Interview

June 10, 2024

How our agric revolution is delivering dividends, by Gov Makinde

How our agric revolution is delivering dividends, by Gov Makinde

Gov Makinde

. Says Fashola Farm is a wonder to behold. Speaks on mass mobilization for social justice and economic recovery

Governor ‘Seyi Makinde of Oyo State can be very intriguing. Yet, he presents a mien that is at once disarming and calming. This belies the depth of thinking and the content of his mind’s workings. In this unusual encounter last Saturday during a tour of some projects that his administration has embarked upon, Makinde impressed the journalists and senior media executives who were on tour with him and they said so, not because they had to but because of what they saw. From the roads that have been constructed, like the Moniya/Iseyin 65 km road which is now in its fourth year without any tread of degradation or pothole (yes, pothole), to the massive Ring Road project that will save travellers travel time, the Independent Power Project, IPP, that will save the state government money and further drive industrialisation, Makinde was able to demonstrate the power of critical thinking in governance as well as the benefits of delivering on promises. Building infrastructure is one thing. But connecting infrasture to create synergy for development is another. He insists that the roads being constructed are meant to link the agric belt of the state to the major towns and cities where the farm produce will be sold. But the most impressive of the projects is the Fashola Farms, a farm settlement built by the administration of Pa Obafemi Awolowo in the late 1950s. He has revived the farm which had been abandoned for decades, and the quantum of activities on that farm as well as the deliverables across the agric value chain would benefit the people, smallholder farmers, as well as the major farmers. To take care of one of the major challenges, which is the federal road leading to Fashola Farms, Makinde applied to the federal government to permit him to reconstruct the road. After the usual tiff between the federal and state governments for two years, he was allowed to take it over from the federal government. Therefore, the Oyo/Iseyin road, which leads directly to the farm and the Iseyin/Ogbomoso Road (about 140 kms), which Makinde has constructed, has opened up the state and linked major towns. At Fashola Farms, with its innovation and science-based farming activities, it became clearer how agriculture can drive the economy of most states in Nigeria if the state governors apply rigour and are deliberate and intentional in their approach. During his first term, he introduced OMITUNTUN 1.0 (Fresh Water 1.0). His second term, which he secured at the polls in March 2023, has brought in OMITUNTUN 2.0. Now, he wants to mobilise the people of Oyo for social justice and economic recovery. He also spoke about AMOTEKUN.

Excerpts:

By Jide Ajani

You’ve been talking about agri-business for a while. How is it going?

At Fashola Farms here, it is about providing the enabling environment and infrastructure.  

The hub is built on 1,250 hectares of land, and every aspect of the land is being occupied. We are at the industrial site now, and we have 10 industries that are built here. Of those 10 industries, eight of them are completely occupied, meaning that there are companies already doing business here. We have green houses here as you can see over there and each of the buildings there is on two hectares of land. All the facilities here are built by the Oyo State Government with the exception of the green houses. Of the eight factories, two of them are going to be processing Cashew, another two will be processing vegetables and so on.

What about all the land we see over there?

Yes, if you look further, you will see cleared land. Over 100 hectares of maize has just been planted now. We are planting 300 hectares of maize, and it is not us as a state government. It is one of the private companies that is planting it. There is an area we call Gate 1, there is over 100 hectares of cassava that has been planted there, and it is all part of this farm. The cassava that has been planted there is a bit unique.  

To increase yield, you need technology, innovation, and new actors across the entire agribusiness value chain from production to the market. What we have done is to create that system that will invite those actors into our programme to derisk the private sector using the state resources. Interestingly, what private investors have brought into Fashola Farms is more than 100% above what the state government has put in here, and that is encouraging. What we are doing here in Oyo State regarding agribusiness has been picked up by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, IITA, and is to be adopted in some 17 countries.

There is a conversation around yield?

When we look at what we produce in Nigeria, the yield is always very low. Agriculture has gone beyond cutlasses and hoes. It is about innovation. And it is very difficult to engage some people who are steeped in their ways. It is difficult to innovate with them.   

Across the whole of Nigeria and, again, this is based on statistics, the planting materials that we use for planting are probably 15/16 years old. And that can never give you good yield, maybe four tonnes per hectare or five tonnes per hectare. The data from the federal government, across the board, shows that we could be increasing land cultivation and production without optimisation.

What we are doing in OMITUNTUN 2.0 is to increase productivity and optimisation. The materials we have at Gate 1 now will give 20 tonnes per hectare where you were getting 10 tonnes. And we are doing the same optimisation for maize and soya beans.   And by the time we harvest, working with the outgrowers, they will cut it and plant and that will give you another generation of planting materials that will give over 20 tonnes per hectare and our plan is to take that to all the regions of the state. By the time we do that, we will be able to support about 19,000 cassava farmers in the state.

