The Special Adviser on Forestry, Food sustainability Prince Joe Okojie has called on the people of Edo state to return Governor Godwin Obaseki for another term to enable him continue to build on the great work he has started in the various sectors of the state, particularly in Agriculture.
Speaking during an interview programme at the Independent Television, ITV in Benin City, Prince Okojie said with the achievements made in the agricultural sector, the governor has keenly demonstrated that he is interested in production, noting that “ for us to survive as a state we must be productive”.
According to him, “the governor of Edo state, Mr Godwin Obaseki is doing very well and need to be re-elected to continue the good work he has started. He needs to come back to tend to whatever he is doing today, to continue to encourage productivity, continue to encourage people to be productive citizens of the state which invariably will inspire our Gross Domestic Product, GDP.”
He disclosed that anything that will encourage us to go back to till our land should be encouraged and Governor Obaseki has demonstrated that in the agripreneur program of the state government.
Excerpt from the Interview
At the pilot stage to test the species of grains, rice, maize and cassava, the state government provided one hundred hectares of maize in Sobe, one hundred hectares in Usugbenu, one hundred hectares of rice in Ilushi, in Agenebode and Warrake, forty hectares and in Iguoriakhi and Iguomo, two hundred hectares each.
The farmers were given one hectares each with funding through the FADAMA and whatever it is that they produced, the proceeds from the sale and also their profit belongs to them and the government plans to put over five hundred and fifty hectares of land under cultivation in the next five years.
IMPACT ON THE PEOPLE
In 2017 most of the rice that the government gave to people for Christmas as gifts were rice produced in Ilushi and milled in Ugboha by a company called Agri-Tech. We bought the milled product from Agri-Tech. At that time a bag of rice was selling for between N19, 000 – N21, 000 while the bag from Ugboha was sold at N15, 0000 per fifty KG bag.
In my view it has impacted especially in the area of grains as well as the livestock production. Last year the government supported the livestock program that produced a total of 125,000 birds, boilers that were sold. When these products were in the market it brought the prices of birds down.
We were able to sell our Soya bean and maize and animal products were turned to feeds for livestock production. Though we passed through some teething phase, but I believe that having done this now for the three years consecutively. In 2018 we did a pilot, in 2019 we scaled up and this year we have further scaled up and we are now producing and harvesting our rice at Ilushi and Agenebode. This Christmas we would have quite a bit of quantity size of rice in the market.
Our program is designed to produce to meet the demand of off takers. Before we start producing, an agreement is signed between the state government and off takers and the farmers. We produce to suite the off takers and at the end of the day there is a ready market. We will not produce if we do not sign an agreement with the off takers.
We launched a programme sometime last year and the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele was our guest of honour and he launched the Edo State Oil Program, ESOP . Apparently impressed with the project, the CBN governor committed to financing of the program up to seventy five percent of the phase one.
The design of the programme was fifty one thousand hectares in Urhonigbe, Sakponba area of Orhionmwon local government area. The total investment required for that particular phase one is N91.3b and the CBN governor posited that all of the would be investors that meet the criteria to partake in that window, being that they have met the stated requirement and they get the allocation of land. Then they can now go to CBN to look for funds for production.
All those have to do with the ability to demonstrate that they have their own equity in the investment up to twenty five percent and the CBN will finance them with the seventy five percent. That seventy percent came to N68.9 billion and the money does not come into the state coffers, rather that money is with the CBN. It is after the state allocate the land to you that the CBN bring the capital required for the investment.
As you will agree with me, land without money is useless and money without land is useless. The state government is only participating only to the extent that they will give you a land that is not encumbered. Once you go through the guideline, at the end you meet the requirement and we have allocated a plot of land to you, you have to give us a production plan.
On that we have to agree before we give you allocation to the land and you now go to the CBN to secure your loan for production. That money is not in any way in the coffers of the government and there is no way the government can embezzle what is not in its coffers.
The governor of the CBN in his quest to redirect towards a diversified economy thought it wise that if we are to get to that point is to encourage investors by giving them resources on the understanding they have their own equity contribution.
It is all part of encouraging people to stop relying on oil and to a more diversified economy of agriculture and if that must be done it requires funding and to help the people the CBN governor decided to fund them seventy five percent
PROJECTION FOR AGRIC IN EDO STATE
We have the Agripreneur and independent farmers initiative. Under the Agripreneur, the government gives a space of land, derisk, clear the land onbehalf of the community and aggregate the people of that community that are farmers there. If it is Cassava we give a maximum of three hectares, if it is maize or rice we give a maximum of five hectares.
In Oria for instance in Edo Central we have one thousand hectares which the government derisk and gave to five hundred women. Each woman got fifty hectares and at the same time funded them from mechanization to harvest.
In Udo, we did the same thing but this time it was mixed between men and women and youths. In Ubiaja where we use to have the Ubiaja cattle ranch it was aggregated to men, women and youths. Sixty hectares of the land was cleared and they were given portions to farm.
It was the same in Irrua where we are cultivating maize, as well as Agbede, Warrake, Agenebode, Afuze and Obayantor. In Ute farm, we allocated one thousand fingerlings , in Temboga, the same thing, in ADP, Airport road we developed one hundred Ponds for Libya returnees. They have finished their first production and they are on the second now.
That is how we have done it across the three senatorial districts in the state. In Obayantor there are three hundred hectares where we have allocated different farmers to come and farm. In Ilushi, we have Ilushi 1 and Ilushi 2 which is three hundred hectares each. This is across the length and breadth of the state under the agripreneau program.
The Independent Farmer’s Initiative program engages independent farmers that are already farming on their own. We build warehouses, provide chemicals, fertilizers and put a mechanization hub. We have been able to aggregate over four thousand farmers across the state that are farming independently.
We help them to increase their production by giving them improved seedlings, fertilizers, chemicals and also help them clear the land so that if they are farming less than one hectare before they can now make it two, three and so forth and we built warehouses for the harvest of the independent farmers.
We have seen that those farmers who are actual farmers are very excited about what we are doing and they are testifying during the campaigns at Agenebode, Warrake, Agbede. The people came on stage to testify how they have benefited from the program.
Eubaldus Enahoro is Editor of the Nigerian Observer