South West Governors and Food Emergency in the Region

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There is hunger in the land and the whole populace are feeling it. Both  the rich; not so rich; the average and the poor are feeling it.

This is because pressure of inadequacy and high prices of food- now out of the reach of the poor has made all to share with others who dont have.

As a result, those who appear to be rich are now poor because if you are rich or have sufficiency and your neighbour goes to bed hungry,  you are not only poor you are in  in danger.

It is that bad in the region which hitherto feed itself especially during the early 50s and 60s through the farming activities of rural settlements  and Twenty farm settlements established by the government of the late sage,Chief Obafemi Awolowo, are not only bubbling due to government interest in farming and farmers in the villages daily shun out food to the semi-urban areas and cities such that prices of foodstuff are predictable over the years.

Today , in the South West region which comprises six states of Lagos,Ogun,Oyo,Ondo,Osun and Ekiti, prices of food has gone beyond the reach of the ordinary folks.

In the last one year prices of Gari, tomatoe, beans, yam and other staple food items have increased by over 400 %-four hundred percent,  with price of plastic of Gari which used to cost N700 last year now sold in the market for 3800 , same for Tomatoes,Yam flour and others .

This is beside the price of Rice,  which have over the years become our stable food items, has reached an astronomical N80,000 per bag forcing many households to drop it from their menu. Unfortunately, the alternative to Rice too has gone out of the reach of the ordinary folks as stated above .

Today, the general saying,’bi ounje bakuro ninu ise, ise buse’ meaning – when Food is removed from need of the people ,much of the problem of poverty has been resolved is real.

Yes, we may have some living in affluence here and there, but today the ratio of poverty is spreading like bush fire because more hands have been removed from farming and the result is  shortage of food supply and high prices which leads to hunger. A hungry manas thesaying goes is an angry manand most people in the streets are angry. Angry that the Hope they nurtured and worked for has turned into hunger by the day with no signs of abatement.

It is important to know that one of the remote causes of this high prices of food  is that there is less farming activity going on in the geographical landscape of the region  which is approximately 191,843 square kilometres of land . Today, the demography of the region according to the Food and Agricultural iOrganisation,FAO as at 2006 is 27,722,437 square kilometres, land areas is 166,631 while there are 842,499 hectares of forest reserves.

Also, the fact that a  reasonable portion of the cultivable part  has been lying fallow over the years due to neglect by the government- which has shifted focus to monthly Handouts  from the federation account, has  greatly contributed  to the self -imposed high prices of food that has been the lot of the region.

Another problem is  the menace of bandits and herdsmen who trampled upon farms,ravaged it with their cattle with impunity .

This is obviously is  due to lack of punitive measures by the federal government especially during the regime of former President Muhammadu Buhari. The government turned the other eye and prevented as if all is well. The result of that negligence is what we have now.

The  oil discovery in Nigeria in 1958 which came with unplanned wealth and boom  in the late 60-70s affected our sense of reasoning and made us lazy, to the extent of abandoning our natural source of living –farming.

Now, the price of that criminal neglect of the agricultural  sector which ordinarily is mans first source of living before mineral resources buried deep  in the ground was discovered, has resulted into high  food inflation on a scale which has never happened in our history not even during the intercine wars of the early centuries.  The consequence is that prices of commodities has been left to the vagaries of demand and supply because the region could no longer feed its teeming populace which has doubled over the years by the reasons of migration from other zones of the country as a result of insecurity.The migration trend is especially the North and the South east parts of the country.

According to the Food and Agricultural Orgnisation,FAO,Nigerias food inflation rate this year has  increased to 32.84% which represents 8.72% higher than what was recorded in November last year.

Hence when last week, the Governors of the region met in Lagos for their periodic meeting, they came out with a resolve to take practical steps to increase food supply;  reverse the ugly trend of high food prices and bring back live and living to a tolerable level as they met it whenreal they are growing as young children.

But then, the governors have to do more than talk but ‘walk the talk’  to change the distorted values of the region by reintroducing farming back to the sense of the people and take practical steps to ensure real regional  integration.

It means that from now,  farming must attract the  seriousness it deserves  as was done by the late sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo who never imported food for the region and made Cocoa our natural export earnings with which he developed the region to the envy of other two regions in the country.