What about dairy farming? There are some cows over there?

Dairy farming is a major issue, and the materials being used are imported. We have three major companies within this hub that are dairy companies. One is Frieslandcampina Wamco, with their farm, and we have the Milking Bank, and then we have the E4. Between the three of them, they have 900 lactating cows. For you to have 900 lactating cows per day, you’ll need about 1300 to 1400 cows.   And these are not ordinary cows. Their advantage is that where you used to get two litres per cow per day, what we are already starting to get here is nine litres, and that is not where we are staying. We are going to about 15 litres of milk per cow per day.

The feed that is given to the cows to eat too, the Brachiaria field of over 100 hectares of land. It has been harvested, and it has grown again. That means that it can grow in NIgeria because of its unique nutrients. During the dry season, the Brachiaria that has been stored up, now dry and mixed with some other stuff are what is used to feed them during the dry season, and you can see the cows. You will see that ranches have been in existence for long because there is one on the farm here that was built in 1968. And had we continued that practice since then, we would have made serious progress.  

When you became governor, what did you discover in the agric space?

What we found when we came into government is that we discovered that the way agriculture was being done can not support the economic development of this state and the primary actors that we had then were small holder farmers. Look, Oyo State is as big as Rwanda. If we are to cultivate 20% of the 70 % of arable land in this state, in terms of what a smallholder farmer cultivates, we will need 4 million farmers, and this is based on statistics. Where will those 4 million farmers come from? There is something wrong with that approach.  

We once went to Israel, which is a major exporter of food, and we asked how many farmers they have in the country, and they said 10,000.   

But you know what, when I came into government, they said we have 10,000. So, I asked for their telephone numbers and that they should show me where the farms are. The number came down from 10,000 to 5,000.

I said, “Okay, let us go and verify on the field where the farms are, the number reduced to 1,000.

Frankly, it is not about the numbers. It is about quality. And what we are doing is to introduce those large farmers    

The establishment of Oyo State Mobilisation Agency for Socio-Economic Development, OYMASED.   

It is good that people are talking about the projects we have done, but, for me, it is more about institutions. It’s about getting into the minds of the people for the good of the people and for the good of the government and society. If the people for whom the projects are done do not fully appreciate the essence of or benefits of those projects because of lack of proper orientation and enlightenment, those projects would go to the dogs. That is why we have established the Oyo State Mobilisation Agency for Socio-Economic Development, OYMASED. We are about the people and we are for the people. It is about building institutions. We once had WAI and MAMSER. For indiscipline, we know it exists. But how are we dealing with it? Are we really connecting with the values that will make indiscipline go away? We need a lot more engagement and a lot more communication. The agency is meant to ensure that our people are properly informed and enlightened and educated not only about government policies but also about building a decent society. The ethos of ‘OMOLUABI’ is about how we conduct governance and how we conduct our businesses. We need to re-orientate our people on the need to imbibe the ethics in business and governance, in security and environment. It is about doing things in a better way socially, economically, and all that. Oyo State started road safety, and the federal government copied it. We are doing this now for the good of the people. It is something worth pursuing in the interest of our people. It will be flagged off on Tuesday, and Professor Jerry Gana, who pioneered MAMSER (Mass Mobilisation for Social Justice and Economic Recovery), will be around. We’ve been engaging, and we have tapped into that institutional memory    

On Amotekun

As it is today, Oyo Amotekun has the largest number of officers and members of all the South West states. You will recall that just at the twilight of Omituntun 1.0, we increased the number of Corps members by 500, from the 1500 that it was. So, we now have 2,000 Amotekun Corps members, and they are equally involved in community intelligence gathering. Still under 1.0, we supported the Amotekun Corps with a fleet of over 104,000 vehicles and 400 motorbikes. I must say I am proud of what the officers and members of the Corps are doing, and we will continue to provide the Corps with support in the form of training. I know we procured life insurance for members of the Corps in addition to providing specialist medical support because we are aware of the sacrifices they continue to make for us. Our promise is to further equip and support Oyo Amotekun under Omituntun 2.0. We know that the more we support the Corps, the greater their ability to perform. We have nothing to hide but are just trying to collaborate with federal agencies to keep our state safe and secure, and we have seen the demonstration of this on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Some have said that once they get to the Ibadan border from Lagos, they are safe. So, we want to keep that up.