Recently, Osun State celebrated its farmers’ day tagged ‘Alagbinla Festival’, which witnessed the presence of respectable people in the agricultural sector. JOSHUA DADA (Osogbo) writes.
Food, no doubt, is central to human existence, that is why it becomes impossible for any living soul to contest farmers’ slogan of “No farmers, no nation, no farmers no living.” And because the slogan cannot be contested, it became an intermittent chorus at this year’s farmers’ day tagged ‘Alagbinla Festival’ celebrated at Ago-Owu in Isokan Local Government area of Osun State.
The event was an eye-opener to the commitment of the present administration in Osun State led by the governor, Alh Isiaka Adegboyega Oyetola, to make Osun State the food basket of the Southwest, if not Nigeria.
The event witnessed the presence of ‘who is who in the agriculture industry which included farmers in livestock, permanent crop, arable crop industries while farmers in research, academic, banking and civil service were not left out.
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Research and Training Farm, Ago-Owu, venue of the event, was agog with farmers from other settlements across the state and other stakeholders converging on the site as early as 8am, for the one-day Agric fiesta.
A Bible passage where Paul says, ‘I planted and Apollos watered, but God gave increase’, becomes apt in agriculture more than any other human endeavour, because agriculture requires the hands of God to flourish.
Therefore, it was not a surprise when the event began with marathon prayers led by clerics from Christian and Islamic faith while traditional worshippers were not left out, all in an attempt to seek the face of the creator of heaven and earth.
The Chief Immam of Ago-Owu, Alhaji Abdul-Azeez Alao and Pastor Gabriel Adewuyi Adeyeye led prayers in Islamic and Christian ways while Chief Kolawole Ayodeji also showered blessing in the traditional way.
At the event, the traditional song to hail the importance of agriculture to human existence was twisted to meet the demand of the moment hence, the traditional song of,
“Ise agbe ni’se ile wa,
Eni ko sise a ma jale
Iwe kiko, lai si oko ati ada
ko i pe o 2ce”
“Farming is the work of our nation
Whosoever fails to farm will steal
Education without hoes and cutlasses
is insufficient 2ce,
was twisted to meet the economic reality of the moment and not just working to survive.
The twisted song formed the basis for the gathering, which included educating, encouraging, motivating and celebrating farmers, among others.
The ‘Alagbinla festival’ was organised by the Office of Economic Development and Partnerships (OEDP) and the state ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in collaboration with All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN).
In his welcome address, director general of OEDP, Dr Charles ‘Diji Akinola, who was represented at the event by the coordinating director in the ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Dr Olubukola Aluko, told the farmers that the administration of Governor Gboyega Oyetola has good plans for them.
He said the state government has concluded plans to establish nine new farm settlements with one in each of the federal constituencies in the state and to also establish agro-industrial parks and produce markets.
“The state government will consolidate on the agricultural land expansion programme with additional target of 20,000 hectares for farm settlements to encourage and boost agriculture in the state.”
“The new farm settlement would focus on integrated agricultural development on crops (maize, cassava, rice, tomatoes, vegetables, yam, plantain, cocoa, and oil palm), livestock, fisheries and Comprehensive Farm Service Centres where farmers will have access to farm inputs, extension services, information and market intelligence services, produce storage and other support services.”
He said that the farm settlements in the urban centres would incorporate Green House and vertical farming for growing vegetable, chillies, pepper and others.
Speaking, the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) chairman in the state, Alhaji Sulaimon Araokanmi, said the farmers in the state are convinced that the current administration in the state values agriculture and is therefore ready to assist farmers.
The guest lecturer at the event, an Agric expert, Professor Peter Akpopodion, highlighted the best practices in agribusiness and charged the farmers to embrace them.
According to him, the 10 principles of profitable and sustainable agriculture include: favoured seed, fertile land, soil sanitation, farm size and farmer’s skill.
Others include financial support, joining cooperative societies to source funds, family support, fiscal policy and above all, spiritual support.
A female farmer, Mrs Christiana Ogunsanya, who spoke at the occasion, lamented that women in agriculture were not getting fair deals in terms of support from government. She called on government to create more chances and opportunities for female farmers.
Also, Mr Moruf Babalola, another farmer, said the farmers need financial support to increase their efforts on their farms. He also appealed to government to facilitate telephone networks to farm settlements across the state to enable farmers communicate effectively and link up with the modern world.
Babalola also urged the state government to address the problem of the herdsmen who are making life difficult for the farmers. He said the cows have destroyed their farms and that the farmers do not feel safe on their farms because of the fear of herdsmen.
The manager of the Bank of Industry, Mr Isaac Faniyi Ojo, while speaking on provision of financial support for the farmers, commended those that have refunded the loans that they took initially to enable another set of farmers obtain theirs.
Also, the head, Administration & Commercial Services Department, Osun Agric Land Bank, Mr Wole Ajewole, explained the operations of the establishment and urged the farmers to key into it so as to enable the state government achieve its plans for them.
He noted that the Osun Agric Land Bank has enough landed property in all nooks and crannies of the state and urged farmers to key into their operation for easy access to land at giveaway prices.
According to him, his organisation is empowered to identify and present illegal occupants in the existing farm settlements for prosecution.
He warned those that defy the government’s directive and continue farming in the farm settlements without necessary documents, of the consequence that may not be palatable.
“Going forward, all genuine allottees and settlers are enjoined to pay their annual land rent at Omoluabi Bank and submit a copy of the e-receipt to the Land Bank for authentication of payment and up-date of record,” he said.
Ajewole sought for the support and understanding of farmers and stakeholders in the agricultural sector in the state for the successful implementation of lofty programmes of Governor Oyetola’s administration for the benefit of the farmers in the state.
The state governor, Alhaji Isiaka Gboyega Oyetola, who was represented by his deputy, Mr Benedict Gboyega Alabi, assured the farmers in the state of great deal of support in terms of motivation and encouragement to enhance agriculture value chain and ensure food security in the state.
Oyetola said the state government has been supporting farmers through various innovative interventions with a view to making Osun the main hub of agriculture in Southwest Nigeria.
He noted that Osun is an agrarian economy with farmers constituting over 70 per cent of the population and that he was interested in ensuring that the farmers continue to have access to agricultural inputs that would enhance their productivities.
“Our administration is determined to build on the achievements of the past administration of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola through the implementation of programmes that would promote better livelihood of our hardworking farmers and ensure food security in the state.
He said one of the laudable programmes was the implementation of Osun Rural Enterprise and Agricultural Programme (OREAP) through which some innovative initiatives have been implemented.
Oyetola said farmers in the state have had access to agricultural loans, roads, fertilizer, agriculture support services among others, through the government’s farmer-friendly initiatives.
He said the government initiatives to help the farmers have resulted in sustained growth of the state economy with attendant creation of jobs and wealth as well as enhanced food security.
Oyetola said he was impressed with the enthusiasm with which the farmers in the state embraced the strategic partnership between the state government and the IITA.
According to him, the state government released 205.5 hectares of land in Ago Owu to IITA for the purpose of conducting researches and setting up demonstration farms for best farming practices.
He noted that records have shown that this innovative partnership has enhanced the method of farming being used by our hardworking farmers and consequently improved their yield and its attendant inflow of income.
It is hoped that, with the motivation of farmers by government and the society, the resolve of the people to support farmers would yield fruitful dividends and translate to food increase in the state.
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