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His government established 20 farm settlements and five agricultural institutes all over the region and this visionary step practically ensure food security as the institutes came out with new technologies for both subsistence farming and cash crops with which the various landmarks in the region were developed and built.

Now,the question on the lips of people of the region who were old enough to feel the impact of his policies is where are the farm settlements of Ado Odo,Ago Iwoye,Ajegunle,Coker,Ibi- Ade,Ikenne and Sawonjo all in Ogun state.

Also where are  the famous Lalupon farm setlements in Oyo state,Idanre,Orin-Ekiti,Fashola,Ilora,Eruwa,Ire- saadu,Akufo,Ijaye all in Ondo and Ekiti states.

They have all disappeared. No thanks to successive military and civilian governments  the region has been most unfortunate to have. What is left of the settlements are ageing farmers  and infrastructure with no replacement for them by the governors who are now six in numbers.

In the area of livestock production, people are asking where is Western Livestock Company which created  ranches in Oyo,Lagos,Ogun and Osun states  producing livestock for the teeming populace then.

An example is the Imeko cattle ranch in Ogun state with 4000 hectares of land with five Dams and Oke- Afo with 12,000 hectares of land –all has been abandoned and left to rust over the years.

The price of that neglect is what we are paying today.

Between 1960-1970 ,agriculture  contributed  55.8% to the Gross Domestic Product ,GDP of the region but crashed to 28.4% in 2018 according to the Nigeria Bureau of Stastistics,NBS.

Besides, only 34 million hectares of Nigerias 72 million hectares of agricultural land were cultivated.

Today, with a population of over 22 million, Lagos  slaughters average of 8,000 cattle heads daily and this with an average price of N500,000 for each cattle, amounts to N4b worth of cattle consumed daily . The region can take advantage of this and stop importation of cattle from neighbouring countries with the multiplier effect of creating employment for its teeming youths.

The various higher institutions and moribound training and research institutes in the region like the Federal Univeristy of Agriculture,FUNAAB,Abeokuta,Nigeria Cereal Research Institute,NCRI and the International Institute of Agriculture,IITA in Ibadan, should be engaged to contribute to knowledge in the area of improved seedlings and introducing  modern methods of agriculture for the benefit of the people and economic prosperity of the region.

Now, that we have six governors in the region, with more than enough cultivable lands, it means more resources and more people which population has increased to at least 40 million sixty  five percent 65%,of which are youths.

For the declaration of the governors to boost food production and supply to have meaning, there must be conscious efforts during this rainy season to revive the dead twenty settlements and with the growing population, each of the states need at least  ten farm settlements  to plant food and cash crops as per their capacity.

Now that the governors promised regional integration, each of the six states in the region must build at least Ten new  farm settlements in addition to the revived moribund ones  to produce farm products in their areas of comparative advantage .

 

 

Since Lagos,Ogun and Ondo are states surrounded by water, provision of Fish which has become import driven, has to be encouraged to produce enough protein for the teeming population and by extension helped to reduce scarce foreign exchange spent on importing fish.

There is no doubt that producing food requires guaranteeing the safety of the farms.

In this regard,the menace of bandits and terrorists in the area over the past five years have had its effect on the food production and supply chain. The six states must empower and equip the Amotekun-Southwest regional security outfit  more to combat the activities of this men, most of  who are from our neighbouring countries of Chad,Niger,Mali and Cameroon.

No sustainable activity could happen in the farming areas without the presence of enough security men.

 

Gov Abiodun addressing the press on behalf of other SW governors

The Development Agenda for Western Nigeria,DAWN, should also be encouraged to bring into reality its planned regional railway and electrical generation and transmission plans now that the sector have been unbundled from the limits of the unitary constitution by both former President Muhammadu Buhari and  incumbent Bola Tinubu.

There is no doubt the fact that the region have on its hands what it takes to banish hunger and poverty through the self –endowed natural resources .But lack of political will on the part of our Governors  by the proper application of far reaching programmes to revive agriculture and change the narrative of hunger and pervasive poverty  which we have no reasons to live with in the first instance.

 Time to remove our reliance on Oil as a means of sustenance is now and the earlier the better the governors activate the abundant human resources  and natural endowment of the region.

 Agriculture for now remains the only sustainable means of growth and developments as a people, for a nation that cannot feed itself is a slave to others.

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