Ondo State Commissioner for Agriculture, Engr. Ademola Olorunfemi, is a delight to listen to as he reels out what he thinks the state under the leadership of Governor Olusegun Mimiko has achieved in the area of agriculture.
In this interview with JIMOH BABATUNDE in his office last week as the state prepared to dole out N45 million to the 9th set of beneficiaries of Fadama III project, he said the state has done more to uplift agriculture.
Here is an excerpt
On the state’s policy on agriculture
I am sure that you are conversant with the agenda of Governor Olusegun Mimiko. He has A caring heart agenda which represents the things the governor wanted to do and they are what he has been doing.
It might interest you to know that the ‘A’ standing alone represents Agriculture and Food security. That is by no means a coincidence, it is a deliberate design and that underscore the huge importance attached by the governor and his administration to agriculture.
As you are aware that is where we are coming from as a country and a state, but the advent of oil put paid to all of that, but we are coming back to the basics , because it has dawned on us that what is sustainable and inexhaustible is agriculture and that is one economic area that can give millions of jobs within months and that is why this government has taken agriculture as number one to run with other areas of the economy.
On the objectives of the ministry under the caring heart agenda
Essentially, it is for agriculture, food security and we are looking at that. The objectives include self sufficiency in basic food commodities in which the state has comparative advantage in their production.
It also has the objectives of transforming agriculture from the level of subsistence to that of commercial agriculture through mechanization, as well as the increase of livestock and fisheries so as to increase animal protein in the diet of the populace.
We also have the objective of using agriculture to generate employment for the youth and for them to make a genuine career in agriculture.
Just as we have the objective of modernizing agricultural production, processes, storage and distribution through the infusion of improved technology and management techniques so as to make it more responsive to the demand of other sectors of the economy.
In other words, we are looking through the agricultural value chain from the concept, to production and all the way to processing and packaging as well as marketing.
We want to enhance the capacity for value addition, leading to employment and are able to facilitate the acquisition of farm lands and title holdings towards improvement of agriculture through public–private partnership initiatives.
This is where you will have the large scale agriculture, talking about 5000, and 10000 hectares.
On what the government has done to move agriculture from subsistence level to commercial level
Thank you, why we don’t want to flung figures, let me start by saying that as at this time last year, this government had spent about N6 billion on agriculture excluding this year.
The government has been able to increase our agric input supply agency which is in charge of providing genuine agricultural inputs, seeds, fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and other inputs to farmers at highly subsidized rate, usually in the range of 50 – 70 per cent.
The government immediately on assumption of office, pumped in about N200m to the existing N46m for the agency to procure all these items – herbcides , fertilizers, seeds and even sprayers. Of course, like I said, these inputs are directly from the manufacturer, that means they are genuine, cost competitive and of course, we subsidy them by 50-70 per cent.
The government has 18 farm centres spread across the state, so these inputs are distributed there, we network through farmers’ groups, media and our extension agents in Agricultural Development Project (ADP) to reach out to farmers.
As if that is not enough, the government through the ministry created mobile farm centers. Through the mobile farms, we take the farm inputs from the 18 farm centers to markets in villages and hamlets on market days , with prior information to farmers that we are coming and we sell at the same rate famers would have bought going to the same farm centers , having travelled one hour or more.
We also introduced the buy back scheme where we buy the produce from the farmers at competitive market rates, we go to their farms to buy and it saves them cost of transportation, spoilage and all of that and then sustain their interest in producing the following season .
At off-seasons when these produce become very expensive, we sell to farmers at subsidised rate of 50 per cent of market price. In fact, the governor has given approval for the sale of 500 metric tonnes of maize to the general public, mostly poultry farmers.
We have huge silos in all 18 farm centers as well as stores where you could keep the grains. Silos are for a very long time, but in this instance, we are not keeping for a long time as we buy and sell during off-seasons.
In terms of mechanization, this government has bought 76 tractors from less than 30 that we met on ground and we are buying another 50 very soon. We have brought in the private sector to come to this area and assist.
We have increased our tractor hiring unit from the former four in many years back to 18 so as to cover the 18 local governments and there is no magic, we are just using the same 18 farm centers.
So we have done a lot of training in every area using the engineering services in terms of tractor, ADP extension, Fadama, IFAD and others, to increase the capacity of our farmers.
On tractor for instance, we are going to commence training of 100 youths on tractor operation and mechanics soon.
On financing and loans
We have given out loans to over 2000 farmers. We have given out N700 million, under IFAD, ADP, FADAMA; we have given out grants of over half a billion since inception of this government.
The IFAD, ADP and Fadama programmes are special projects that are community-based, and this government has been paying its counter part funding to the World Bank, Africa Development Bank and the Federal Government.
I am glad to say that in all of these, we have always been top in Fadama; this is the third year running. The World Bank has rated the state the best performing state in the Fadama project. These are judged largely in terms of the prompt payment of counter- part fund; the appropriate management of the scheme and achievement of the deliverables. These are items that are clearly stated.
Soon, we will be giving out N45million to the 9th set of beneficiaries of Fadama. Before now, we have disbursed N290 million. These are monies that go to cooperatives, the people form cooperatives, determine what they want and we provide the technical evaluation and pay this money to their account and monitor them. This has developed over 4000 rural families.
On agric services
This government created what we call new generation of farmers. As you are aware, the farming population is aging, you and I don’t want to go into farming for obvious reasons and that is why we are introducing mechanization, tractorization and all of that.
We have 15 centers spread across the state with 40 hectares.