By Jimoh Babatunde
As the Lagos State government re-iterates its desire to commence operation at the Imota Rice Mill, which would be the largest in Africa, in December, rice farmers in the state have been urged to take up the opportunities the mill will provide as suppliers of rice paddies.
The state Acting Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms Abisola Olusanya, gave the charge during the monitoring of Lagos State Agro-Processing, Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support, APPEALS, Project sites in Badagry.
The APPEALS Project sponsored by Lagos State Government in conjunction with the Federal Government and World Bank is aimed at supporting farmers’ productivity and their linkage to markets.
The basic strategy of the project is to increase productivity, production and improve processing and marketing of the targeted value chains, which are expected to foster job creation.
Olusanya said the desire to have the Imota Rice Mill come on stream in December informed the need to inspect some of the beneficiaries of Lagos APPEALS, especially those in the rice farming business, who are expected to contribute largely to operation of the Imota Rice Mill, when it commences full operation.
The Acting Commissioner of Agriculture, who was accompanied by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Olayiwola Onasanya; Lagos State Project Coordinator of APPEALS, Mrs. Oluranti Sagoe-Oviebo, and other top government officials from federal, state and private agencies, visited some clusters groups and beneficiaries of the APPEALS Project in Gayingbo, Gberefu, Afowo and Torikoh farms in Badagry.
Olusanya said Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has interest in agriculture and that informed his support for the APPEALS Project to empower the people of the state, especially women and youths in the identified three value chains of the Project, which are aquaculture, rice and poultry.
She said: “Agriculture is key for us in term of food security. We need to start supporting our producers. They are also business people.
“They just happen to be in the agricultural sector; so we need to support them as much as possible. We need to invest in them and we need to help them around the kind of margin that they are going to make for them to have sustainable production.
“So, we should all ramp up effort around supporting them and believe that food security would be achievable in Lagos State.”
While welcoming the commissioner and her team to the Gberefu rice farm, the National Deputy President of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Segun Atho, who is the coordinator of rice farmers in Gberefu, promised that the rice farms in his area would contribute about 60 percent to the operation and sustainability of the Imota Rice Mill when it begins operation.
Also, the Head of Rice Clusters in Gayingbo, Mr. Samuel Obitunde, disclosed that over 50 farmers, who are mostly youths are currently working on over 100 hectares of land in the area, noting that APPEALS Project had supported them with over 600 bags of fertilisers, five tons of ofadarice seeds that germinate within three days, three trenchers, auto-rice sprayers, two transplanting machine and fertiliser applicator for great ease in applying fertilisers.
Speaking at the Sejfarm, the state acting commissioner for agriculture, Ms. Olusanya, expressed happiness on how 12 young graduates from different institutions across the country formed the cluster group at SejFarm in Torikoh, Badagry to invest in aquaculture business with massive supports and empowerment by Lagos APPEALS Project.
Olusanya said: “It is only logical that youths are critical for food security. Most of our farmers in Nigeria are aged. So, it is only the youths that can do it.
“It is not just even in agriculture, just generally in life, the youths have to move into that space where they begin to produce, manufacture and do so many things as the old generation phases out.
“So, it is only logical that the youths have to get involved in agriculture at this stage, especially in such a time as this when food security is rampant and we are likely to face food crisis from next year.
“I am very impressed with the number of youths who are actively involved in agriculture. They were happy with what they are doing because they are happy that for the first time in a long time, Lagos State is intervening massively in agriculture.”
A beneficiary in aquaculture, Mr. Jubril Wenayon, who is a young graduate, revealed that he partnered with 11 young Nigerian graduates to form the cluster, which is made up of 12 people to venture into fish farming.
He disclosed that his cluster has benefited immensely from the Lagos APPEALS Project intervention and support.
Also speaking during visits to the farms, the State Project Coordinator of APPEALS, Mrs. Oluranti Sagoe-Oviebo, disclosed that the12 graduates, who formed themselves into the cluster group in Sej Farm , have embraced technology and are currently processing fish into fish crackers and burgers and not just for cooking alone.
She added that all efforts would be put in place to improve on technology for the business to grow to the extent that all supermarkets in Nigeria will sell only fish crackers and burgers made in Nigeria.
She also added that 800 farmers recently attended sensitisation training on rice farming, which focused on them appreciating the importance of their input for Imota Rice Mill as essential stakeholder in the state.
Mrs. Sagoe-Oviebo revealed that the rice farms in Gayingbo and Gberefu have benefitted immensely from the APPEALS Project through grants to engage in mechanise farming as well as distribution of rice seeds, auto-rice sprayer, transplanting machine, fertilisers applicators, tractors and trenchers to over 200 farmers operating on different farms, which is made up of about 400 hectares.
Commenting on the visit to sej Farms Ventures and Afowo Cage Culture with both rearing thousands of different species of fish, the State Project Coordinator of APPEALS explained that the beneficiaries are mostly youths with existing fish farms and they were strategically selected in order to benefit from the project to add value to fish products.