clearing the lands.

“To that extent, we are looking for partners in the area of mechanized farming and providing tractors and other forms of mechanized farming techniques that will help us in achieving our plan.
“In the last few days, we've been deliberating on how to ensure that we contribute our quota to the food security agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

“We believe that we can easily be the food basket of this nation and we are devising new strategies to achieve the objective in the shortest time.

“We have an ambitious plan of ensuring that in the next 12 months, this becomes easily visible across the state. We welcome partners that will assist us in that part,” he said.

For the assurance of a secured and sustainable enabling environment for investment, Governor Abiodun added that his administration had removed all forms of bottlenecks that hitherto impeded the ability of investors to set up in the state.

“In the areas of what you've done with us in the past in terms of capacity building or the education sector, ease-of-doing , what we have done as a state is to ensure that we create access for ourselves. We increase our efficiency to remove unnecessary bottlenecks that hitherto had impeded the ability of people to come and set up here.

“We set up the PPP Office. We set up the Ogun State Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency (OGIPFA). We also set up a one-stop that we called the Ogun State Business Environment Council (OGBEC) so that all those who need to work together to make this kind of thing happen are well notified and are easily reachable,” he added.

The Consul General, while responding, said that the German government was looking at increasing its ties with the Ogun State in the agricultural sector and energy transition.

“The two major areas we want to focus on, in increasing co-operation between Ogun State and Germany is the agricultural sector; meaning better production, better methods of agriculture, plus making agriculture more sustainable and environment-friendly and, of course, supporting Ogun State in food security for all of Nigerians. The second area is the energy transition to improve the build-up of renewable energy and the grid development in Nigeria,” he said.

During his time at Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Mr. Borner delivered a compelling Lecture titled: “Nigeria-German Cooperation: Improving Food Security Through Sustainable Agriculture,” which underscored the critical importance of addressing food security, education, and housing. He also highlighted the pressing issue of climate change, stressing the need for global attention and concerted efforts.

Advocating for a global alliance for food security, Borner emphasised the need for urgent actions, stressing the imperative of seeking sustainable solutions for long-term development and prosperity. He particularly harped on the significance of enhancing fertilizer production with renewable energy sources, focusing on substantial advancements in agricultural output through innovative approaches.

He explained the priority the German Government placed on -German cooperation in food security and the high-level visits to Nigerian authorities, including the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to foster agricultural collaborations.

Great minds think alike. Abiodun's policy on agriculture aligns with President Tinubu's blueprint to scale up food production for an improved well-being of Nigerians through the introduction of mechanized farming. The President, while meeting with the state chairmen of the ruling-All Progressives Congress (APC), reiterated the commitment of his administration to revolutionise agriculture through mechanized farming.

He said: “We are bringing mechanized farming to the fore. Yesterday's crisis will become today's opportunity. Fertilizers are being supplied to farmers as we speak. Agriculture and economic diversification provide the answers to our problems. We will not continue to import food. We know how to turn lack into abundance, and the world will watch us do it again.''

In July last year, President Tinubu saw the threat of the looming food crisis when he declared a state of emergency on food insecurity and unveiled a comprehensive intervention plan to ensure food affordability and sustainability. The intervention plan involved 12-key action points. These include the release of fertilizers and grains to farmers and households, synergy between the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources for irrigation and all-year-round farming, creation of a National Commodity Board (NCB) for price assessment and maintenance of strategic food reserves, increased security measures for farms and farmers, enhanced agricultural value-chain and activation of 500,000 hectares of land for farming and river basins for continuous farming. Though the potential gains of the initiative have yet to manifest, the long-term effect will stimulate tremendous positive impacts on small and large-scale farmers, the poverty rate, and increased food security for the country.

This year, in furtherance of the government's commitment to food security, the agricultural sector received close to N1 trillion budgetary allocations in the 2024 appropriation consistent with the renewed hope agenda of President Tinubu. This is apart from the 2.15 million bags of fertilizers worth over N100bn released to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security by the Central of Nigeria (CBN) to boost food production and address the rising inflation.

According to the governor of the CBN, Mr Olayemi Cardoso, the aim is enhance the nation's food production capacity and security, curbing inflation and ultimately ensuring price stability.

He said: “The Central Bank of Nigeria places a significant emphasis on maintaining price stability as one of its primary mandates and food prices is a crucial component of inflation, especially considering that a substantial portion of household expenditure in Nigeria is allocated towards food and non-alcoholic beverages. This reinforces the critical need to address food inflation as a pivotal aspect of managing overall headline inflation rates.”

All these initiatives aimed to ensure sustainable food self-sufficiency for the nation as a panacea for political stability, social security and employment generation.

In its move to complement the Federal Government's effort, Ogun State is now exploring the possibility of leveraging on digital agriculture to boost food production. The State Commissioner for Agriculture and Food Security, Mr Bolu Owotomo, during an agricultural show organised by the ministry in Abeokuta to mark the 2024 Lisabi Day Festival called for the deployment of digital agriculture to boost food production to meet rising global demand.

According to him, digital agriculture has the potential to revolutionise agriculture, avert constraints associated with farming and make the sector more sustainable and resilient. He said the innovation would make farming more attractive to who are the largest users of mobile phones and applications in Africa.

The Commissioner expressed optimism that the new initiative would make food production more profitable, less burdensome, creating an effective linkage between markets and consumers. “The era of hoes and cutlasses way of agriculture is gone,” he declared.

He hinted that efforts were on to deepen financial inclusion and linkages among youth in agriculture, stressing that farming should be regarded as a business, to promote its value chain.

On his part, the Alake and Paramount Ruler of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo, represented by Navy Captain Rasheed Raji (Rtd), enjoined youths and farmers to make judicious use of various interventions of the government aimed at improving food production and security, noting that that the state was naturally blessed with fertile land.

The Chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Alhaja Ganiyat Adeoye-Kushimo, commended the current administration in the state for its support and advised to see farming as a profitable investment and encourage their wards to venture into it.

Since he assumed office on May 29, 2019, Governor Abiodun has been consistent in his policy to boost agricultural productivity as a way of ensuring food self-sufficiency. Long before the current food scarcity, agricultural development has remained one of the key pillars of development of the state. This has been sustained through Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) with the commitment to boost the agriculture sector for the well-being of all and sundry.

However, it is pertinent to add that the task of ensuring food security cannot be the sole responsibility of any government. It is an endeavour that requires collaborative effort of all the stakeholders in the agric sector. To maximize the long and short-term benefits of the new policy direction of the present administration on agriculture, all hands must, therefore, be on deck so that the country can be a part of the solution to the existential threat of the lack of access to food has become not only in Nigeria but the entire global community.

In this intervening period, Governor Abiodun should be commended for the swift release of N5 billion as palliative to reduce the hardship of the economy occasioned by the rising prices of food items. It shows the sensitivity and responsiveness of the administration to the plight of ordinary people. For sustainability of the effort, there is a need for reciprocity of the gesture on the part of the citizenry for an assured future for all and sundry.

Ogbonnikan writes from Abeokuta, Ogun State capital

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